Since opening What It Is, I’ve been enthralled.
The collage art style combined with simple, thick-lined doodles reminds the audience of childhood from the beginning, which enhances the narrative of a child growing up. The narrative is further broken down into portions of remeniscing on both the speaker’s and the audience’s childhood, divided by sections exploring complex subjects like the relationships between the imagination, the subconscious, and . As a result, it is deceptively complex, yet easy to read and to relate to the author and her character.
I picked up this book expecting…well, I don’t really know what I was expecting. I’d flipped through it when I bought it, and had the initial idea that it would be similar to Where The Wild Things Are mixed with some Harold and the Purple Crayon for some reason, maybe because of the images of a child and monsters.
What It Is is surprisingly thorough in its presentation, with each aspect complementing the others. For example, since, thus far, it has explored the subconscious and images’ vibrancy and lifelike qualities.
I absolutely love the style of “What It Is”. It mimics the sporadic nature of thoughts in the mind. #engl386— Spencer Scott (@spencer_cscott) September 30, 2015
By mimicing the subject matter in this way, it almost makes the reader feel like an active part of the narrative, very much akin to the narrator’s stance on imagination’s active role in our lives. As such, the collage art style creates conflicts while reading, not dissimilar from disjointed thoughts interrupting one another. This creates a surprisingly comfortable state of mind for the reader, especially considering the narrative portions’ subject matter regarding child neglect. Once in this state of mind, the narrator’s questions and/or scribblings begin to make more impact, allowing the reader to pull away from the source material to think by using the collage’s conflict points as checkpoints of sorts.
From a story perspective, What It Is tells the life of a neglected child from an adult’s perspective. From a more technical standpoint, the narrator begins grasping onto memories and rationally exploring possible reasons for having remembered specific events and how those memories may interact. At that point, the reader’s introspection almost acts as a separate counter-narrative, supplementing the text.
What I’ve enjoyed most about this book is its odd effect and feel. It pulls the reader in by relating to childhood generalites, then forces the reader to think. In that manner, it’s almost like a workbook, or a textbook, but its presentation is that of a graphic novel composed of doodles and scrapwork, so there is an odd childlike feel to the work as a whole. So, it feels and presents itself like a child’s book, but tackles difficult topics and offers a unique reading experience.