Wednesday, April 15, 2015


A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed Liz Prince's Alone Forever collection and learned she had created an honest to goodness graphic novel. Being a big fan of her earlier works I just had to check it out. Tomboy is a memoir about growing up, feeling weird, and trying to fit in, with a huge focus on gender issues and how they get defined from an early age. The book opens with a pivotal scene that sets the stage for the rest of the book. Liz, age 4, communicates how she hates how she's been dressed and has a meltdown:

Her family is very positive about her wants, and they cater to her wishes without making a fuss or being critical or hurtful. They just want her to be happy with who and how she is. As she grows older and interacts with friends in school though, things get tense. The young children and adolescents she encounters in all her schools (elementary, middle, and high) and in her neighborhood are not always the most accepting of her toy, wardrobe, playtime, or pastime choices. And from these points of conflict come a discussion about what's right, who gets to decide what is right, and how people judge one another based on preconceived gender roles.
Looking at what I wrote above, it may seem like this book is somewhat academic, and it is in a few places. But I hope you can see from the excerpts that it more consistently is a book with heart, humor, and very human feelings. There are many laughs, moments of sadness and hurt, glimpses of hope, and lots of opportunities where I felt personally connected with the characters and situations. The storytelling, facial expressions, and pacing are all expertly delineated and make this book a joy to read.

All of the reviews I have read about this book have been full of praise. The notoriously tough Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review and called it "Spectacular; a book to make anyone think seriously about society’s preordained gender role." The School Library Journal's Amanda MacGregor called it "utterly fantastic." For those interested in learning more what's behind this book, Prince talks about her work on Tomboy in this interview with Comic Book Resources.

Going by the tried and true Joe Bob Briggs 3 B's scale, this book has 7 beasts (three bullies, three mean girls, and one crazy "friend"), a few mentions of blood (menstrual), and 3 boobs (in an educational film the girls have to watch in school). It also features some profanity, harsh taunting, and more than a few romantic or sort of sexual situations, so I recommend it for readers mature enough to handle those things.

Tomboy was published by Zest Books, and they offer a preview, reviews, and more here.

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