Briony Hatch is obsessed with the book series “Starling Black,” a series about a kick-butt girl who’s also a psychic exorcist. When the book series ends, Briony doesn’t know what to do! How will she survive with something that’s always been there for her, and now will never be by her side again? After spiraling down into depression, Briony finds that she has the ability to talk to ghosts. Her life will never be the same again.
“…on my next birthday, I will be fifteen! At this stage in my life, I am meant to be experimenting with drugs and having my first fumbling sexual experiences. But hanging out with Starling is so much better.” That quote from page 9 basically sums up the entire book. Briony hates her life, and decides to escape that life by reading the book series she adores. She obsesses over little things that happen in her life, such as her still being a virgin and never having tried drugs. She longs to be with the “in-crowd,” but knows that that will never happen. In her own words, she considers still being a virgin at fifteen years old something “freaky,” and certainly does not want to get drunk or do so many drugs that she goes crazy. Briony hates her body, particularly her hair – she thinks curly hair is a curse, and wishes she didn’t have her lovely locks, as she only longs for wavy black hair. Briony also calls herself “fat and ugly” several times throughout the novel. Her closest “friend” Julia just wants to do drugs and have sex and get Briony to join in, but Briony just wants to stay at home and read her books. Julia also insults Briony on a regular basis, and doesn’t seem to care how her “friend” feels. For some odd reason, Briony still chooses to hang out with her so-called “friend.” Briony is also dishonest, throwing out a letter the principal told her to give to her parents. The letter was about how she wasn’t paying attention in History class in school, and was fairly accurate in its content, but Briony didn’t care and just trashed it on the way home from school. After Briony gets sick, she decides to dye her hair black and start wearing gothic clothing. She legitimately thinks she is an exorcist, and starts acting and dressing the part.
All-in-all, the main character was very difficult to even like or find commonality with. I had difficulty connecting with Briony for all the reasons just listed – I disagreed with her about everything she thought was normal. Briony was disrespectful towards her parents, and not only called them obscene things, but also just acted like a brat. After she got sick, Briony sort of went off the deep end, so to speak – she became an entirely different person, and didn’t really change for the better. Briony didn’t have very good judgement, either, as she was willing to hang out with people who didn’t honor her as a person and who never would respect her.
I also had difficulty finding anything in common between myself and Briony’s parents. Her mother just slammed her father every chance she got, and seemed very emotionally unstable. While she sometimes seemed to have her child’s best interests at hand, she never handled situations properly. Briony’s mother had such an order to her rants that at fifteen, Briony had nailed precisely where they started and ended without much trouble. Her mother first threatened to do unspeakable things to Briony if the girl didn’t clean her room, and then tried to get Briony to see the reason behind her argument, and then she used a blaming tactic to put guilt on Briony so as to blame the child for her problems, and then she ended with slamming Briony’s father. Speaking of Briony’s father, in the book, Briony’s parents are getting a divorce. They’ve been putting it off for several years, and every time some little event happens, the parents just get pushed closer and closer to actually finalizing the deed. It was not very clear why Briony’s mother hated her father and why the father hated her mother. The father stated it was because he had to pay for Briony and her mother’s lavish lifestyle, while the mother stated it was because the father had a new girlfriend whom he wasted his money trying to please. Clearly, their troubles did circle around financial problems, but a solution was never found.
I felt bored and disgusted reading this graphic novel. The art was subpar, and the style of writing was dreadful, as it was more child-like than adult-like in terms of the choice of words, but included such obscenities that it would never be an appropriate thing for a child to read. By the end of chapter one, I actually had the thought, “When will this awful thing end?” By the end of chapter two, I gave up even trying to enjoy the book. While it was a short read, I really didn’t enjoy it – I nearly gave up reading it until I got to chapter five, where the storyline picked up a little and at least kept my interest until the end. I have loved comics, manga, and graphic novels for awhile now, and don’t mind dealing with adult material when it’s presented in a professional manner. I’ve read “BONE” by Jeff Smith and “Black Butler” by Yana Toboso – both of these graphic novels I enjoyed greatly. In this book, however, the author’s intent seemed to revolve around shock-value – something I’ve never enjoyed reading. The sex scenes early on in the book were extremely graphic and showed large amounts of nudity and sexual acts – they honestly weren’t needed to make the point the graphic novel was trying to make. Often, scenes in the book seemed forced. Properly done transitions were very difficult to find, and the writing style seemed choppy at times. The book gave off this weird vibe to me, as if it were meant for a younger crowd, but that it was trying to appeal to an older audience as well. If that really was the intent for this book, it failed on both accounts. I would never let my younger siblings read this book filled with such mature and graphic themes, and I would never choose to read this book myself, even though I am twenty-one and enjoy a well-written graphic novel. The term "graphic novel" does not have to mean that the content within the novel be graphic (in terms of sex, drugs, or other gratuitous things), but in the case of this book, that definition fits the bill. This graphic novel was such a let-down that I would never recommend it, nor will I ever read it again.