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Review: Ivy

Snow Wildsmith

Ivy wants more. She hates her high school, her mother, her stupid friends. She wants more than her boring, annoying life. When she and her mother finally come to a breaking point over Ivy’s determination to go to art college rather than business school, she runs away with Josh, another artist who is the only one who seems to understand her. But life on the run soon loses its charm, as does Josh, and Ivy is left wondering what she should next.

Ivy
by Sarah Oleksyk
Ages 15+; Grades 10+
Oni Press, February 2011, ISBN 978-1-934964-59-0
224 pages, $19.99

Ivy was not an easy graphic novel for me to read, mainly because it rang so true. As an adult I hate the thought that there are teens living the very life that Ivy lives, even as I am forced to admit that I know they are. It’s not that Ivy is ivy 227x300 Review: Ivyin the worst family ever. She’s not being abused or neglected and she has a home and enough food. But she and her mother are falling apart, unable to talk to each other and work out their differences. And part of the problem is that so many of Ivy’s issues are of her own making. She’s realistically impulsive, annoying, rude, frustrating, and clueless–which is precisely what makes Ivy a strong story. Oleksyk has a firm grasp of what makes her character tick and she knows how to show Ivy’s bad points while still making readers understand and sympathize with her. Her decision to run away–while horrifying to me–was also understandable. She simply sees no other way to gain the independence she craves but is unable to completely handle. The point of the story is watching her make the mistakes you know she is going to make, journeying with her as she learns painful and necessary lessons.

Oleksyk’s art doesn’t try to make anything–Ivy, her home and school, her friends and family, Josh–overly attractive or perfect, but her thick black lines and soft grey shading show the beauty of the ordinary. Her panels are simple rectangles, occasionally bleeding into one another, but she knows precisely how to place the art within them for maximum impact and effectiveness. There are a lot of mature issues dealt with here and they include sex and drug use, but all of those issues are really ones that teens face daily. Adults might not want to admit that those issues exist, but it is works like Ivy which force us to open our eyes and see the world for what it really is. Recommend this along with graphic novels like La Perdida, Night Fisher, and Skim for older teens who appreciate gritty realism.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Oni Press.

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Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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