I went at Little Mama with an idea in my head that it was going to be a teen mom dealing with her baby and things would be “Happily Ever After” at
the end. And while there is a teen mom, who does all the “bad teen mom” things (from neglect to emotion and physical abuse) there is a lot more going on as well. And while it is not necessarily “Happily Ever After” there is a hopeful ending. Halim Mahmouidi gets inside things, but we see everything from the main character, Brenda’s, point of view. Therefore, we only see the surface of her mother’s selfishness, what goes on behind closed doors and we only can see things at the age Brenda is while telling her story.
One must read this to truly appreciate it. To describe this book, you would almost have to tell everything about it. I think even saying a hopeful ending is giving a lot away. There are layers within the layers. A plot point (again would be a spoiler) was not at first clear, but as you go along you realize what is happening. I could talk about how horrific it is to see Brenda’s abuse (and her sheltering her abusers due to her “Mothering personality” and fear) but you can imagine that on your own. I could talk about the love she gets from her grandmother (sometimes), her friends (when she has them) and even occasionally her mother. Sometimes that is a real love and sometimes it is her selfishness making sure she can manipulate her “Little Mama” into taking care of her more. (Spoiler) Of course there is a boyfriend later in the book and a brother. There is a large event at the end (again a spoiler) that possibly was not needed, but at the same time it was the trigger that would help start the ball rolling into hopefully a better place.
My largest complaint is that there is a piece of the plot that is never explained fully, but you have to read into it. Also, this part of the story is resurrected at the end making a very convenient and kitchy tie-in to Brenda’s story
This is not for the brand new to graphic novels, but do not shy away from it. This is a novel with illustrations. The artwork also is layered and might be a little confusing at first. Take your time reading it. Slowly consume it. You might not come away loving it, but you will have an experience.
While teens 14 and up can read this, the acts of abuse might not be a good idea for the sensitive reader.