I found this memoir a pleasure to read, easy to digest and an insightful candid look at the growth of the author from her early experiences as teenager in New York City in the 1980s through to adulthood. Author Cecil Castellucci, an award-winning young adult novelist and comic book writer, aspired to be an award-winning film maker. The memoir recounts her early experiences as she follows her artistic and definite dreams and popular culture influences. The fact that she eventually succeeds in her telling stories in a different type of visual format is only alluded to but not the focus of the memoir itself. Along the way we meet numerous celebrities who intersect her path, such as Andy Warhol and Cher. We also meet good friends, childhood crushes, and a variety of muses.

This reviewer particularly appreciated Castellucci’s reflections on the act of memory and the way it shapes our self knowledge and on the power of stories: how they are molded through our memories and how people are fashioned by the stories/memories they tell about themselves. Her ongoing contemporary conversations with her father, Vincent F. Castellucci, a neuroscientist who specializes in the formation of memories, ground the adult author (and the reader) as she worked to create the memoir of her younger self. The positive relationship Castellucci has with both of her supportive parents is refreshing and inspiring, demonstrating how mutual love and support can contribute to success, regardless of the field of study.

The memoir engages the talents of four separate illustrators, a constructional element that does not distract from the unified whole of the novel. Each of the artists employ their own style on specific periods of Castellucci’s life, bringing each era to life with background details, contemporary hair and clothing styles, and the richness of facial expressions as Castellucci moves from a pre-teen through adulthood both in the Montreal of her home and New York of her schooling dreams. The book is constructed in the four distinct parts, each reflecting different story elements of the author’s life: childhood, young adult, college age, and the study of memory. Melissa Duffy’s insightful and energetic illustrations successfully illustrate the melodrama of the pre-teen years. V. Gagnon is charged with bringing Castellucci’s teenage years to life and Jon Berg, with the time spent in college and traveling abroad. Vicky Leta quietly and meditatively reflects the adult Cecil and the conversations with her parents as she constructs this memoir with pastel colours and unadorned backgrounds. The colour palate of all four illustrators effectively guide the reader through the drama, mood, and era of each segment of the author’s story.

Highly recommended for young adult readers even though the book is marketed as an adult title.

Girl on Film: A graphic novel memoir
By Cecil Castellucci
Art by Vicky Leta, Jon Berg, Melissa Duffy, V. Gagnon
ISBN: 9781684154531
Archaia, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: Adult

  • Gail

    | She/Her Professor, Library and Information Studies, University of Alberta


    In addition to teaching at the School of Library and Information Studies (University of Alberta) where she is an adjunct professor, Gail tells stories and conducts workshops on a wide variety of topics across Canada and the United States. Each year she teaches the following courses for the University of Alberta. All of her courses are delivered online: Storytelling, Comic Books and Graphic Novels in School and Public Libraries, Canadian Children’s Literature for School and Public Libraries and Young Adult Literature. She also teaches a course on Indigenous Literature for the ATEP program (Aboriginal Teacher Education Program) at the University of Alberta. Gail is the award-winning author of nine books on storytelling and folklore in popular culture.

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