Life is difficult and emotions get in the way, so when surgery to numb the pain and remove hearts becomes available, people are intrigued. No need to suffer through the pain and grief from loss. Everyone, it seems, signs up for the procedure. Everyone, but June. The Faint of Heart by Kerilynn Wilson is a beautifully crafted graphic novel that explores the importance of emotional connections.
June feels alone with a heart in a world without them. Her family is dismissive, she no longer has friends, and teachers chastise her for imperfection. With no heart, all emotions are numbed, not just the painful ones. No more emotional distractions to get in the way of success in school and work. Relationships lose their importance, and family life becomes cold and calculated. But once numbed, these sacrifices no longer feel relevant.
June is different, She is an artist and she cherishes her emotions. She observes her friends and family that alongside the loss of pain, also lose empathy and interpersonal connections. June becomes more and more determined, not only to keep her heart but to help those who are numbed to begin to feel again. It is more complicated than she anticipated, but with the help of a friend, who despite the loss of a heart, is beginning to experience emotions again, June goes on a mission to find the scientist who started this whole thing.
The Faint of Heart is being marketed as a YA mixture of Eternal Sunshine for the Spotless Mind and Severance. It is a well-crafted story that explores some of the same themes related to love, loss, and definitions of success or happiness. It is an analysis of our relationships with ourselves and each other. These themes may resonate with teens who face a daunting future as they navigate new and difficult emotions and relationships.
Wilson’s artwork is gorgeous. Just as our emotions bridge connections with others, wisps of fibers connect panes across some page spreads, She also expertly uses color throughout the book. Many of the illustrations are in black and white with splashes of yellow, orange, and blue to illustrate heart and emotion. As the story progresses, and the emotions begin to shift, so does the use of color. Her illustrations help to illuminate the beauty in life that would be lost without emotional connections.
This is Wilson’s debut graphic novel and hopefully is an indicator of great stories to come. The illustrations in The Faint of Heart are exquisite and beautifully capture the characters and themes from Wilson’s story. It will be purchased for my high school collection, where I am confident it will find a number of readers. With a mixture of science-fiction and a character-centered story, it will appeal to readers from a number of genres, whether or not they are new to the graphic novel format. I recommend it for graphic novel collections serving teens and older middle-grade readers.
The Faint of Heart
By Kerilynn Wilson
Harper Collins, 2023
Publisher Age Rating: 13 and U
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)