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Island Book by Evan Dahm

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


This graphic novel kicks off with a whole lot of telling and backstory, which is disappointing, but still, I was interested in where this might go. Somewhere around panel 40, this becomes more interesting. Luckily, with this simple format, you can progress to that panel quickly, so just hang in there through the rocky start.

The artwork is very simple and clean with mostly muted colors that I really enjoyed. It gives everything a nice, moody feel. There’s actually a lot of visual depth in the scenes, and you can feel the action and motion in the drawings, especially in terms of the movement of boats and water. Honestly, the artwork is probably my favorite things about this one.

In the first 40 panels, most of the characters look identical, so that is confusing. However, the side characters from the first world don’t really seem to have names, personalities, or much of a purpose, other than to interact with Sola, the MC, so once you figure out which one is Sola, the scenes start to make more sense.

I think that the simple format and storytelling is good for the intended audience, overall. This just completely lacks character development and clarity in the world building, other than what you can guess at from what you see in the artwork. It basically becomes a long journey with multiple stops to add new underdeveloped side characters. The dialogue tends to be a bit vague and often awkward or cheesy. It doesn’t always move the story forward effectively. I have to confess that I liked the wordless panels the best.

The end is pretty confusing, anticlimactic, and disappointing. You don’t get any true answers, and if it’s trying to express a deeper message, the younger intended audience isn’t going to get it. I’m 38, and read a lot, and I was completely unconvinced of any deeper meaning or message. I felt like I just went on a long, useless journey. Sure, it was interesting, when I thought it was building to something, but once I realized there wasn’t going to be any true plot development or resolution, I just had to force myself through to the last panel.

Still, despite these many concerns with the format and storytelling, something is compelling about this one. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, other than I enjoyed the otherworldly quality and adventure of it. It’s best for young readers who are new to graphic novels, and it likely won’t have as much appeal to older graphic novel fans who like to read across age categories, particularly teens and adults, as we tend to expect a more solid storyline and some actual character development.

Thank you to Netgalley, and the publisher, for allowing me to read an advanced copy. This graphic novel will be published on May 14, 2019.

Pages: 290

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