Teen Review: Lost at Sea

August 25, 2017 | Teen Blogger

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Review by Rishona, member of the Editorial Youth Advisory Group.

Lost at Sea  by Bryan Lee O'MalleyLost At Sea is a coming-of-age graphic novel, written and illustrated by Bryan Lee O’Malley, with psychological undertones that could be interpreted as magical realism. It follows the story of one teenage girl as she walks familiar paths as an unfamiliar person.

Raleigh has more than a couple problems right now. She’s attempting to make it home to Canada after missing her flight back from visiting her dad in San Francisco. She spends her days cramped in a small, sweaty car and her nights in run-down motels with three fellow high school graduates who know her only as the shy, studious girl on the sidelines, and whom she knows even less about. She cannot force small talk for her life. But avoiding conversation is the least difficult thing for Raleigh right now. She begins to experience strange déjà vu and see signs that she must previously have been in various places they stop, places she has little conscious recollection of, as she tries to reconcile with the messy, painful, complicated parts of her past, her relationships, and herself.

The book’s themes of self-loss and self-discovery are relatable to many adolescents. It really resonated with me, and I related to Raleigh very much. Although some larger parts of her story were not familiar to me, the way she talked about the world and spoke in her mind sounded like they could be my own words. I could see this book affecting anyone, and many of Raleigh’s experiences are common for many people my age (i.e. parental divorce, friend moving away, etc.).

A big part of any graphic novel is visuals, and those in Lost At Sea fit the narrative well. The creator’s choice to use only faint, faded pink in contrast with dark navy blue created an effect where your eyes weren’t drawn to one part of the image specifically. This made the images feel less immediate, and – whether intentional or not – added a lot to the story. The dull, hazy colours of the pictures mirror how Raleigh feels: confused, empty, and in a sort of daze.

I think the writing style also fit well with the narrative, even if it was a bit hard to swallow. The sentences were cluttered and choppy, with an over-abundance of little words: the narrative could be messy, unclear, a jumble, and sometimes nearly rendered meaningless by how many words there were and how they were arranged. It may seem headache-inducing to read over a hundred pages of it, but for me, it helped the story click. We often criticize writers for including details or connectors we deem unnecessary. But in Lost At Sea, they made the writing feel so genuine and relatable. It’s what made the words Raleigh’s. They embodied how she was.  

Lost At Sea is a book you can enjoy for many reasons: it’s interesting, has spots of humour, has an endearingly awkward narrator whose life is just as tangled and bent up as anyone else’s. To me, this is one of those books you can’t really say you had fun reading, but you can say left you feeling maybe more lost, maybe more confused, but somehow less alone.

Check out other stuff by Bryan Lee O'Malley!