My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Penguin Random House Canada
Published: September 25th, 2018
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Coming of Age, Historical Fiction, Bullying
After his mother abandons the family, thirteen-year-old Russell Pruitt moves with his Korean War veteran father to a small town in southern California. Eager to fit in and figure out the mystifying rules of being a man, he succumbs to the sway of boys more feral than himself–leading to an act of betrayal that will have devastating consequences. Told through cinematic artwork that will transfix readers with its visceral potency and grace, Home After Dark is a mesmerizing evocation of a boy’s struggle to survive the everyday brutalities of adolescence, and forge his own path to manhood.
This was VERY atmospheric. I felt as though I was right there through everything with the main character and, well, that was all kinds of amazing and awful all at once, given that this is an intense book that depicts loss, loneliness, bullying, violence, abandonment and betrayal. Contentment is not exactly one of the themes depicted, let’s say.
And yet it never felt ‘‘too’’ heavy to me, because it’s almost eerily calm. There is little dialog so when someone does speak, you truly listen. I connected with the main character—Russell—because whether I agreed with him on certain things or not, I saw everything happening through his eyes and that helped me understand him. It was like I was in his mind, fully aware of his thoughts and actions.
So I have to praise the atmosphere and drawings. But I cannot fully praise the story itself. It’s interesting, or I wouldn’t have been able to finish this 400-page graphic novel in less than thirty minutes, despite the lack of dialog. But it didn’t often surprise me. Actually, there is a lot that remains, even now, unsaid or unexplained.
The focus is really on Russell and his coming of age. He feels little attachment to the people in his life, so much that when someone leaves, he doesn’t bother to go look for them. That bothered me. How can he not care? And when he does make the decision to go after someone, his careless planning has grave consequences. We know close to nothing about the people he befriends and I’m just left unsatisfied with it all. The ending isn’t bad at all—it surprisingly made me sigh in relief—but I’m disappointed the author didn’t address some topics more clearly and thoroughly.
Still, this is a quiet story that will impact readers. It most certainly makes me want to check out another graphic novel from this author.
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