Tillie Walden returns with an emotional, surreal story centered on two girls as they overcome grief and confide in each other.
Bea and Lou are acquaintances. Lou is a bit older and, as the town mechanic, has helped Bea’s mother a few times. When she sees teenage Bea far from their hometown she offers her a ride. Bea, angry and lost, has run away from home. She begrudgingly accepts Lou’s offer with a lie saying she is going the same way as Lou. As the women road trip through Texas, the story turns magical and surreal. A cat comes aboard, powerful men start to follow them, and they search for a town that doesn’t exist. This all leads to a mystifying ending.
The reality of the story is grounded in the grief the two girls are running from—a death and a traumatic event. The friendship the women form helps both of them learn how to deal with their pasts and move forward. They confide in each other; they fight with each other. But in the end, they have each other’s backs.
Walden offers up another relatable, moving story that will stand out. Utilizing a pale, pastel color palette, the illustrations feel light and airy, but tell a somewhat dark tale. As the story revs up, Walden’s drawings get messier. The lines are jagged, the colors run. You feel immersed in the story and the illustrations are a big part of it, mixing realistic and surreal images just like the story itself.
I’ve enjoyed Walden’s work in the past, but at times her graphic novels veer into such surrealism that it is difficult to follow. Still, the emotions and relationships are very much real in Are You Listening? With each work Walden releases she becomes more of a respected name in graphic novels. Using her signature unique, muted art, Are You Listening? will be sure to satisfy established Walden fans and bring in new readers.
Are You Listening?
By Tillie Walden
First Second, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 14-18
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Older Teen (16-18), Adult (18+)
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Creator Highlights: Own Voices, LGBTQIA+ Creator