Monday, September 2, 2013

Nonfiction Monday: Little Fish: A memoir from a different kind of year by Ramsey Beyer

Ramsey Beyer lives in the city and has for the past ten years. But until she was 18, she lived in a tiny town called Paw Paw. This is the story of her first years away from home at art school and how she dealt with feeling like a "little fish".

In zines, lists, blog entries, and comic strips, she records her life from her first tentative arrival at art school in Baltimore to her second year and a firm relationship.

I've seen a lot of graphic memoirs of 20-somethings and my general feelings are um...mostly unprintable, but generally fall into the "what makes your angst so interesting?" However, I will admit that this book held my attention and I can actually see older teens and young adults checking it out.

One of the things that made me actually like this comic was that Beyer is not as self-absorbed and oblivious to the rest of the world as most authors/artists in this genre I've read. She lists at one point the things she's been fortunate in having - a family that's financially well-off and supportive of her, her school, good friends, and opportunities. Her journey to figuring out who she is and what she wants out of life is very balanced. She realizes there are things she misses about small-town life and someday she'll go back to it, but she also loves the excitement and opportunities in the city. She thinks a lot about how people change - not just her friends and family back home and the way she sees the world, but even her new friends as they start relationships and make choices.

The art is very zine-like, if you know what I mean. It's black and white and I don't see anything saying the final book will be in color, so I'm assuming that what I see is what we'll get. There are lots of cut paper backgrounds and the comic panels have a sketchy, doodling look to them. Most of the text, especially the many, many lists, is in a kind of old-fashioned type-writer font. This wasn't to my taste, as it made it difficult for me to read and I was distracted by the many typos - were they part of the "authenticity" of the art, or just because I read an uncorrected proof? Some of the story is repetitive, particularly the introduction of her roommates and friends but then later in the story new names are suddenly dropped in and I couldn't figure out who those people were.

Verdict: This wasn't 100% to my personal taste, but I enjoyed the realistic and pretty balanced look at a kid from a small town going to the big city for the first time and growing into an adult. I think quite a few teens at this point in their lives, especially those in a small town planning on going to bigger cities for college, might enjoy reading this. It's not going to fly off the shelves like Twilight, but it should have a pretty steady audience and I'd recommend it for your teen collection. 
[updated to add: I gave this to my teen aide, who is going to college this fall and she really liked it. I also got a finished copy of the book for review and yes, it is in black and white but the finished art has a cleaner, more striking look and while it still has the zine-ey look, the book as a whole is more polished and some of the repetitive parts and typos were cleaned up. So, finished copy, very cool!]

ISBN: 9781936976188; Published September 3, 2013 by Zest Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; ARC provided by the publisher for review; Added to the library's order list


Jeanne Walker Harvey said...

Interesting approach to a memoir. Thanks for sharing it with us on Nonfiction Monday.

Perogyo said...

A Zine! How very 90s! That sounds like an insult but it's not. ;) It does sound cool.