Many teens struggle with at once wanting to be heard and seen while, at the same time, trying desperately to be invisible. Now imagine being the daughter of undercover agents in a foreign country while managing conflicting teen emotions about identity. Sophia Glock relates this tale in her debut graphic memoir, Passport, about figuring out who you are while in a foreign country, when everything you know about your parents is at best a fabrication, and a dangerous one at that.
Sophia’s tale starts as she’s in her sixth country in Central America, her seventh school, and ninth home. Her sister is about to go to the United States for college and Sophia is adrift. She explores dressing differently, going out with friends, mingling with boys, ending friendships, experimenting with her sexuality, doing a play, and more. The comic is truly a slice of life memoir but set in an extremely unusual circumstance, living in a foreign country with undercover parents.
Glock does an effective job conveying herself as a teen searching for who she is. It’s not overly dramatic, it’s more matter of fact, how most stories of growing up are. Towards the end of her time in high school, Sophia makes some low key decisions about who she wants to be and what kind of friend she is. It’s refreshing in many ways since many teen memoirs have to have a big dramatic moment of reckoning to depict this sort of growth. Sophia’s depiction seems more realistic. Readers looking for excitement and fireworks may be disappointed.
This low-key narrative makes the one major event depicted, Hurricane Mitch in 1998, seem a little out of place. This event occurs early in the book and does a lot to show the reader where the book takes place. We never learn exactly where Sophia grew up, but Mitch devastated Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua—so the reader gets a decent picture of where she is and how poor these countries were, along with how Sophia felt about this. It was a good idea to depict this early in the book so that it doesn’t overwhelm the story of Sophia’s growth as she gets older.
Glock is the artist on the book as well. Her artwork is consistently appealing with simple lines and clear accurate drawings of people and items. It’s not cartoony or overly mannered, and it’s effective at telling her story. It’s also easy to differentiate between characters. She does a few amazing landscapes of the countries she lived in as well. The muted tones in the coloring by Mike Freiheit, mostly oranges and purples, adds a consistent feel throughout. The characters are not super expressive at any point, but that may be on purpose as well. It is not an emotional book.
Passport is a good purchase for most teen graphic novel or nonfiction collections in public libraries and high school libraries. I won’t be surprised if it wins a few awards in the coming months as well. It’s a well done memoir with appealing art set in an interesting place. Many teens will enjoy it.
By Sophia Glock
Publisher Age Rating: 13+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)