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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

The Boy is Father to the Man

from graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:

Becoming a parent, as many teens know or will know too soon, can send one on an unexpected journey to one’s own childhood expectations of and disappointments in his own parent. Jeff Lemire, who has been lauded for his ability to expose the real humanity that underlies characters and the situations to which they must respond, now takes us into how that particular set of circumstances can expose, aggravate and eventually provide closure to old family wounds. While Jack’s East Coast fishing village may be far from urban and suburban landscapes familiar to many American readers, its nearly archaeological geography backs up and echoes the story he tells here, a device that new and experienced sequential art readers can appreciate subliminally or tease out to suit their own sets of circumstances.

To be a diver (Jack) or a scrap dealer (his deceased father) places one in similar emotionally solitary situations as the nearly due pregnant mother (here, Jack’s wife Suse): one has oneself and one’s preoccupation, a preoccupation which may lead to delusions (Jack’s), or drink (his father), or determination to go it alone if unsupported in time of great physical and emotional need (Suse).

And there is an exit to these solitary tunnels: for Jack’s dad, it was to die while drunk and neglecting one promise to his ten-year-old in order to keep another; for Suse, it’s a reunion with her baby’s father, even after he abandoned her at the moment of her giving birth to his own son; and for Jack, the center of this plot, it’s the painful emergence from yesterday to today, with new hope for tomorrow.

LEMIRE, Jeff. The Underwater Welder. 224p. Top Shelf Productions. 2012. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-60309-074-2. LC number unavailable.  The Underwater Welder

Adult/High School–Lemire offers a tightly knit story with few, but deeply realized, characters. Jack, a father-to-be who lives in a Nova Scotian coastal village, becomes haunted by visions and memories of his own father, a drunken treasure hunter who drowned trying to recover a watch when Jack was 10.  His dedicated but anxious wife and his mother stand at the forefront. Shading and perspective are telling throughout, and many panels–even pages–neither have nor need additional words to express the adult Jack’s growing obsession and the boy Jack’s hopes turned to disappointment in the face of his father’s broken promises. Scenes are sketched loosely but evocatively so that readers grow familiar with Jack’s underwater experiences, his wife’s efforts to get their small cottage prepared for the baby’s arrival, his mother’s simple but tidy home, his father’s junk shop, the local bar, and the shoreline. Although Jack is in his early 30’s, his need to cope with both his past and his present will resonate with teens who are beginning to understand how imperfect families can both haunt them and be hurdles that can be bested.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.