“Will & Whit” is a graphic novel about a young woman, Will (Wilhemina), who’s afraid of the dark, makes lamps to sell in her family’s antique store, and who’s parents have died only a year ago. She lives with her aunt, Ella, who runs the store and the two of them are basically all each other has. Will’s friends Noel, his sister Reese, and Autumn spend time rafting down the river and end up contributing to a carnival another group of teens has put together. The meat of the book is basically about Will’s struggle to process the recent death of her parents and to let go and live life while embracing and not avoiding the tough feelings.
The artwork for this graphic novel was really well done. There’s a theme of light and dark, both real and metaphorical, and making the novel black-and-white really helped develop the interplay between light and dark. When a storm called Whitney comes rolling through town, the power gets shut off for two days and during that time in the novel, even the pages are colored black. This felt like a real meta touch that helped draw me in to the story.
I gave this two stars because the characters felt flat. There was material there to develop them and the author did a great job introducing the characters and their personalities, but I wasn’t connected to any of them at all. It wasn’t obvious to me that Will was struggling with grief until she actually says it towards the end of the novel, and I’m more of a show-don’t-tell kind of reader.
This made it on ALA’s top graphic novels for teens list and I’m not sure why. There’s a lot out there that do a better job at storytelling and character development than this.