If Raina Telgemeier’s Smile is for middle schoolers and Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost is for young teens, Sarah Oleksyk’s Ivy is for older teens getting ready to graduate and start another phase of their lives.
Ivy doesn’t know why everything is so messed up. It’s her last semester of high school and she feels trapped, angry, and unsure of herself. She is obsessed with her art, pressured by her mother to attend a business school, and feels that she doesn’t know her friends any more. Then she meets the perfect boy, even though he’s a couple hours away. She may have lost her old friends, is failing school, and doesn’t even know who she is anymore, much less who anyone else is, but Josh is the best thing that’s ever happened to her.
Then one night she has a fight with her mom. Things are said that can’t be forgiven and she leaves. Together, she and Josh travel from Maine down to Georgia but Josh isn’t what Ivy had expected, and she’s realized that she’s not who she thought she was either.
Raw, painful, and honest, Oleksyk gives us the story of a teen on the edge of adulthood, struggling with who she is and how to deal with life. Ivy isn’t perfect; she breaks out into rages, can be self-obsessed, and makes stupid decisions, but she’s changing and growing into the adult she will become.
Oleksyk’s black and white art captures the emotions and struggles of Ivy and her friends. Angry, miserable, bewildered, scared, lonely, and finally free, all of Ivy’s emotions are caught in the often wordless panels. There is an incredible amount of detail in the art and the reader feels like they’re in Ivy’s world from the first page. The layout and movement of the various characters catches their struggles to shift from child to adult and break free of what everyone – including themselves – expects. Although the characters have similar features, often featuring shaggy hair and distinctive noses, their personalities are separate and easily distinguishable.
Sex, alcohol, and marijuana are present throughout many of the scenes. Ivy experiments with sex, worries about her figure drawing, smokes pot, and drinks. Abusive relationships, especially with parents and other authority figures, are a prominent theme and these as well as Ivy’s anger and some of the bad situations she gets into spark off some violent confrontations. The subject matter makes this comic most suitable for older teens and the publisher recommends it for older audiences.