Blankets – Craig Thompson

Synopsis from Goodreads.

Wrapped in the landscape of a blustery Wisconsin winter, Blankets explores the sibling rivalry of two brothers growing up in the isolated country, and the budding romance of two coming-of-age lovers. A tale of security and discovery, of playfulness and tragedy, of a fall from grace and the origins of faith.

“How satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface. To make a map of my movement…no matter how temporary.”

and because I couldn’t decide between the two….

“At night, lying on your back and staring at the falling snow, it’s easy to imagine oneself soaring through the stars.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Those last 3 pages, wow.

High Points.
Craig.Snow. Brothers. Church camp. Patchwork. Under the pool table. Cubby holes. Identity. Faith. The future. First loves. Doubt (“It’s reassuring”).
And, of course, the illustrations.
How can people say they don’t like graphic novels when they look like these ones?
On the back of my book, Entertainment Weekly described Blankets as “visual poetry” and I can’t help but agree. It truly is wonderful.

Low Points.
This book won’t be for everyone and, I don’t mind admitting this, it wasn’t for me for a good 100 pages in the middle. But don’t worry because the other 400 pages I loved.
I’m not sure what it was but there was something about the feel of the story that I just wasn’t getting.
I also didn’t know that this book was going to be so focussed on religion and Craig’s struggle with his faith. I’m not religious but I find religion fascinating and a lot of my close friends are religious so I know how (hopefully) how to treat it with respect, even if I don’t agree.
I loved how Mr Thompson portrayed the conflict and his own personal struggles after having such an intense Christian upbringing respectfully and intelligently.
I also loved that he didn’t go down the whole“Uhh, yeah, religion is crap”… “But why is it ‘crap’?”… “Uh well, because it is” road.
He actually had a reasoning for his feelings and he portrayed them honestly and without an agenda.
The only problem with this is that, because I’m not completely familiar with Christianity, a lot of it went over my head. I can’t help but think I would have enjoyed those 100 or so pages more if I’d known about the subject.

I feel a bit strange talking about this because obviously Blankets is a memoir and Craig is… uh, well real, but never mind.
It’s safe to say that Craig broke my heart on every single page. His narration, or more appropriate, his feelings which were poured on each page, had such unflinching honesty were both parts incredibly brutal and beautiful.
I don’t want to say much more because I kind of want you to meet him on your own…. Reaaaad it.

Love Interest.
Oh Raina, you little dreamer. I can’t help but feel you would be best friends with all of John Green’s heroines.
I’m finding it quite difficult to talk about Raina and her role in her book because when you look at it from a distance it’s easy to describe it as “Oh yeah, it’s all about first love and flirting and snowball fights and snow frolicking”.
And yeah, Craig’s relationship with Raina and the accompanying emotions takes up about 300 pages of this book but the story really isn’t anything about that.
To me, it’s more about Craig’s isolation, his struggle with his faith and his need to find his place in the world.
Also, there are no snowball fights but there is snow frolicking.
I loved how Mr Thompson used Raina illustrate how easily people can move on from things that were so amplified at a certain point in their life, almost to the extent that they gave them definition. But when you move past it and look back, you realise that it wasn’t as shiny and important as you first thought.

“Sometimes, upon waking, the residual dream can be more appealing than reality, and one is reluctant to give it up.”

But I wouldn’t say that this was really a love story.
(The pictures in this section were my favourite though, so gorgeous and striking)
Also, Raina can make patchwork blankets.
Infinite Brownie points for her.

I feel saying whether I loved these illustrations will be redundant because it’s safe to say I love all illustrations.
I can think of three reasons why this could be:
1) The illustrations truly are beautiful.
2) I can’t draw for toffee so I respect people who can.
3) I love everything, I’m boring and I’m predictable.
Combination of all three?
But I really did love these illustrations and they’ve brought me to come to the decision that I prefer graphic novels in black and white.
Here are a few of my favourites.

I adored how you could tell that each page was thought about carefully, where each panel would be placed on the page, where the dialogue bubble would go. Everything, even down to the swirls in the dream pages.

Theme Tune.

Sadness Scale.
I really want to give certain authors this book to show them the meaning behind the phrase “show not tell”.
You know in films where the best harrowing/emotional scenes are told with no dialogue, minimal background music and subtlety? That is what Blankets is like.
I can’t describe it properly, and hopefully people who are familiar with graphic novels will understand what I’m trying to say, but emotional scenes in graphic novels seem to somehow create a sense of distance (minimal words telling you how you should feel) and intimacy (almost like you’re looking through their living room window as their world falls apart) that other books can’t seem to recreate.
I love books, whether they’re written or graphic, that present all the pieces but leave the reader to put them together.

Recommended For.
People who have ever struggled to figure out where they fit in with it all. People who love stunning illustrations. People who have ever believed their bedroom was the sea and their bed was a boat (I actually used to pretend my floor was lava, I was a very strange kiddywink). People who enjoy making quilts. People who refuse to stand up for mediocrity. People who refuse to believe in static… it’s always magic. People who would get ignored at Church Camp.

Find out more here.


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