Craig Thompson is a new author for me and one that I will check out again as Blankets was a powerful and interesting read. I was going to put this as a New category because of that, but Exciting came after finishing. I was intrigued by the cover, the concept, and all of the blue that was on that cover and inside. I was hoping to find a copy from my library, and eventually did find a mid-2000s published edition. After finishing, I want to find the updated version, and I am excited to see if I could learn more about him. Thompson is an author that seems to write from the heart, has a mission, and has a slight pretension, but humble tone, to his voice. The contradiction is what made this book work for me and why I enjoyed it as much as I did.
As I said the edition I read was an older one, so I recommend finding the 20th Anniversary edition, though I am not sure how it would be updated (perhaps there is an introduction or epilogue, or if he tells us things after that Christmas he walks out into the snow to enjoy the first snowfall of the season that ends the book). I am curious about some of the characters and how they fared, or if he ever saw them again. How has his level of faith changed (again) twenty years after Blankets was first published? And of course, I have other questions, therefore my hope is to find the new edition and read it again. Though that might be a task, as this edition was around 600 pages and I’ve seen that the newer one is over that. This is one of the longest books, let alone a graphic novel, I have ever read. Or I should say an illustrated novel as it reads as a fiction novel.
Thompson’s story is loosely based on his own experiences, but I read it as if it was fiction and did not look at it as a memoir/biography. This helped me to place myself in Craig (the character) shoes. Things are fast paced for the reading, even when the action is slowed down. And really, a lot of things are slow. While not “in time” of events, we see them slowly unfold. There are no real BIG REVEALS (a few small ones here and there), only highlights of the characters’ life which are told in flashbacks and current events. Yet, these times might seem to be insignificant at first. The idea of blankets runs throughout. Sometimes it is literal (the blankets that he hogs in the winter, the blanket forts he and his brother make on their bed, the blanket a friend makes for him) and sometimes figuratively (the blankets of snow, the blanket fears/thoughts, the blanket of religion and how it shapes him, his family, and community). There are a few other themes, but due to the title, this theme was the most important to me. Especially with the literal blankets, as they paint an interesting picture of the realism of his life.
While I recommend this book, there are many triggers (including, but not limited to: child abuse, bullying, sexuality/sexual images, religious fanaticism, language, drug/alcohol use) and therefore, it is not for the sensitive, or young reader. Sometimes things felt a bit gratuitous, but at the same time, they are there to move the story. Many images are romanticized and the lack of color usage and this fanciful imagery combines to set a tone of something “other,” but relatable as well. It is, to say the least, a very emotional roller coaster ride. Things are beautiful and ugly and horrific and hopeful and all the feelings and thoughts in-between all at once. It is vanity and a letter to people out there who might be exploring their own faith and dealing with that thing called coming of age. I read via Goodreads that several teachers use it in their young adult classrooms, but I would not go younger than 14 and that might be pushing it for some readers.