I’ve seemingly forgotten the hair tugging, weeping, Trapper Keeper graffiti, poetry-fueled insomnia associated with the late teen years. Because the last two things I’ve read have starred shoe-gazing teens, and I’m completely unable to muster any empathy for them. In fact, I’ve rolled my eyes so hard that I swear I’ve caught a glimpse of my own gray brain matter eroding.
Lost at Sea, a graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley — who I love! Scott Pilgrim! Wee! — is emo bullshit.
Raleigh is a beautiful and quiet smarty party, who is torn up about a handful of things: That time her irreplaceable best friend moved away; Her parents divorce; The dude from California she met online. Through a confluence of events, she ends up getting a ride back to Canada with three former classmates who are road tripping. There is the snarky “I only get along with guys” girl named Steph, Dave, riding shotgun, chain smoking, and unwilling to mention the name of his exgirlfriend, and Ian behind the wheel.
They cruise along eating diner food, and Raleigh thinks and thinks and thinks. She thinks about her old friend, her missing soul, high school, the boy, taking classes for the gifted. The foursome encounters some car trouble in maybe Oregon, which gives them time to really gel as a unit. They give some cats face-time, while looking for Raleigh’s soul. The girls have a poignant moment in the bathroom that is basically:
“Me? No way. I’m gross. You’re pretty.”
“But everyone likes you so much because you’re mysterious and cool.”
“But you’re so funky and cool.”
“No, you are.”
“No, you are.”
“I think we’re going to be friends after this.”
“You’re my best friend.”
“I haven’t had a best friend in years.”
Everything that happens in this book is just a fragment. There is no explanation for Raleigh’s lost soul, what happened with the dude in California, or any of the things she’s got whirring in her ho-hum brain. It is just slivers, like a to-do list of shit that might mess with a teen’s psyche. And it is all wrapped in this sort of sighing language filled with ellipses and dropped thoughts:
“This is my favorite dress. The thought of wearing this dress is all that got me out of bed this morning. I haven’t worn it since … god … yeah.”
The one thing that doesn’t suck in the book is the three characters who aren’t inside Raleigh’s head. They are funny, they play off each other well, and speak the language of lifelong friendships. This would be so much better if it was a story about their road trip before they picked up that fun sucker Raleigh.