Monday, May 11, 2015

Day 11 - SuperMutant Magic Academy

It's day 11! Time for a review of a book that's a little outside the box. It's not strictly YA but it is about teenagers. Teenagers, the soul-destroying hell that is high school, life, and the universe. And maybe a cat.

Title: SuperMutant Magic Academy
Author/Illustrator: Jillian Tamaki
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Enter the not-so-hollowed halls of SuperMutant Magic Academy and let the teenage apathy wash over you. Wendy, Marsha, Cheddar, Frances, and the other students will be your guides through the D&D games, performance art, unrequited crushes, and spell-class tests that are the staples of life at a school for paranormal teenagers.

SuperMutant Magic Academy is intelligent, compelling, and bizarre. It's absurd and impossible while being true to the absurdity and impossibility of high school life. Yes, they all have some kind of magical ability, but all of that takes a backseat to the angst and the worry that teenagers face every day. Tests, dating, the future. It's all here in black and white, and sometimes red.

It's hard to describe this book, this collection, beyond what it is overall. There's sort of a set story line, the characters' lives while in high school, both inside and outside of class. Having lunch, doing homework, dating, breaking up, crushing on, fighting. Worrying about life post-high school, worrying about what the future might hold. Worrying about everything. Each page is its own separate story. It's a collection of moments, glimpses in time, until the newly drawn ending that follows more of a set story.

This is the most true to real life I've ever seen fantasy/paranormal characters be. There's Marsha keeping her crush on best friend cat-eared Wendy a secret. There's lizard Trixie trying so hard to fit in, to find a boyfriend, to be pretty. There's bold performance artist Frances and her friend with a large head Gemma. There's magical Trevor, angry and misunderstood, who's possibly just waiting for someone to finally call him on all his crap. And there's Everlasting Boy, who lives and dies and lives again. The moments they have are sometimes impossible to understand, like Frances' performance art, and sometimes so familiar it hurts, like when one boy brings another to his dorm room and acknowledges that while it is a mess, it's his mess. It's something that belongs to him. Finally, something that's all his. What teenager hasn't ever desperately craved something that was their own, and rejoiced when they finally found it?

This book is at times bold, weird, and unflinchingly honest. The moments of existentialism alternate with the moments of humour, the moments of how all teen boys can think about is sex, as seen in a number of their D&D games. A must-read for comic fans, for fans of so much reality in their fiction, for fans of storytelling.

(I received a finished copy of this title from Raincoast Books.)

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