If given the chance, what would you say to your future self? Or your past self? Would teenage you be happy with what adult you has accomplished? In Luisa: Now and Then, originally by French artist Carole Maurel, and translated by Nanette McGuinness and adapted by Mariko Tamaki, these hypothetical questions become real life for Luisa Arambol.
One evening in the 1990s, 15-year-old Luisa falls asleep while on her way home, only to wake up and find herself in 2013. She has the wrong money, doesn’t know how to get home, and has no idea how she ended up in Paris instead of her small French suburb.
With the help of a kind woman named Sasha, Luisa tries to figure out what has happened. As she regroups in Sasha’s apartment, it is discovered that another Luisa Arambol happens to live next door. Slowly, the two Luisas realize they are actually the same person, just decades apart.
With a touch of magical realism, Luisa: Now and Then explores real life issues and dilemmas including identity, sexuality, and friendship. Both Luisas are struggling with the same things, mostly their sexuality and their relationship with family. They also believe they have everything figured out, when actually they have only figured out how to repress their feelings and desires.
A weird thing happens as they spend time together, though. Gradually, each starts to act like the other Luisa. Older Luisa starts to be immature, energetic, and dramatic. Young Luisa is calm, rational, and easy-going. Add in Sasha and the feelings both Luisas have towards her and things start to get complicated. It’s an interesting take on an old trope. Maurel’s illustrations are beautiful. Her use of color particularly enhances the story. Flashbacks to the 1990s are in a slight sepia tones and whenever the Luisas touch, splashes of maroon and orange explode on the page. It’s unique, but effective.
The heart of the story is Luisa, both versions, finding herself. She has a romantic moment with another girl as a teenager and you can tell that she has been running from that the rest of her life. We get to watch as Luisa stands up to her mom and admits who she is—a person who can fall in love with other women. She’s messy and confused, but lovable and relatable. It’s a story of self-discovery and self-acceptance all wrapped in a colorful, enjoyable graphic novel.
Luisa: Now and Then was published by Life Drawn, which is a new imprint from the European publisher Humanoids. Life Drawn focuses on personal stories instead of Humanoids’ usual sci-fi and fantasy. With wide crossover appeal, Luisa’s story will be enjoyed by teens and adults alike.
Luisa: Now and Then
by Carole Maurel, Mariko Tamaki
Art by Carole Maurel
Humanoids – Life Drawn, 2018