REVIEW: Will & Whit
Will & Whit
By Laura Lee Gulledge
192 pages, Amulet Books, $12.95
Dreamers came in all shapes and sizes, from Paige, the artist from Virginia who relocated to Brooklyn, to Wilhelmina Huckstep, an orphan seeking solace in her lamp creations. Under the sure hand of Laura Lee Gulledge, the mysteries of life are peeled away and explored with a fresh, open style. Gulledge burst onto the scene in 2011 with [[[Page by Paige]]], which earned her an Eisner Award nomination and now she is back with [[[Will & Whit]]].
Will, as her friends call her, lost her parents a year ago and has come to live with her aunt Ella in the home her grandparents built next to the small, dusty antique shop they ran in a small Virginia town. She can’t sleep, is dreadfully afraid of the dark and tends to keep to herself, fixing or recreating interesting lamps that she sells at the shop. Her small circle of friends continue to support her and their interactions and development over the course of the summer before senior year in high school forms the book’s spine.
As we meet each character, Will’s narration tells us three vital details about them, placing them in context and bringing them to life. There’s Autumn, the Indian puppeteer who is blind to Noel’s attraction towards her. He’s an amazing cook and too shy to admit his feelings. Then there’s Reese, his younger sister, who is welcomed into their clique on her thirteenth birthday.
An impending storm, Whitney, the Whit of the title, and another group of teens mounting a carnival propel the rest of the story as truths are unearthed, emotions bared, and friendships crumble or form. The book moves along breezily, aided by Gulledge’s ability to provide each character with the casual teen speak that brings them alive. They have nicknames for one another and shorthand for their conversations and she lets them talk as teens are wont to do. On more than one occasion thigns slow down so the characters can really hash through an issue or support one another.
Visually, Gulledge’s open, welcoming style is very easy on the eyes and a delight to look at. This black and white book uses shadows quite effectively, a layer of storytelling to counterpoint what’s being said or done, revealing facets of the characters, notably Will, who has yet to really confront her parents’ absence. The one year anniversary is approaching, much like the storm, and Will finds herself in the center of both.
Clearly, Gulledge is not suffering from a sophomore slump and is one of the brighter, fresher voices in graphic novels. While aimed at young adults, the universal themes make this entertaining reading for all ages.