This extraordinary book is designed to look like the journal of an artistically-talented girl who is leaving her childhood behind. Every page has been created on lined, spiral-bound paper, and drawn in primary colours, to look like it’s been created with ball-point pens. Don’t let that put you off, though, because the effect is stunning – a tour de force of cross-hatching that will knock your socks off as you relish each new page, with the quality of the illustration only slightly spoiling the illusion that this could have been created by its young lead character. Every few pages there’s a full page recreation of the front page of a horror comic, which are amongst some of the book’s artistic highlights.
Karen is an outsider from a poor, single-parent family. She sees herself as different from other kids, illustrates herself as a child-werewolf, and secretly wishes for monsters to come and bite her so she can be part of a more accepting community than her own. Then, one day, a kind woman from her apartment block is found dead, and Karen takes it upon herself to find the murderer.
This is really only scratching the surface of a book that expands into lots of different directions. Karen explores her blossoming sexuality; is subjected to horrific treatment by more privileged kids; we follow the philandering high-jinx of her protective older brother (and his obsession with art); and there’s an entire section where a taped interview of the murdered woman’s holocaust experiences are transcribed in painful detail. Much more than a sum of its parts this is an extraordinary book that’s well worth a look.