The Next Day compiles four true stories of attempted suicide. The graphic novella is set up as if the four survivors are sitting together on a lawn, telling their heart-breaking tales piece by piece. Right away, the book takes the readers to “The Day Of.” Only one page is spent on each person’s actual attempt with no narration or speech beyond one “Good-bye.” The next section is called “The Days Before” where each story is told in one to two page vignettes about childhood, relationships, psychological health, and all of the things that led up to the decision to commit suicide. The final section, called “The Days After,” does not sugar coat the aftermath. Yes, each of them lived through that first night, but there were consequences and difficult choices left over. However, elements of hope creep in, depending on whose story is focused on, because they did, in fact, live.
Simultaneously released with an online animated documentary, the book’s portrayal of these stories feels really raw and emotional. It gives an honest look at depression and the effects others’ actions can have on someone’s life. There are stories about abuse, self-inflicted harm as a coping mechanism, anger issues, and feeling lonely. The book quotes the survivors directly from their audio interviews and shows their on-going struggle.
The art for the book mirrors the online documentary with very simplistic, black and white portrayals of each person’s words. Interspersed with some pages of panels just showing clouds passing over the landscape, the basic images combined with what looks like hand-written narration are very powerful. The abrupt stories, lasting only a few panels before switching to the next person, say so much more with simple actions than pages of long-winded exposition ever could.
However, this book is not for everyone, especially not kids. It deals with many serious topics and could possibly be a trigger for someone who is undergoing their own personal struggle. That said, the emotional portrayals give insight to the wounded mental state of someone contemplating or attempting suicide that could be enlightening to someone trying to understand. Overall, this is an important work to have on hand to offer a seemingly simple glimpse into a complicated, messy, difficult part of humanity. If nothing else, it would tell someone considering or surviving an attempt at suicide that he or she is not alone.
The Next Day
by Paul Peterson, Jason Gilmore
Art by John Porcellino
Pop Sandbox, 2011