Little Fish - Ramsey Beyer

I've read a few graphic novels over the past few years, ever since I took a course in Young Adult services a few years ago.  I've reviewed Craig Thompson's Habibi and Good-bye Chunky Rice on this blog, but Blankets is by FAR my favourite.  It's an excellent coming of age story.

Although I'm hesitant to ever compare anything to Blankets, Little Fish did remind me of that book a little.  It's the coming-of-age memoir of sorts (the main character's name is Ramsey too), where an 18 year old girl moves from a small rural town to Baltimore in pursuit of an art degree.  The story is told through drawings, of course, since it's a graphic novel, but also in part through lists, which are actual journal excerpts from the author's livejournal account.

I liked Ramsey's character.  She seemed a bit like me at her age: shy, unsure of herself and full of insecurities.  She definitely grew and changed throughout the book, but I didn't feel like there was a big span to her journey.  Of course, the book only covers her first year of school, and her journeys to and from home for breaks during this year, but it seemed like the author was trying to say that her first year of college was much more life-changing than it seemed like it was.  Personally, I know that my first year of university was pretty eye-opening, but I'm pretty sure I was still the same shy, naive girl at the end of my first year -- it was barely by then end of my fifth year that I could really say I'd come out of my shell and grown as a person.  Then again, I lived at home while I was in university, and perhaps the whole moving away from home, sharing an apartment with strangers makes one grow up faster?

The lists were a cute touch, interspersed throughout the book.  And here's what started to irk me after a while.  While I enjoyed the lists at first, it seemed like there were just too many of them, and they didn't move the story along as well as the graphic novel portions.  It seemed like the majority of the story was in Ramsey's head, with not a lot of dialogue.  Ramsey's friends seemed like a really diverse bunch, but there would be lots of scenes where they're all just sitting around and it says "chat talk chat talk" above their heads, so we don't really get to know the secondary characters as well as we could.   I felt like I could have used more story and less lists, although I also did appreciate that the whole graphic novel was constructed like a zine -- that aspect was really cool.

On the whole, it was a well-done book, but I felt that it could have been more than it was.  It's a cute coming of age story, and makes an easy one-sitting read.  If you're looking for a graphic novel with a little more depth and substance, I'd definitely recommend Craig Thompson's works -- I do wonder sometimes if I've tainted my experience with future graphic novels because I loved his books SO MUCH.  Perhaps nothing else will quite compare?

Note: I received an e-galley of this book from Netgalley.  The fact that I received this book for review did not influence my opinion of this book in any way.


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