Charles Forsman is the king of disturbing, violent teen drama and I Am Not Okay With This is typically bleak, scary, disturbing and expertly executed. Don’t be distracted or put off by his simplistic, understated art style or the seemingly gentle pace of the narrative. This is a short, sharp read that begins in familiar territory but quickly subverts into… something else; sticking to its Forsman heritage of teenage outsider versus an ugly, violent world she can’t comprehend, but cunningly introducing something extraordinary. I won’t spoil its secrets here – if you’re intrigued, and you like Forsman’s style, go and read it.
Apart from the abrasive story, which you have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate, it’s the art that might put most people off. It’s simplistic and arguably unsophisticated, but it’s perfectly sufficient to carry the characters and their interactions, which is where the book’s magic lies. Forsman could illustrate a book with stick figures (and indeed Syd, the main character in this one has an economical body shape she describes as “Not hot-skinny… more ugly-skinny”) and it would probably still work, though there’s plenty of unwritten characterisation that Forsman adds with the expressions and body language of his illustrated cast. These characters also have archetypical back stories that are left unspoken here, playing on your unconscious judgements and implicit in the illustration, right up to the point where Forsman spikes them with something surprising and flips our expectations like a street magician.
There are few comics as dark as Forsman’s so, if you like a bleak tragedy with a vicious edge, particularly with outsiders in lead rolls, then this is a small slice of perfection. It has elements that make it slightly less of a straight-down-the-line teen-tragedy than The End of the Fucking World but, if you can handle a slight skew on reality for the sake of the story, I think this is as good if not better than Forsman’s most celebrated precursor.