Things have changed in the town of Blithedale. Since the first volume of the Life on Earth trilogy, teenager Claudia Jones has reappeared after a lengthy unexplained absence, but everything about her seems different. Where she was once unremarkable, she now seems to have a magnetic pull on everyone, especially Nigel. And who are the two mysterious figures who accompany her everywhere? Meanwhile the rest of the main characters from Book 1 continue to face their own struggles. Paula and Johanna, once rivals for Brett’s affections are now discovering feelings for each other. Brett deals with rejection from his girlfriend, and faces his mother’s deteriorating health. Emily finds a new group of friends, but things go awry at a house party.
Like the first book in the series, each chapter is drawn in a different style representing each of the four main characters’ points of view, with the addition of a chapter for Claudia. Some of the art styles remain similar to those used in Book 1, while some have evolved in certain ways. Nigel’s chapters are in grayscale as before, but the panels are more rectangular than in the first book. Emily’s chapter has changed from a stark black and white to a grayscale until near the end when the addition of red is used in a scene she shares with Brett. Brett’s chapter is similar to the first book using shaded grays with mainly full-page panels, and Paula’s chapter is also similar using line drawings with no panel divisions. The chapter for Claudia is the most unconventional, consisting of colored pencil drawings on a graph paper background where the images progress from simple shapes to complex scenes and back to shapes. The artwork in Claudia’s chapter is wordless in places, and where words are included, they indicate that she is reading the thoughts of others and responding in strange, stilted dialogue. Throughout Book 2 of Life on Earth, as in Book 1, much needs to be inferred by the reader, as characters are often shown as shadows, or as only faces instead of fully-formed figures. Color enters the art in rare places and its presence is always significant. The reader is challenged to interpret the meaning of Marinaomi’s stylistic and symbolic choices.
As with Book 1, Nigel’s narrative begins and ends this volume, yet each character experiences significant events. The occurrences at the party and their impact upon Emily are probably the most central piece of the plot. However, Book 2 functions very much as the transitional piece of a trilogy in asking more questions than it answers. As Losing the Girl was an apt title for the first book, applicable to multiple characters, there are many people in Book 2 who feel Gravity’s Pull in one way or another. The book leaves many loose ends, and one wonders whether Book 3 will be able to tie them all up. It is, however quite possible that this is not the type of series where everything needs to be tied up.
As with the first volume in the trilogy, this title will appeal to teens with more sophisticated artistic and literary tastes. Much of the meaning in this work is communicated subtextually, and readers must bring some level of analytical skill to bear upon the story and artwork. Some readers may find this book too abstract. However, there is much to be gleaned from analyzing the different art styles and perspectives for those willing to put in the effort. Teens with more diverse tastes will really enjoy Marinaomi’s timely take on high school life, relationships, consent, and values. The content is suitable for high-school aged teens but does include some implied sexual content of a non-consensual nature. The main characters make their disapproval of these actions known. Gravity’s Pull will be a good addition to YA graphic novel collections where science fiction and unique artistic styles are popular.
Life on Earth Book 2: Gravity’s Pull
Graphic Universe, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 14-18
Series Reading Order
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NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Traits: Black, Latinx, Lesbian,