What’s it like to grow up gay at a time when ‘gay rights’ weren’t even a thing? To desire those of the same gender, to be consumed by guilt, doubt and still manage to find your voice in the chaos that’s your own self? Edmund White’s semi-autobiographical book ‘A Boy’s Own Story’ follows a 15-year-old in the 1950s, who isn’t just mentally torn up about his sexuality, but is physically divided between the clashing worlds of his divorced parents. The graphic novel adaptation of the title by Brian Alessandro, Michael Carroll and Igor Karash brings to readers an easy to read illustrated version that one can binge-read and finish in a day.
The artwork in the the graphic novel looks like slightly smudged oil-pastel paintings, giving the book a dated touch, as if you really are reading something published in the 1950s or 60s. It’s a far cry from the kind of art I am used to seeing in graphic novels these days, but the style works well for the story it tells. Art enthusiasts might be reminded of expressionist works in the panels, although the illustrations aren’t as avant-garde or abstract, so readers don’t have to worry about reading in between the lines.
I haven’t read Edmund White’s original work, but it did feel like the graphic novel adaptation couldn’t make room for everything that must have been narrated in the non-pictorial version. It’s usually the case with most adaptations – movie and comic book versions can rarely accommodate the minutiae of verbose novels.
The graphic novel was slightly awkward in combining the narrator’s personal experiences with political/philosophical beliefs. It does however capture the teen narrator’s relationship with his parents in a concise manner. The boy’s sexual/philosophical world is a completely different ball game. Just when things get interesting, the novel ends abruptly, making readers like me think ‘damn, I will have to read the original now!’
It’s a 3.5/5 from me.
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