Monday, December 7, 2009

Swallow Me Whole

This graphic novel by Nate Powell, is about two step-siblings and how they cope with their debilitating mental illness. The story is told through Ruth's and Perry's eyes and experiences. Ruth is the main character in the story and suffers from delusions, paranoia, schizophrenia and OCD. Her brother Perry's illness is not as severe, but he suffers from delusions. Ruth and Perry have above average intelligence and get good grades in school, but due to their illness they seem a little weird and have trouble making friends. They are very lonely kids and have only each other to confide in. The family has a lot to deal with, two mentally challenged kids and a grandmother that has also moved in with them. She is ill and can no longer care for herself due to dementia and old age. The grandmother has also suffered with mental illness and has learned to cope with it by painting.

Ruth and Perry are aware of their condition, they've always felt different from normal children. Ruth knows that no one else can see, hear or smell the things that she does. Ruth tries to get some control of her life by collecting, and sorting her insect collection. Perry hallucinates a small gnome or wizard that appears on everything he writes with, and orders him to draw until he's exhausted. Perry tries to cope with his hallucinations by drawing. As the children get older their illness worsens. The parents seek medical help, but the medications aren't very effective. When the children are older they are able to build relationships and live a somewhat normal life, at least for a short period of time. Ruth gets a job at a museum, working in the insect section. Her obsessive behavior takes over and she ends up stealing an insect exhibit for her collection. After this incident she begins to lose control at school and home. Her condition worsens and she begins to lose grip with reality. Can Perry save his sister from losing complete control?

The black and white illustrations give us insight into Ruth and Perry's minds.
The reader is able to see the challenges that Ruth faced just to make it through the day. The tiny words in each page represent the reality that Ruth is unable to hear. The book is written in a comic style, which makes it interesting for YA readers. I found the book interesting, but a little difficult to follow.

1 comment:

Lisa Burnham said...

I am beginning to love graphic novels, they seem to appeal to my visual need and boy do they tell a story. Mental Illness is becoming more of a serious issue our country and thousands according to statistics are still undiagnosed. I am amazed at how the characters are able to busy themselves as a way to cope with ALL of their daily issues.