Headed out today to pick up our next read, Fall from Grace, from the library. Exciting stuff! Also, here’s a review of Tamaki’s latest offering.
I realize I am simply jumping on an already very full bandwagon, but Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy is a f*%#ing masterpiece. Her other work, both on her own and with her cousin Mariko Tamaki, is always good, but SMMA is working on a whole other level.
This graphic novel started as a webseries (which I did not read), and it has now been compiled into this incredible book. As is often the case with Tamaki, it is the story of young adults trying to get through their lives. The premise is a Harry Potter/X-Men type of high school where there are some magical things going on, but much like in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, those magical elements are used to give us a deeper insight into the very real lives of high school students (and, in this case, their teachers as well).
The intensity of feeling that we all go through as teenagers is very difficult to capture. When adults try to, it can often feel like exactly what it is: someone trying to get to a depth of feeling they simply no longer can. When teenagers try to, it can often feel like they are too close to it to really do it justice. The fact that Tamaki succeeds so ridiculously well at capturing this, without making it feel unrealistic, is what makes this book truly brilliant.
I think every teenager should own this book. And a lot of adults, too.
I’m not exactly sure what makes teen life such an eternal story point for some of us. I mean, if teen-based TV shows and books were only watched/read by teens, they wouldn’t be the money-making business they are. I am one of those people; I read a lot of YA, I watch a lot of teen TV shows. Why is it that some of us – dare I say many of us? – still feel so compelled by the stories of this age group, even when we are well past it? And, would probably never want to go back to it. Are we trying to recapture that intensity of feeling? Do we ever really love in the same way again? Or hate? Is there a time in our lives where we feel more deeply about the formation of our own opinions? About our connectedness to other people? About the importance of our own decisions? Maybe, those years where we fought for our independence from school and parents are the years where we were most truly able to make decisions that were uncompromising. I don’t know. I would never want to go back to being a teen, and yet… my obsession with teen-ness continues and I suspect I’ll never completely know why. Anyone else want to venture a guess?
Ahem, back to the book at hand. Strictly from a storytelling point of view, Tamaki also nails it. 90% of the book is told in one-page story arcs, each of which is a complete and beautiful story of its own, with artistic and verbal nuances that just blow your mind. I was convinced each page was my favourite until I turned to the next page. As the book progresses, we delve deeper into the lives of a selected few characters, but still maintain that bird’s-eye view of school life progressing as a whole. I loved the development of Marsha as she comes to own her sexuality, and absolutely adored the development of Frances, the rebel artist who inspires and kinda scares everyone. Cheddar, the manipulative but deep jock, also really grew on me. And the D&D scenes were just amazing, big heart to Tamaki for being so spot-on with these scenes that were taken right out of my high school years.
SMMA has moments of complete hilarity (where I scared the cats with my bursts of laughter), moments of genuine despair, moments of artistic depth that floor you, and moments so true they make you uncomfortable. Just go buy it already.