Thursday, November 15, 2012

Blankets: A Review

Maura, Jorge, Josh and Richard
Blankets: A Review
Craig Thompson’s memoir is a coming of age graphic novel that tackles head on the struggles of first love and a religion’s role in a young man’s life. Focusing on the author’s adolescence years, interspersed with flashbacks of childhood memories, Blankets emphasizes two important relationships in Craig Thompson’s life:  his relationship with Christianity and his relationship with his first love. Growing up in a Christian family, an emphasis is placed on Craig’s parents’ strict religious values throughout the book. The book begins with glimpses of Craig’s childhood days. Craig’s parents often scolded him as a youngster for his childish antics and the disappointment that he must feel, relating his poor actions to God. During the novel, Craig struggles to come to terms with the morals and values his parents continue to instill in him.
Once Craig’s relationship with his parents is established, the memoir follows Craig’s experiences at an annually held Christian youth camp.  At this point in the novel, Craig is a senior in high school who has trouble fitting in. Even at the youth camp, Craig has a difficult time making friends and being accepted.  He is very isolated from everyone, until he meets Raina. For the first time in the story, readers can see a change in Craig as he becomes much happier and more outgoing. They spend a lot of time getting to know each other at the camp and are devastated when the camp finally ends.  Craig and Raina still keep in touch through mail and phone calls. Facing a lot of drama in her life, Raina asks Craig if they could see each other.  Craig’s parents reluctantly allow him to spend two weeks at her house. During their precious time together, Craig learns about the many challenges she is facing, including her parents’ divorce and her responsibility to care for her two adopted siblings with special needs.  He does his best to help her get through her struggles. Unfortunately for Craig, he also faces some challenges of his own. Being a devoted Christian, Craig begins to question his faith for the first time in his life. As he works to fully understand Christianity, Craig creates for himself a new mental image about his religious beliefs. The time spent together leads to a transformation that alters Craig’s life forever.
Throughout the novel, Thompson repeatedly makes his faith prominent, particularly his Christian upbringing – a large factor in both his life and in the storyline. At certain points in the novel, he compares and contrasts differing and sometimes conflicting aspects of the Bible, which help the reader to understand the evolution of Craig’s religious beliefs during his early adulthood years. Sometimes, this religious material is brought up subtly, such as when he depicts demons without explicitly referencing religion or the concept of Hell and other direct quotes from the bible.
            Focusing not only on his religious beliefs, Craig Thompson emphasizes his relationships with individuals in his family. In particular, Craig’s relationship with his younger brother Phil plays a prominent role within the novel. This initially close relationship is compared to that of Raina and her adopted siblings, Ben and Laura. Whereas Craig fails to stick up for his brother as a child, in part due to the abuse he suffers from bullies, Raina does much to protect Ben and Laura from those who would hurt them, causing Thompson to rethink his relationship with Phil altogether. Fortunately for him, after meeting Raina’s parents, who are in marital trouble and are heavily considering divorce, he realizes the importance of repairing relationships before it’s too late. Finally, one of the main focuses of the novel lies on Craig and Raina’s relationship - a tender story of first love. The sweet “honeymoon” daze the two are in for much of the book rings true and provides a contrast to the other, more troubled, relationships in their life.
The characters in Blankets contribute to the success of the novel. The story begins by establishing Craig’s social struggles, as he is bullied because of his religious parents. This causes the readers to feel pity for this young man, as he is just a kid struggling to find his place where he can belong.  Later in the story we are introduced to Raina.  Her interactions with her family make it very easy for readers to fall in love with her character.  She is so loving and gentle, particularly to her challenged adopted siblings.  Readers can easily connect with these young lovers as they build a relationship with each other while trying to repair their relationships with others.
Craig and Raina’s parents also add emotion to the story.  Craig’s parents are portrayed to have a strong marriage based around strict Christian values.  Most importantly, they do not seem to understand Craig or his actions.  This misunderstanding gives readers a better feel of the isolation Craig is experiencing at the beginning of the novel.  While visiting, Craig discovers the negative effects of Raina’s parents’ possible divorce.  This as a result, stresses all the members of the household. The strain of the parents’ divorce on the children is understood through how the characters act. An example is seen when Raina’s mom is shown taking pills every time she comes home for the night and the many tantrums her brother’s has over the divorce.
Thompson overall does an excellent job of enticing the reader by utilizing simple drawings, realistic dialogue, and his personal experiences to portray a story that will keep you asking for more. The usage of exaggerated characters, drawn larger than life, allows the user to easily see the story through Craig’s eyes. Craig’s experiences with his brother Phil thrusts the reader back in time to their childhood, causing the reader to recall both the exhilarating and terrifying experiences that come with being young. Craig’s trip to Michigan to visit Raina allows the reader to hop on the time old trip of becoming a man. While reciting his experiences with Raina, we see Craig take the first steps towards becoming the person he is today. During this trip he begins to develop his own definition of right and wrong. He begins to doubt his Christian upbringing by favoring a more liberal lifestyle.  Craig Thompson makes Blankets a true page turner with his usage of common and realistic dialogue allow the reader to easily follow along on a trip back in time that they will never forget.

Works Cited
Thompson, Craig. Blankets: A Graphic Novel. Marietta, Ga.: Top Shelf, 2003. Print.

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