Saturday, May 14, 2011

Heart Transplant by Andrew Vachss Illustrated by Frank Caruso YP FIC VACHSS

“People love the movies. They worship them like their some sort of god. But what good is a god you can’t believe in?”

The movies always show the outsider kid win in the end. They get the girl or boy, show their value to the school and hailed a hero, but this isn’t a movie. So all Sean, the ‘hero’ gets is bullied and humiliated. When his mother and her new boyfriend are murdered he finds someone who believes in him for the first time. Pop isn’t really his grandfather but takes him in anyway and teaches him how to stand up for what he believes in and himself.

This is an amazingly powerful graphic novel. It is an unwaveringly honest look at bullying and its effects, but also a look at how to overcome it. Frank Caruso’s art looks like a mix of old 70s cartoons and the gritty realism of Will Eisner. It makes the book feel like a storybook for grown up kids. The story of the Sean and Pop is a real punch to the stomach. The kid’s life is near constant turmoil and pain, but he just grimly moves forward without much hope or joy. Pop slowly teaches him about pride, strength, and love all without ever preaching or lecturing. This book shows bullying very realistically except for the aftermath of the kid’s violent solution to address the bullying. In real life, Sean would almost certainly be in jail or at least targeted for violent retribution. So the book doesn’t have any real solutions to the bullying problem, but it is a striking and moving story about overcoming your past and family.


loubank said...

"Nameless 'hero'"? He's Sean!

"This book is set in the past, so what was realistic for the time certainly doesn’t hold true today."

The past? Where teachers sent homework assignments to kids who missed school over the Internet? It *references* the recent past, but takes place ALL in the present (narrator's voice).

Otherwise ... couldn't agree more!

Librarian the Luke said...

WOW! Egg on face! I looked again and agin and kept missing it mentioning his name! The first time I read it I assumed Sean was an early hacker in the 80s. The look is very late 70s early 80s and I totally got tripped up on that. OOPS! It has been corrected.

It definitely makes the solution to the bullying pretty unrealistic and ironically the sort of thing that only works in the movies. STILL, even with that issue I loved the work as a whole.