Creator: Brenna Thummler
Publisher: Lion Forge
Review by Brooke Ali
“It’s difficult to list, in order, the things I hate. But I can say with no uncertainty that laundry and ghosts are currently tied for first.” You don’t need a better opening line than that to introduce Sheets. Laundry, ghosts, and disconnection are basically the main notes of 13-year-old Marjorie’s life. It’s 1998 and, after the death of her mother the previous spring, her father has become a ghost sinking into his own depression. Marjorie is left to manage her younger brother and the family laundry business. She’s starting to feel invisible, herself, silently struggling to keep the tenuous threads of her life held together, as it seems like everything is actively working against her. Enter Wendell, the actual ghost of an 11-year-old boy. He’s having a hard time connecting with the other residents in the Land of Ghosts and sneaks into the human world, settling in Marjorie’s laundry and only adding to her struggles. But what can happen when two lost souls truly find each other?
The first thing to notice about Sheets is the artwork. The colours are bright pinks, blues, and greens, like a Lisa Frank folder, but the saturation is washed out. The contrast between the bright colours and muted saturation makes the reader really see Marjorie’s disconnection to the world around her. The drawing is beautifully detailed, with many full-page panels that invite the reader to pause and take it all in. It’s the kind of artwork that makes me want to frame a page and hang it on my wall.
Some of the character design is a bit on the nose. Mr. Saubertuck (that name!) so thoroughly looks the part of a cartoon villain that his hair curls up into little horns in the front, just in case we couldn’t tell by his actions and dialogue that he’s the bad guy. I found him to be a little over the top, as antagonists go, and very skeevy. The other characters are charming and relatable, and the dialogue is so 90s. Thummler did an excellent job of capturing the time period, from the colour scheme and fashion, to the dialogue and references to things like purple ketchup that those of us who were of that time can instantly recognize. She resists the temptation to beat us over the head with 90s references, though, and manages to keep the balance between recognition and overdoing it.
Marjorie is an excellently-written character. She’s got a biting and sharply witty internal dialogue that makes her instantly likeable; for example, “Tessi Waffleton always looks like a spring holiday gift basket. But, like, one that you give for revenge or a prank or something, that is sort of pretty but is filled with saw blades and worms.” You really feel her struggle with suddenly becoming the only adult in her family and how much of herself she is giving up to keep it all together. The issues of grief, bullying, and emotional isolation are instantly recognizable and relatable, but the story reminds us that there are always ways to feel alive and present, if you look for them.
Verdict: Buy it!
An absolute gem of a book, Sheets will keep you reading until the end. The story is poignant and the art style is truly captivating. As the first book that Thummler has done on her own (she illustrated Mariah Marsden’s graphic novel adaptation of Anne of Green Gables last year) Sheets is a solid contribution to the YA graphic novel scene, and I look forward to seeing more from her in the future.
Sheets will be available for purchase August 28, 2018. You can pre-order a copy here.