Review: Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge. Amulet Books, 2011. Currently Available.

Genre: YA Graphic Novel

8928004Face Value: The cover is what caught my attention – otherwise this book would have slipped off of my radar. The style of illustration is contemporary and pretty cool. I liked the girl drawing herself. She’s showing agency in the creation of the story, which is what made me want to read the book.

Does it break the slate? Yes! Paige is a timid teen with a lot going on inside. Page by Paige shows how she finds a way to share her thoughts, feelings, and questions with the world. Her journey is not revolutionary, but it is a common one that shy girls everywhere have to navigate at some point in their lives.

Who would we give it to? This book is definitely for introverts. Do you know a girl who spends a lot of her time thinking, reading, or drawing quietly? Give her this book, pronto.

Review: Page by Paige is a graphic novel with that special combination of specific details – likely pulled from the artist’s own life experience – and a story that features elements with which every reader can connect. We have all felt misunderstood, awkward, and left out at some point in our lives. Paige is feeling that “new girl” pain, and it is intensified by the fact that her family has moved from Virginia to NYC. Paige feels alone and out of place in her surroundings…so she decides to chronicle her transition through a sketchbook.

Reading Page by Paige almost feels intrusive, like you’re peeking at someone’s very private journal. Although this book is presented as contemporary fiction, I feel like the story very closely follows the author’s own adolescent experience. She too is a red-haired artist who moved from Virginia to NYC during her teen years. In my opinion, the autobiographical slant to this book enhanced the intimacy of the story.

Paige works through her loner tendencies and falls in with a group of artsy kids at her new school. They form a fly-by-night guerilla art group called “The Agents of Whimsy” and put up creative installations in public places to make people smile. I loved the Agents of Whimsy, and the way in which the teen characters threw themselves into the projects. They embraced that natural rebellion that comes in adolescence, but used it to do some good in the world. On Gulledge’s blog, she has written about how readers of her book have been inspired to do their own Agents of Whimsy type projects. What a great way for an author to influence her readers. Of course, some might argue that it’s vandalism. Gulledge addresses that issue in Page by Paige, and does a nice job of showing readers how public art can be surprising, challenging, and still respectful.

The strength of this book is the artwork. It is simply outstanding. Gulledge renders metaphors of the adolescent experience with grace. Her drawings of the inner workings of a teen are uncanny. I am finding it difficult to explain, but her drawings look the way I felt when I was 16. The drawings are metaphorical rather than realistic, and they are effective at conveying Paige’s emotional state. Here’s an example from the beginning of the book, when Paige first arrives in New York:

PagebyPaige2

The text and dialogue in the book were, unfortunately, not as strong as the artwork. Conversations between characters occasionally felt stilted. Sometimes text was included when I felt it was unnecessary, especially because the pictures were so effective in telling the story. This is Gulledge’s first published graphic novel, and I have high hopes for her future efforts. I am confident that she can find a better balance of text and artwork in her next book. Overall, this is a solid first effort and readers can find a lot to love in Page by Paige.

Reviewed from library copy.

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