The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln

Fantagraphics. ISBN 9781606996195. $24.99.
Perhaps our most beloved president, Abraham Lincoln threatens merely to disappear into sainthood for most of us. Van Sciver has made him real by portraying one of the most difficult times in the future leader’s younger life. Confronting professional and personal setbacks, Lincoln becomes paralyzed by depression (which he calls “the hypo,” thinking himself a hypochondriac), breaks his engagement to his beloved, and crashes into a full-fledged mental breakdown. But with the help of friends, he weathers the storm to recoup his losses, wed Mary Todd, and go on to a revered career. Gritty, eye-opening period details include widespread slumlike living conditions, casualness toward prostitution, ignorance about mood disorders, barbaric medical treatments like blood-letting, and pretensions of the wealthy gentry. It’s rather like an American version of Dickens infused into a Jane Austen love story, and Van Sciver’s moody cross-hatching works exceedingly well in showing these lesser-known facets of Lincoln’s nonpolitical life.
VERDICT An excellent choice for compelling leisure reading as well as for use in classrooms. Fantagraphics plans to do a study guide. Teens up, with caution owing to sexual issues.

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