“Yeah….an 11 year old’s imagination can be a real work of art…”
Joey, a boy with a vivid imagination, finds himself trapped; wandering through his wonderings as he rides the bus home every day from school. As his real life world meets his internal mindscape, Joey grapples with isolation, loss, love, grief, and fear in ways more familiar to adults than to children. A Glance Backward is surreal and episodic, full of encounters with monsters, trains, lovelorn adults, life, and death. The jumps between sequences are reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, while the art—a combination of paint, pen, and pencil—is similar to that of Dave McKean or Farel Dalrymple.
Teen and adult readers who are open to philosophical, dreamy stories are the ideal readers for A Glance Backward. It’s filled with action, reflection, and semi-philosophical statements like “sometimes the decisions we think are wise…turn out to be bad choices”. One of my favorite dream sequences happens when Joey falls through a crack in the earth into a community of hamsters. Joey finds himself stuck, running in a hamster wheel, continually moving without progress. He begs the lead hamster to stop the wheel. As Joey spins toward escape, the hamster calls after him to “remember…hold onto the beautiful moments in life, those times will escape forever”. The role reversal between human and animal is played out in dark tones, with just a hint of hellfire in the background.The message from the hamster to Joey is complex and hints at the coming experiences of young adulthood. Children generally don’t worry about capturing moments, they live in the moment. This hamster scene is a reminder to the reader to strive for both experiences: enjoying moments fully as they happen while remembering to capture moments as they pass.
While other readers may find A Glance Backward too surreal, dark, or incomprehensible, I enjoyed this twisted little story because it isn’t definite and allows the reader to jump into the holes and bits of darkness in Joey’s story. The artist—Tony Sandoval, who received a 2015 Eisner nomination for Best Graphic Novel for Teens for his book Doomboy—is capable of art work and rendering of complex, adult-like situations that is both ephemeral and solid; a tough combination to do well.
A reader’s expectation about this book will certainly influence their opinion. While it looks like a long-ish picture book, A Glance Backward most definitely is not. Be prepared for weirdness, twists and turns, and an unexpected ending. Like many stories worth reading, Joey’s adventures ask more questions than they answer.
A Glance Backward
by Pierre Paquet
Art by Tony Sandoval
Magnetic Press, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: 14+