Written and Illustrated by: Vera Brosgol
Published by: First Second
Review by Stephanie Cooke
Vera Brosgol is such a wonderful storyteller. Whenever someone asks me for a recommendation to help get them into comics, Anya’s Ghost is always one of my go to suggestions to help people understand just how wonderful comics can be.
Brosgol’s follow-up graphic novel, Be Prepared, is a self-contained story loosely based on her own personal experiences. The story follows a young Vera as she tried to fit into with the other girls her age and find common ground with them. Vera suffers from a whole lot of FOMO as kids leave her town for the summer to attend camps. Desperate to have experiences to share with her friends, she convinces her mother to send her to a camp through their church and finds out what it means to be away from home, to be surrounded by strangers, and to live simply in the woods.
At the end of the book, Brosgol discusses her real-life experiences at camp and expresses that the story of Be Prepared is only partially inspired by her time at summer camp and that she mixed in the experiences of others who found joy there when she ultimately did not. I was a little surprised that given how she seemed to not have a crazy love for it that she chose to use herself as the focus character within the story.
That being said, I never felt as though Brosgol’s real experiences (which again, I read about after) coloured the story to change its intention to put something out there that was relatable for many people, myself included. I grew up being sent to camp after camp so that I would have someplace to be while my parents worked in the summer. There were some camps where I felt so incredibly lost and alone, unable to forge friendships and relationships while there were other camps that I still remember fondly and friendships made there with people I still keep in touch with to this day. There are so many different variables that make it or break it for kids and I experienced many of them.
Within the story, Vera simply attends the one camp and finds out that it’s much different than she anticipated. Vera is desperate to make friends and for the approval of others and her journey from the beginning of the story and how she tries to fit in feels so heartbreakingly real to me. It brought me back to those days of my own when I would say or do anything to try to feel as though I belonged within a group. We use anything at our disposal to try to bond and fit in and it’s not until we’ve gone through the ringer that we realize what we really need are like-minded people that don’t try to change us into something else.
Be Prepared was so real for me and brought me back to my younger days. It filled me with bittersweet memories of trying to find my way through childhood and finding friends that appreciated me for me.
Buy it! Whether you have done the whole summer camp thing or not, Be Prepared is a wonderful tale about growing up, finding who you are, and finding out what makes a good friend. It’s brimming with heart and soul and everyone can find something of themselves within the masterfully crafted story from the talented Vera Brosgol.
Be Prepared is out on April 28, 2018. Click here to pre-order your copy now.