In 2005, prolific graphic novel memoirist Lucy Knisley met John after having moved to Chicago in 2004 for art school. They fell in love instantly. In 2010, they broke up because they wanted different things in life. Three years later, after a long separation, he proposed. In her latest memoir, Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride, Knisley takes us along her journey to the altar and everything—the good, bad, and weird—that led up to that point, as well as what the institution of marriage means to her and so many others.
Regardless of whether the main choice of topic pertains to the reader or not, Knisley does not alienate any of her readers, but manages to include them in her engagement and opinions on numerous societal traditions and expectations when it comes to marriage. She touches on issues of feminism, gender stereotypes, family drama, and societal expectations, and provides history and facts to back up her statements. She’s clearly done her research. Knisley also does not force her views and opinions on others but presents facts to the reader in order to allow them the chance to form their own opinions. She is not one to sugarcoat anything, so the rawness in which she discusses her fears will strike a chord with readers and humanize her even more. Something New will make you feel that you’re not alone, that it’s okay to have those moments of insanity. We’ve all been there before. The tone of her memoir is very conversational and casual, which makes it feel as though you’re talking to a good friend and someone you could trust. You will genuinely want to be her friend by the end of it.
The story of her engagement all the way to the wedding flows seamlessly and paints a detailed picture of her life. You will feel as though you are a part of her story. Her evolution as a cartoonist and also a writer is evident: the panels and text aren’t cluttered or jumbled together to cause confusion, and her train of thought doesn’t jump around so much that it’s hard to keep the story straight. Knisley references past events, but they are never just randomly placed in the middle of a scene without interrupting the action. Her lettering is also more polished than in past works. It is very clear and consistent throughout, which works nicely when she does change the font of a certain panel to cause a bigger impact or make a point. She has tightened up her work and has grown leaps and bounds from her first memoir.
Her art has also reached new levels of refinement and fits in with the style and tone of her work. Her full-color watercolor illustrations capture moments in time she wants us to experience right alongside her. They also capture the actions and emotions experienced by each person during a given point in time and are so expressive that they could almost carry the narrative without text. Additionally, she incorporates actual photographs after nearly every chapter that further submerge readers into her story and makes them a part of it. The bright and colorful palette ties in with the theme of her book and reflects where she is personally—her happiness genuinely shines through.
While Something New is best suited for older audiences, it is a memoir that audiences as young as teens can appreciate. Her honest discussions on love, marriage, and gender roles engage readers in thoughtful discussions, while never making them feel judged for their opinions. It’s a fun, thought-provoking read that, if nothing else, will make you feel as though you’ve found a friend in Knisley.
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride
by Lucy Knisley
First Second, 2016