Ghost World is a graphic novel that was serialized in issues from 1993 to 1997 and it was published with slight changes as a graphic novel in 1997 by Fantagraphics Books.
The author – Daniel Clowes has published few more graphic novels, but Ghost World is considered to be one of his most successful works and is partly based on his own life and teenage years. It was also made in a film under the same title – Ghost World and stared Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch as protagonists Rebecca and Enid.
The book as mentioned before is about two cynical teenage girls who have just finished high school and are going through their summer following strangers and meeting their own acquaintances. They use strong language to criticize everything and everyone around them, diminishing every single person that happens to be around them and they hide their jealousy for popular kids behind sharp comments and nasty words. Enid is trying to find who she really is and prove herself and other people that she can become a different person, and even dreams about running away and starting a life as a new personality (yes, remember that one day, when you wanted to go from the greatest sausage eater in the world, to vegan?). The story keeps up with the girls coming of age and the development of their friendship, mirroring many things that happened and still happen in teen’s life.
I am very surprised that I liked this book! It talks about problems teenagers have – not only what they want to become, but also about how society and other kids (their success, popularity) affect Enid’s and Rebecca’s development and after all – personalities. It shows the struggle and problems teenagers have when some of their peers have already acquired money, fame, success, while the main characters of the story haven’t even figured out themselves. And it just seems so… familiar?
Enid is the main character and we hear her opinions more often than Rebecca’s, she seems rebellious and tries many different looks during the book, trying to be someone else and by changing her look changing her personality, but suffers from the problem that people who know her perceive her the same way, no matter how she dresses or acts, hence her need to get away and start a new life. Little does it though imply that sometimes with running away is not enough to change, which was sad and disappointed me a little, but the feeling of wanting to start over was something I really appreciated about this character.
Enid’s best friend Rebecca is described as a classical sexy blonde, she doesn’t speak too much and isn’t leaving the poisonous feeling after her (as Enid sometimes is), but she seems rather empty and shallow, I felt like she doesn’t want to do anything in her life and doesn’t care about anything. I sometimes hated her, just because she felt so empty and nonexistent.
I didn’t like Josh who managed to ‘go out’ with the girls and I don’t want to talk about him.
As the book progresses, we meet typical teenage behavior, which is the reason to sometimes hate the characters, but at the same time gave flashbacks on my own teenage years. If you will not find yourself in one of the characters, you will find your friends, enemies and long forgotten class mates who somehow are part of this book and believe it or not helped you to become the person you are now (for better or worse).
After a little search and based on information about these characters I found online, seems that this book doesn’t feature everything that happened in comics, so I am really looking forward to watching the film and seeing the full story as the author – David Clowes participated in making, I believe it sends the same message. I might even look up the issues that were not included in this book, that’s how much it interested me.
Overall it is written in a funny manner and got some smiles out of me. The writing style reminded me a little bit of Me and Earl, and the Dying Girl (which I hated by the way), but at the same time, it was not offensive to the reader, if I have to compare with Jessie Andrew’s book.
The illustrations use pale colours, which I didn’t mind, I actually didn’t even notice it. For this issue – graphic novel – the drawings were slightly adapted as well, I don’t know how it was in the original comics, but in this one I was bothered by how sometimes girls had very manly lineament. I didn’t like those girls and felt like the author is making fun of them. I also read that the author had himself in the first issues, but in this one the character was made plainer and simpler. Otherwise though the conversations were very easy to understand (who says what) and the pictures showed the emotions unobtrusively but clearly.
The story uses strong language as I have mentioned before and it disturbed me only at the beginning, I got used to it and the fact that it wasn’t actually used in a mean sense helped me to better understand the girls and their emotions. I felt connected to the story and although I didn’t associate myself with the main characters, I could relate to their lives at least a bit and remember people from my past (or past myself) who also did some stupid, mean and meaningless things. I felt like this book is relevant and I can’t even explain why. But I loved that it wasn’t fake and gooey as some books now portrait the end of 80’s and beginning of 90’s.
I would obviously not say that children should read this, I think that even for some teens it might be too early, I mean – they can read it, but I’m not sure, if they would enjoy it. Young adults and new adults might be the right audience for this book. Perhaps even adults.
This book received fours stars out of five on my goodreads page and I would have finished it in one sitting, if I hadn’t been so tired yesterday. It was a nice and surprising discovery and I think this might be a love or hate book, so check some excerpts before purchasing it, if you decide to give it a chance!
Have you read this book? Have you never heard of it? Let me know, if you think that you would like it or hate it in the comment section bellow!