Another preordered gift to myself that turned out to be quite the treat! Sarah Winifred Searle is an artist whose work I’ve been following for a while and so I was very excited to see that she had a YA graphic novel coming out. The book lived up to my expectations and I really enjoyed it.
The Greatest Thing is about Winifred, who’s about to start sophomore year after her two best friends left for private school. She’s afraid that she won’t make any new friends and no one will like her, but over the course of the book she does make new friends and then has to grapple with issues of sexuality/gender, mental health, and eating disorders, as well as friend/romance angst. As someone who also had a hard time mental health-wise and with food in high school, I really appreciated this book and the care that Searle took with it. Winifred is based on her and you can tell that it’s a very autobiographical work. It was often hard for me to read in places because of how realistic it was.
The art is very good and I liked the nuanced portrayal of Winifred realizing she has an eating disorder and also figuring out her sexuality. Also, as a trans person, I really appreciated a book with two trans characters whose portrayals seemed very careful and realistic to me. I also think that the portrayal of eating disorders and self-harm, while very realistic, could be pretty triggering to someone who is currently struggling with those things. I’m settled in my recovery so it wasn’t an issue for me, but it was super realistic in both imagery and emotional resonance, so just a warning there. I think the only place where I would critique the book is in terms of how some of the emotional through-lines of the book didn’t feel complete to me, but that might have been a personal desire for closure in a book where the author is trying to show the emotional complexity of being a teenager. Overall, very much recommended for teens who may be dealing with similar issues and could handle a book like this, or for any adults who like YA or coming of age narratives.
Warnings for: eating disorders, self-harm, mean fatphobic person, depression/panic attacks/anxiety