By Maggie Thrash
$14.99; Candlewick Press; 267 pages ( Honor Girl ), $18.99; Candlewick Press; 190 pages ( Lost Soul, Be at Peace )
There is no loneliness like teenage loneliness.
Even those who experienced their "glory days" in high school often admit to frequent feelings of isolation, even depression. For Maggie Thrash, high school was far from glorious. The daughter of a federal judge and a genteel housewife, she had everything."a beautiful home, financial stability, opportunities galore."but as a closeted queer girl in the South, Maggie felt like nothing. Her first book, Honor Girl, is a graphic memoir that vividly illustrates her flirtation with an older counselor at her exclusive Christian summer camp. Honor Girl was a finalist for both the Lambda Literary Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, garnering positive reviews from award-winning authors and celebrities like Ira Glass. Lost Soul, Be at Peace, is Thrash's new follow-up, taking place eighteen months after the events of Honor Girl in Thrash's Atlanta home.
Before penning graphic memoirs, Thrash worked as a staff writer for Rookie, Tavi Gevinson's wildly popular online magazine geared at teen girls. It's safe to say Thrash always had the experiences of her younger self on the brain. In both Honor Girl and Lost Soul, she does the artistic equivalent of ripping open her own heart. Parts of each are so relatable they're cringe-inducing, especially Maggie's interactions with her counselor crush Erin, and her near-obsessive attachment to her gray cat, Tommi.
Maggie is intelligent, but never quite lives up to her potential, flunking her Honors English class and disappointing both her parents with her lack of ambition. She earns top marks in riflery in summer camp, only to keep one of her father's guns under her bed in Atlanta."just in case. When Tommi disappears, literally inside the massive family home, Maggie is at a loss, and begins to experience visions of a boy her age named, yes, Tommy. In recounting these memories, Thrash mines the depths of her tormented teen self and emerges with buried treasure: relatable moments for every adult who, back in high school, felt like they just didn't belong where they were.
As an artist, Thrash favors thick black lines and bright colors: Maggie's purple hair in Lost Soul is a sharp contrast to the darkness of her thoughts. Images of Maggie's sweet gray feline, the glow of a lantern at her Kentucky girls' summer camp, passed notes from her secret high school girlfriend, practically jump off the page, begging the reader to notice. Thrash's pictures pair perfectly with the voice of her high school self: smart, but desperate and sad, wanting more than anything to be understood and accepted. Really, didn't we all feel that way once?
Both Honor Girl and Lost Soul are fast-paced and addictive, easily devoured in one or two sittings. Thrash's books are a shining example of the graphic memoir as an innovative way of storytelling. Each book can be read separately or out of order, but read together, both convey the unique experience of queer teens: the knowledge that they're on the verge of something big, and the glimmers of understanding as to what that something is.