The Contradictions

Drawn & Quarterly. Sept. 2020. 200p. ISBN 9781770464070. pap. $24.95. Rated: Teen+. new adult
[DEBUT] In Yanow’s debut graphic novel, a nervous, thoughtful analog of the author navigates the almost-adult world of college study abroad and finds herself drawn to a bike-riding anarchist named Zena with a penchant for shoplifting that seems at once ideological and compulsive. They form an uneasy bond and embark on a road trip across Europe, with all its expected challenges, good conversations, couch-surfing, drug-trips, and some casual theft. The tension is palpable as Yanow withholds her inner monolog while observing Zena’s justifications of their nominally anarchist escapades. Yanow’s illustrations capture her caution intensely with a few pen strokes, and her cityscapes are equally utilitarian while communicating a sense of place perfectly. Visually, there’s a hint of Tin-Tin-esque continental caper, but Yanow’s narrative also acts as a curious counter to Ulli Lust’s gonzo graphic memoir, How I Tried To Be a Good Person, about rejecting convention while criss-crossing Europe in the 1980s. The narrative emphasizes the squirmy discomfort of attempting to adhere to youthful ideals, finding them flawed, and holding oneself back from a world asking to be embraced in all its messiness.
VERDICT Yanow’s voice is pointed, her cartooning delightfully specific without being precious or showy. This debut subtly, effectively challenges readers to dig into their own internal dissonance.
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