If there is one thing that gets an immediate advance up the TBR pile it’s YA Graphic Novels. I simply can’t resist them, no matter what real-world obligations I have going on at the time. Beyond any shadow of a doubt The Wendy Project was worth the express pass and the guilt that comes with not reading books that have been waiting longer. This hauntingly beautiful retelling of Peter Pan, with it’s enigmatic artwork and colouring, had me hooked within the first five pages and then I was reading like there was no tomorrow…
Title: The Wendy Project
Author: Melissa Jane Osborne
Illustrator: Veronica Fish
Publisher: Super Genius
Expected Publication Date: July 18, 2017
Genre: Literary Fiction, YA Fiction, Comics, Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Themes: Peter Pan, Loss, Overcoming Grief, Fantasy Worlds, Friendship, Siblings
My Rating: 5/ 5
16-year-old Wendy Davies crashes her car into a lake on a late summer night in New England with her two younger brothers in the backseat. When she wakes in the hospital, she is told that her youngest brother, Michael, is dead. Wendy ― a once rational teenager – shocks her family by insisting that Michael is alive and in the custody of a mysterious flying boy. Placed in a new school, Wendy negotiates fantasy and reality as students and adults around her resemble characters from Neverland. Given a sketchbook by her therapist, Wendy starts to draw. But is The Wendy Project merely her safe space, or a portal between worlds?
I don’t know where to begin when it comes to expressing my love for this graphic novel, and my wish that there were more like it out there. Not only does The Wendy Project take on big ticket topics like grief, responsibility, teen romance, bullying and rejection it is done with sensitivity and emotion that I don’t think a traditional text could have come close to the same effect.
To start with, the artwork is absolutely out of this world. The juxtaposition of the pen-line sketches against the whimsy of the watercolours creates a beautiful effect. It clearly delineates what is reality and what is fantasy and lends so much meaning to the reading experience. It allows for connections to be made, life to be infused, and really drew me in and left me wanting so badly for the beauty of this softer and more vibrant world to be Wendy’s reality.
I loved the snarky comments in the margins too. They made me feel as though I was reading the drawing journal that Wendy’s therapist asked her to draw in a very meta way. There was so much happening in the gutters that these little quips caught me off guard, and offered some much needed comic relief for some very heavy material.
Finally, I am absolutely in love with the intertextual nature of The Wendy Project. The reworked J. M. Barrie quotes throughout the text, as well as the rich visual imagery, really works to bring this adaptation to life. Sometimes, escaping into a fantasy world is the only way that we can deal with reality, and the essence of growing up/ coming of age is maintained beautifully in Osborne’s retelling. My heart broke all over again for Wendy, Michael and John and I wanted to linger with them just a little longer by the Lagoon.
Etherial, enigmatic, and absolutely mesmerizing this modern twist on a classic story is a gripping and hauntingly beautiful read. Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! I’d even go so far as to tag it as a must read for teens (and maybe even adults) dealing with loss.
Up Next: The Book of Whispers by Kimberley Starr