AgeofLicenseIn Age of License, author/artist Lucy Knisley explores a more introspective, intimate territory than some of her previous works. Family relationships are a major theme in books such as Relish, French Milk, and Displacement. In the case of An Age of License, family is not absent, but it takes a backseat to more philosophical and personal ruminations about early adulthood and the non-family relationships that shape that time.

The book begins when Knisley is invited to a comic convention in Norway. She decides to take the opportunity and continue on an extended European trip after the convention is over. She visits a new love interest in Sweden, newly married friends in Berlin, another friend in France, and then joins with her mother and her travel group in another French city. Along the way, she ponders the state of her life, her career, her romantic relationships, and the freedoms and anxieties of being independent in one’s twenties. By the end of the trip, Knisley does not necessarily have any more answers than she did at the beginning, but I think that perfectly illustrates that there are no solid answers to life’s big questions. We can enjoy being swept away by the uncertainties of life, yet eventually reconcile that romanticism with more grounded decisions to find what we truly want. There is no one path, and no final destination; it’s an ongoing process. One of the best illustrations that communicates the struggle Knisley is expressing is a Venn diagram where the author sits in the overlap between the Age of License and the Age of Responsibility.

As in her other books, Knisley mixes inner reflections with amusing stories of the places she goes, the people she meets, and of course, the food she eats. The artwork includes not only a story about her experiences, but also sketches of sights along the way, and clever illustrations of her innermost feelings about it all. Most of them are black and white line drawings, but every few pages there are some lovely colored illustrations.

Much of the book is a reflection on the time of life when one has a unique freedom to travel, explore romantic relationships, experience new things, and try to figure out the kind of life one wants. It seems perfect to set this kind of contemplation against the backdrop of Europe. Because of the topics and focus, Age of License isn’t the same experience as some of her other works, but it still has the same trademark forthrightness, reflection, and humor, which fans will appreciate.

The book is very introspective, as Knisley chews over thoughts about love, sex, career, independence, and responsibility. Because of these themes, this would be best for readers in their late teens through their twenties who are going through a similar time in their lives. But any adult who has grappled with these questions themselves will find it relatable.

An Age of License
by Lucy Knisley
ISBN: 9781606997680
Fantagraphics, 2014

  • Rachel Hoover

    Past Reviewer

    Rachel Hoover is an Adult Services Librarian for the Thomas Ford Memorial Library in Western Springs, Illinois, where she develops the library’s graphic novel collection. Rachel writes reviews for Library Journal, collaborates with the Who Do Collective of Arts and Music, and geeks out about horror on her own blog, Librarian of the Dead. Not surprisingly, her love of comics can be traced back to reprints of EC’s classic horror anthologies. She’s also an avid gamer, musician, fiction-writer and film buff.

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