Rusty Brown

Pantheon. (Graphic Library). Sept. 2019. 356p. ISBN 9780375424328. $35. Rated: Teen+. literary
Ware (Monograph) presents the first half of his magnum opus exploring the profoundly entangled lives of a group of characters all attending or employed by a Midwestern parochial school in the 1970s. On his first day of third grade in his new school, Chalky White attempts to bond with bullied outcast Rusty Brown, who is more anxious about being separated from a prized action figure than he is interested in making friends. Meanwhile, Chalky’s sister, Alice, charms her new classmates, includinfg toxic jerk Jordan Lint, as well as her English teacher, Woody, who happens to be Rusty’s father. After a digression into the romantic disappointment and abandoned dreams in Woody’s background, the focus shifts to a remarkable sequence tracking Jordan’s entire life, from the moment of his birth until his death as a lonesome old man, before concluding with a fractured narrative highlighting the solitary life of Chalky and Rusty’s teacher, Ms. Cole.
VERDICT Masterfully illustrated, brilliantly designed, and bursting with compassion for characters united by time and space who nonetheless feel isolated owing to fear and shame, this is without a doubt one of the most exciting releases of the year. [an editor’s pick, see “Fall Fireworks,” p. 23.]

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