One word. Phenomenal. I didn’t really expect to like this book for a number of reasons. First of all, the cover: plain, some would say boring at first glance, until you read this brilliant graphic novel, Stitches (W.W. Norton) by David Small and realize it is so fitting.
Full disclosure, I’ve never read a graphic novel before. So, some may ask, how could I call it brilliant? But a good story is a good story, and Stitches is not a good story, but rather a great one.
It tells the true story of the author, David’s Small’s seemingly ordinary life in suburbs. What looks normal on the surface, underneath, as he reveals in this memoir, was a life of awful cruelty, confusion and abuse. Somehow this incredibly sensitive boy emerges as an artist but not before he suffers from the hands of his severely abusive, cranky, yet hilarious grandmother, his stern, bitter, “penny pinching” mother and his push-over father. He soon learns what his father’s constant x-rays of him are truly for and how that effects his health and well-being in ways that scar him both physically and emotionally for the rest of his life.
Stitches was so perfectly illustrated. The story had me laughing aloud on countless occasions. It truly was an emotional roller coaster. I hate to call this book a “page turner” because that is such a cliche in book reviews, but Stitches truly was a page turner (even at 344 pages). I began reading the novel on the train back to Brooklyn and couldn’t get home fast enough, where I could finish reading it under my covers. The placement of the illustrations was also so well-crafted that you couldn’t wait to turn the page. A great example of this is when, in one particular moment in the book, David as a little boy imagines that he is being chased by a little man from a jar (don’t worry, it makes sense when you read the graphic novel) and the author placed the illustration at the end of the page. I quickly turned the page because I was honestly worried about whether or not the little man from the jar was going to get him.
Author, David Small captured the mood of each moment with perfection and somehow captured the three dimensional characters through his artistry and storytelling flawlessly and authentically, something I never thought I’d ever say about a graphic novel, (a genre which I assumed to be only an overblown comic book for grown folks). This book changed my opinion of the genre forever. There are twists at the end of the book you’ll never see coming.
If you haven’t read a graphic novel before, let this be your first. I cannot say enough about this book, which will be released in September and is something to look out for. Highly Recommended. I reluctantly give this novel 5 stars; reluctantly, only because there aren’t 6 stars to give out.
Jeff Rivera is the founder of GumboWriters.com