Wednesday, April 16, 2008

In Review Of: Lost At Sea by Bryan O'Malley

I wanted to like Lost At Sea, but I don't think that I can say that. There were elements of it, very truthful elements, hidden among a number of pages of fairly uneventful stuff. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty decent description of teenage years right there in itself.

Partly my problem is with O'Malley's art, which has the four main teenagers drawn like little kids, which is more than a little off-putting when they start to smoke and drink. I have no problem with a cartoony style for this sort of work, in fact, sometimes it makes the work richer to use characters that embody a broader facial style than a more realistic depiction, but works less well here. How much are we to care about Raleigh, who is 18 years old, has run away to spend a weekend with a boy and is now randomly hitching a ride with some people from her school, trying to make sense of everything on her way home.

Sadly, just about everyone that I know has had aimless periods of their life, when things seem to have been moving in quicksand, and while realistic, it certainly doesn't make for mesmerizing fiction. If there is any trick here, it might have been introducing the idea that Raleigh thinks that a cat has stolen her soul earlier is the book.

What is interesting, reviewing this book from lofty position of being an adult, is that I remember those times when you're 19, or 20 or 21 and you feel completely adrift, as if your entire world could spin on its axis on any one given event, and it really did feel like that to some of us. Putting this down in words and pictures is a difficult task, because the very instability of that moment is like a soap bubble: so very beautiful in its fragility. It is a time in many people's lives where things go right or go terribly wrong. There are moments that O'Malley captures that, and they're the best moments in the book.

Unfortunately, the book feels overlong, and really doesn't get to its point soon enough. The supporting characters are less well defined than Raleigh herself, and so the emotional climax is weaker than it should be. Bryan is trying, and craft is there, but it simply doesn't sell the point as well as it should.

Ultimately, Lost At Sea is a failed experiment in that it doesn't hold together. Bryan is clearly talented, and one miss here doesn't undermine his trying again, this just isn't the book that he was trying for.

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