Strange things are happening in the town of Blithedale. Teenager Claudia Jones is missing, and other odd things have begun to happen around town. In this offbeat look at teen life, a diverse cast of characters struggle with complex issues as the mystery continues to mount. Class clown Nigel hopes to find a girlfriend. Emily faces life-changing decisions. Paula longs to form her own identity apart from Emily. Handsome Brett feels misunderstood.

Each chapter is drawn in a different style representing each of the four characters’ points of view. Nigel’s chapters are in grayscale with many diagonal panels, Emily’s in stark black and white with square and rectangular panels, Brett’s in shaded grays, and Paula’s in line drawings with no panel divisions. Throughout the volume, characters are often shown as shadows, or as only faces instead of fully-formed figures. Color only enters the art in rare places near the end of the book, and its presence gives significant clues as to what may have happened to Claudia. This stylistic choice adds depth and interest to the story, though it can cause confusion in identifying characters, as they are drawn differently in each chapter.

Nigel’s narrative begins and ends this volume, yet the primary narrative lies with Emily. While Claudia’s disappearance is significant to each character, it is not the central plot. As the series title suggests, the focus of the narrative is trained upon “life on earth,” the sometimes-mundane, and sometimes earth-shattering experiences of the four central characters. Emily’s story is the main focus of Losing the Girl. This makes one wonder who the titular “Girl” might be. Claudia is lost from the beginning of the book, but there are ways in which other girls in the story could be lost, as well. As this is the first volume of a planned trilogy, it will be interesting to see how Claudia’s disappearance and possible reappearance plays out, as well as how the stories of the other characters might continue.

This title will appeal to teens with more sophisticated tastes. As some sections have very spare text and meaning is communicated subtextually, readers must bring some level of analytical skill to this work. There is much to be gleaned from analyzing the different art styles and perspectives in the points of view, and adept readers will enjoy questioning Marinaomi’s choices and what they might mean. Due to the unconventional art style, and because many questions remain unresolved at the end, some readers will find this selection too unusual, but those with more diverse tastes will really enjoy Marinaomi’s take on high school life and teen angst. The content is suitable for high-school aged teens, and does include some mild language and sexual content, though none is shown visually. Losing the Girl will be a good addition to YA graphic novel collections where science fiction and unique artistic styles are popular.

Life on Earth, book 1: Losing the Girl 
by Marinaomi
ISBN: 9781512449105
Graphic Universe, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 14-18

  • Kelly

    | She/Her Library Information Specialist, South Park Elementary School

    Reviewer

    Kelly Jahng has studied English, history, and French, and taught middle school for sixteen years.She earned a masters in education along the way before changing hats and earning her MLIS at San Jose State University.She now works as the Library Information Specialist at South Park Elementary School in Deerfield, IL.She loves to collaborate with teachers in the school learning commons and to help students create in the makerspace.In her spare time, she loves to travel, enjoy theatre, read and review youth and YA literature, and write the occasional post for various blogs.

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