Published May 23, 2023
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A debut graphic novel about a queer teen living in the margins who is determined to find their way ahead.
Are you supposed to be a boy or a girl?
It’s a question that follows Claire everywhere. Inescapable on the street, in school, and even at home. A black hole forever trying to pull them in. But as long as they have ride-or-die best friend Greg at their side and a drink in their hand, everything will be okay. Right?
Except, Claire can never have just one drink. And when harassment at school reaches a fever pitch, Claire begins a spiral that ends in court-ordered rehab. Feeling completely lost, Claire is soon surrounded by a group of new friends and, with the help of a patient counselor, finds a space to unpack all the bad they’ve experienced. But as Claire’s release gets closer so does the Can Claire stay sober and true in a world seemingly never made for them?
Set in 1980s Troy, New York, Constellations is a portrait of a queer teen living in the margins but determined to find their way ahead. Done in watercolor and ink, debut author-artist Kate Glasheen has created a world where strong lines meet soft color, and raw emotions meet deep thought in this story of hope, humor, and survival.
“A unique journey that doesn’t turn away from hard truths; courageously honest and vulnerable.”—Iasmin Omar Ata, the Ignatz Award winning creator of Mis(h)adra.
What a moving story. At the beginning, we meet Claire and get a view of the town, which has kind of shrunk in on itself following factory closures. There are people Claire once felt connected to that aren’t here anymore. I love the those people and missing things are drawing as though they’re on a piece of notebook paper that’s been torn out of a notebook. Like pages ripped out of a journal– perhaps the one we see Claire sketching in from time to time. I thought that whole idea was really clever.
A lot of the story takes place while Claire is in rehab. I liked the way those chapters were presented, too. It felt like going on the journey with Claire and peeling back layers of why this happened. Why alcohol? Why is it so hard to stop? What are you running from? I felt like the way the story unfolded really drew me into those questions and made me feel Claire wrestling with the answers.
Overall, I think CONSTELLATIONS contains some powerful visual storytelling, and I’m really excited that I got to read it. I hope this author writes a lot more.
Brief depiction of sexual assault and references to abuse. Alcoholism and addiction.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Claire has questions about gender identity. Neither of the labels “boy” or “girl” are a good fit. Claire is also an alcoholic. Other characters have addictions to drugs and alcohol and are attending rehab.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used infrequently.
A couple of girls kiss Claire.
At one point, a group of boys begin taunting Claire and one grabs Claire’s groin.
A boy in the rehab program talks about how his father beats him. Others describe emotional abuse or neglect. These are brief descriptions. Panels show teens fighting a couple of times.
Claire remembers an instance in which a nun forced Claire to stand outside in front of others with no pants on.
At the start of the story, Claire drinks alcohol at every opportunity. Claire shares the number of family members who are also alcoholic. At rehab, others share their addictions. Some of the rehab participants return to using drugs or alcohol after they leave the program.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of CONSTELLATIONS in exchange for my honest review.
I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, but this one sounds pretty interesting. I will try to check it out. Thanks for your thoughtful review.