I found a way to read Blackwater by Jeannette Arroyo and Ren Graham online. Now, I will tell you, buy the book in July instead of doing this. I mean, I read the book that way and still plan on purchasing a copy. Not only do you support an author/illustrator this way, but you will also want to read this book wherever you are. And if you have no service for phone or tablet or whatever kids read on these days, well old school is the best way anyway!
Tony and Eli are two high schoolers dealing with the ups and downs of life. Tony is handsome, mostly popular, a track star and just as likely to have his named circled with hearts on the covers of notebooks as it is to be called over the loudspeaker to repot to the principal’s office. Eli is just the same. Well, expect for the track part. Or the cool part. Or the loudspeaker part. Or the fact that he is always sick. And is more likely to not be in school than in. Despite being two opposites a friendship, and more, starts. And in the process, they learn about themselves, each other, family, friendship and how to deal with being bitten by a werewolf. Oh, and a ghost of a fisherman that is determined to tell Eli something.
This book is humorous, but there is a lot of seriousness, too. There are “spooky” ghosts and werewolves, but that is also a metaphor for growing up, changes and the parent/child relationship. The publisher description says this graphic novel is, “Riverdale meets Stranger Things” and has the “spookiness of Anya’s Ghost and the humor of Nimona.” I say it is like Heartstopper by Alice Oseman meets Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (the Squad reference is due to the “spooky” and the “animal” connection). And that is because I have not seen the new Riverdale or Stranger Things. But I do agree on the Nimona humor and assume the Anya’s Ghost as I have not read, yet.
And while I can see ages 12 and up (so far, as the closed, but also open ending, tells me there is more to come) I would aim my reader at 14 and up due to concepts, and the werewolves are a little less that cuddly.
And now, to the illustrations. Arroyo and Graham alternated to create the black and white images. They are simple, but not simplistic. There are the right number of details, and they support the text. However, the two style changes can make it a little awkward at first. I am not sure who did which ones, but some of the earlier images from their Tumbler page were cartoonish, almost off putting at times. Tony looks like if Shaggy from Scooby Doo was James Dean and a werewolf. Towards the end, all the characters are more consistent.
There will be sensitive areas that could be trigger inducing. There are hunting scenes, the deer have been killed by a werewolf and the illustrations don’t shy away from the results, where Tony was bitten is stitched together, there is bulling, and the werewolves themselves, as said, not cuddly.
I am looking forward to the physical book as I am really hoping there are some extras for not only the book itself, but their next collaboration.