BookBin2011: Escape from “Special”

I feel as though I am already turning against a newly acquired friend before our relationship has even had a chance to take root.

Oh well.

I very much wanted to like Miss Lasko-Gross’s graphic novel Escape from “Special.” I was instantly convinced to check it out from the library after reading the following line from the description:

Subjected to the whims of her bemused parents and, as the years pass, rejected by her peers, the opinionated Melissa copes by watching horror movies, psychosomatically vomiting to get out of temple, and making comics.

This is a girl to whom I can relate (minus the psychosomatic vomitting part…that’s kind of…no). Lasko-Gross offers readers a semi-autobiographical telling of protagonist Melissa’s development from off-center child to ostracized-and-unconcerned-about-it adolescent. She presents Melissa’s story through surrealistically drawn vignettes that lack any form of “prettification.” The artwork is rough and the writing is coarse. Then again, so is the subject matter. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: There isn’t enough money in the world to convince me to relive my adolescence. It was awkward and uncomfortable and strange and, while I wouldn’t change any of it since it turned me into the Wonder Geek I am today, I definitely wouldn’t want to go through it again.

That’s kind of what it felt like at times when reading this graphic novel, which left me feeling decidedly displeased. At other times, it felt like I was witnessing something completely removed from anything my brain could properly process. Melissa’s attempt to create a protective second skin out of her own snot is one of the more outlandish moments. It was also one of the moments that left me rolling my eyes in such a cartoonish way that I’m sure they made clickety noises that others could hear.

The bottom line is that I think I’m well beyond the target age for this particular graphic novel. I think it’s something that someone closer to the age of the protagonist could better relate to; I’m old and clickety in places other than my rolling eyes. Would I recommend this as reading for a high schooler? I think it definitely has redeeming qualities for someone in that age bracket who was feeling marginalized by their peers and looking for someone to whom they could relate. So, yes. Yes, I would.

Would I recommend it for someone beyond the high school wasteland? Probably not. As I mentioned in my last review, there is definitely not a dearth of graphic novel memoirs out there to be enjoyed, so spending time on one like this when there are several other better ones to experience? No, I’d not choose this one over those others. Right off the top of my head, I’d name Alison Bechdel’s Fun House as a holistically superior coming-of-age tale.

Final Verdict: Add another graphic novel to the return pile.