280. How I Made It to Eighteen by Tracy White

How I Made It to Eighteen: a mostly true story by Tracy White (Canada) - (US)

Pages: 153
Ages: 14+
Finished: Dec. 11, 2010
First Published: Jun. 8, 2010
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Genre: YA, graphic novel, realistic fiction, mental illness
Rating: 5/5

First sentence:

I miss my life.

Acquired: Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Reason for Reading: This is a Cybils '10 nominee and required reading for me as a graphic novels panelist.

This is the author's memoir of when she had a nervous breakdown when she was 17 and checked herself into a mental institution. She admits freely to taking artistic licence with the truth for the sake of the story but as the title states it is mostly true. Told from the point of view of Stacy Black, 17yo high school graduate with no intentions of going to college she has moved out on her own and is so depressed but able to realize how messed up she is that she checks herself into Golden Boughs psychiatric hospital. In between the graphic portions of the novel we are given text reports from her files from various sources: nurses and doctors from group, individual and family therapy. There is also another section, which in blocks of text, gives responses from 4 of Stacy's friends, from various points of her life, to an interview question. This all provides us with viewpoints of Stacy from various angles and also gives us insight into the people she had influencing her.

The artwork is very stark and raw. So simple and unpolished that it comes across as fresh, and drawn by the actual young person supposedly telling the story. Most of the art does not have backgrounds, though now and then there are a few items added to give a sense of place. This works very well in combination with the subject matter.

While Stacy initially checks in for depression, many forms of mental illness that teen girls battle with are presented here both from Stacy and others she befriends in the hospital with her. Along with the depression there is parental emotional neglect, many body image issues, the necessity to keep thin, seeing yourself as fat, bulimia, cutting, drug addictions, alcoholism, controlling boyfriends, etc. There is a tiny bit of language but I found it's use to be appropriate in context.

Very well put together book that uses text and graphics together in a startlingly real way to tell a dark, brutal and yet, at times, humorous story of mental illness that will be a worthwhile read for all teenage girls.


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