Superb. A rigorous, vulnerable book on a subject that is too often neglected.



An exploration of loneliness, the troubling ways we’ve studied it, and the subtle ways we strain to avoid it.

Radtke’s second graphic memoir feels almost custom-made for the social-distancing era: She explores our need for connection and touch (“skin hunger” is the psychological term) and the negative social and personal effects of isolation. But the book is a much broader and deeply affecting study of loneliness, uncovering the host of ways our craving for community manifests itself in ways that are sometimes quirky and sometimes terrifying. Laugh tracks on sitcoms, for instance, offer a sense of communal feeling within a cold medium; so, too, did the Web 1.0 sites and chatrooms Radtke obsessed over, where strangers laid out their private thoughts and fears. The anxiety runs deep: We crave reports of mass shooters that say the perpetrator was a loner because it satisfies our need to not associate with them. “The collective branding of mass killers is a clumsy act of self-preservation,” she writes. In clean, graceful renderings and a constricted color palette, Radtke expresses her own experiences with loneliness, as a child and in relationships, and gets people to open up about theirs. Along the way, she discovered unusual approaches to combatting loneliness—e.g., a hotline that elderly people can call to have someone to talk to. The author also writes about the cruel experiments psychologist Harry Harlow conducted on monkeys in the 1950s to debunk the belief that children shouldn’t be emotionally coddled. Harlow himself lived a troubled, isolated life, and Radtke wonders if he projected his anxiety upon the animals he tormented in the name of science. If so, how much of our own fear of isolation do we project on the world? Throughout, Radtke is an engaging and thoughtful guide through our fear of being alone.

Superb. A rigorous, vulnerable book on a subject that is too often neglected.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4806-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Subtle, provocative, and sharply drawn—a portrait of the perpetually dissatisfied artist.


A lifelong obsession with comics results in less reward than the author and illustrator might once have thought possible.

In his latest book, Tomine, who has been successful by nearly any measure—his oeuvre includes many minicomics and books and several New Yorker covers—delivers an understated yet illuminating graphic memoir full of insights on the creative process and the struggles of defining “success” in the world of comics and graphic novels. Early on in the narrative, the author is something like a younger Rodney Dangerfield, frustrated by a lack of respect. Schoolmates taunted him, and even the acclaim he earned as a teenage prodigy—“the boy wonder of mini-comics”—was short-lived, crushed by a backlash review that dismissed him as a derivative “moron.” The rites of passage that seemed like markers of success—Comic-Con, book signings, tours, awards ceremonies—generally left Tomine feeling deflated and resentful. Instead of reveling in the acceptance he received from the New Yorker and elsewhere, the author dwelled on the slur of dismissal as a Japanese American that he received from one veteran artist. Throughout his narrative, Tomine expresses feelings of inferiority to the more celebrated Neil Gaiman and Daniel Clowes—though an epigram from the latter, on how being a famous cartoonist is “like being the most famous badminton player,” proves telling. Even marriage and fatherhood failed to resolve Tomine’s insecurities or anger issues, and readers will begin to suspect that what’s at issue isn’t the lonely profession the author has chosen but rather problems of self-acceptance. A medical scare provided a reckoning and a realization that his obsession had become his albatross and that he needed to put his life in perspective. Upon reaching this “turning point,” he heads back to the drawing board—hopefully, for many more years to come.

Subtle, provocative, and sharply drawn—a portrait of the perpetually dissatisfied artist.

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77046-395-0

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A colorfully heartfelt evocation of thought and emotion.



A U.K.–based mixed-media illustrator offers a pictorial representation of her experiences with stress, anxiety, and depression.

Thapp creates a character portrait of a woman whose emotions she charts through six seasons, inspired by the “calendar used by some countries in South Asia.” Her protagonist is a nameless professional artist whose life and inner world she depicts through hand-drawn and computer-rendered illustrations arranged in single units or in multiple-unit tiles. She employs few words to render this portrait, and those she does use serve as descriptive captions or clarifiers to tie together sequences of images. In the first section, "High Summer,” Thapp represents the narrator’s carefree emotional phase with warm-colored images and symbols of life (blooming flowers, butterflies). “Summer is good to me,” she writes. “I am powered by a thousand suns. Charged with confidence—a fickle friend that only comes out to play in the sun.” In “Late Summer,” the author reveals the hyperactivity of the previous season giving way to "a worry of not making the most" of opportunities. Here, the colors are brighter and harsher, and an inner voice awakens to torment the narrator with doubts, especially about her productivity as an artist. “Monsoon” brings grayer images and a narrator who is more lethargic and isolated. She charts her continued struggle with the voice of doubt, increasing moodiness, and the "blue light" of depression through autumn and winter, which Thapp represents with subdued colors and striking images drawn on black backgrounds. The narrator eventually emerges from her "cocoon" of loneliness in "Spring" and begins to gradually add “color back into my days.” Though narratively spare, the woman narrator and the subject matter she tackles—the cyclicality of emotion—work together to create an engaging personal story that, through subtle symbolism, makes for a rewarding reading experience.

A colorfully heartfelt evocation of thought and emotion.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12975-3

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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