Monday, October 5, 2009

Refresh, Refresh: The waiting is the hardest part

I don't review a lot of graphic novels because my knowledge of art can generously be described as "lacking," but when I heard about Danica Novgorodoff's graphic retelling of Benjamin Percy's short story "Refresh, Refresh," I knew it was one I wanted to read.

Refresh, Refresh follows three teen boys, Cody, Josh, and Gordon, whose fathers are serving in the Marines. Stuck in their small Oregon town, they form a fight club so they can strengthen themselves against their enemies. They party, they go camping, they cause more trouble than they solve, and they refresh, refresh their email, hoping for a message from their fathers. Seasons pass and the boys, seniors in high school, make important decisions about their futures. Cody is sure he wants to become a Marine and fight terrorists, and Josh takes flak from his friends when he confesses that he'd rather go to college than join the armed forces. All three boys also feel stress at home, because they've become the men of their respective houses.

I'm sure this is a book that will be mentioned when the inevitable, "Do you know any books about teens whose fathers have gone off to war?" readers' advisory question is asked, but Refresh, Refresh is not just a book about a parent at war. It's about grieving someone who may or may not be dead, and it's about three boys trying to move forward with their lives when uncertainty holds them back. In trying to become strong, Cody, Josh, and Gordon show their biggest weaknesses and how isolated they feel in their own families and among their peers. Novogodoff uses a fair amount of dialogue at the beginning of the book, but the last ten pages are almost entirely wordless. It doesn't end on the happiest note, but it does end realistically, something this reader appreciated.

review at Pop Candy || Danica Novgorodoff's Refresh, Refresh site || Author interview at Comic Book Resources || review at Reading Rants!

review copy courtesy of First Second Books

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