I know I’m behind the times on this one, really. It’s been recommended to me over and over by comics folks and even those who don’t normally read sequential art. But I finally got around to reading Blankets this week, mostly on Monday when I was sick in bed all day, and it was just as beautiful as promised.
Thompson’s story is billed as a first-love tale, and it is, but it’s more importantly a coming-of-age story, a story of a young man finding love and freedom amid the loss of his faith and family.
I wanted a happy ending, a satisfying ending, but real life doesn’t come with those. Instead, Thompson has woven the threads of his religious upbringing, his relationship with his brother, and his first relationship into the what makes his protagonist the man that he is.
The gradual revelations of the narrator’s own unreliability and failings, scattered throughout the horrors of childhood, the teenage years, and the pains of love and loss, make this far more complex than the usual coming-of-age story. Thompson is unflinching, laying bare all the messiest, scariest, most embarrassing moments and by doing so both conveying their power and stripping them of it.
Most readers won’t know what it was like to grow up in an evangelical family like the one in Blankets, but the fear and discomfort of growing up and realizing that you don’t fit into your family anymore is universal. And the love story is poignant and beautiful, as comforting as the titular blankets and yet still confusing, painful, and even lonely.
Thompson’s art is simple, but magical, showing us the full inner life of a dreamy teenage boy and bringing us to all the heavens and hells of adolescence.
The best first love stories make you remember what it felt like to have your heart touched for the first time, and this book does that and then some.
Why haven’t YOU read it yet?