i am not okay with summers

i am not okay with this by Charles Forsman. Fantagraphics, 2017. 9781683960621. 182pp.

“Dear Diary, Go Fuck Yourself.”

Sydney’s best friend Dina is a senior. Her boyfriend Brad is an a-hole who calls Sydney a “lesbo” (she’s bi, but Brad isn’t the type of douchebag who gets subtlety). After the perpetually horny Sydney kisses Dina on the cheek, they’re on the outs. Sydney spends some time missing her dead, pot-head dad, and hanging out with a guy named Stan, his stoner friends, and a hot woman named Ryan who works at a mini mart. Sexual activity, drug use, physical violence, and more follows. Oh, and Sydney uses her superpower, making other people’s heads (mostly Brad’s) hurt.

It’s not a happy story, or an entirely realistic one, but I can tell you as the father of a 15-year-old who just spent every Saturday of a long high school wrestling season listening to teens at tournaments, everything about Sydney rang true.

Celebrated Summer by Charles Forsman. Fantagraphics, 2013. 781606996850. 67pp.

Just after graduating from high school, Mike and Wolf take acid and go for a walk in the woods. Neither feels much. They spontaneously decide to drive to the beach. Wolf can’t piss, and loses himself in a gas station restroom mirror. Buildings seem to dance by the side of the road. Mike worries that he needs to call his grandmother, who he lives with. In two brilliant, introspective, image-less pages, we enter Wolf’s mind and see what he really worries about and why he’s so awkward. In a longer, wordless sequence, Wolf plays video games in an arcade while he’s tripping. (In fact he’s so high that pixelated graphics become higher-res visual patterns.)

These graphic novels unfold in a straightforward, skillful way that’s easy to follow. They’re true blends of text and images — neither seems to be vying for attention most of the time, though text becomes the focus of some pages, and the images of others. Forsman’s strength is that he has absolute control over this balance. Plus, you know, he can see into the minds of socially awkward high teenagers, a type of telepathy that must be an exceedingly annoying superpower.

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