Author: Nick Drnaso
Genre/Themes: Graphic Novel, Contemporary, Fake News, Paranoia
Blurb from Goodreads
Video games, conspiracy theories, breakdown, murder: Everything’s gonna be all right—until it isn’t…
How many hours of sleep did you get last night? Rate your overall mood from 1 to 5, 1 being poor. Rate your stress level from 1 to 5, 5 being severe. Are you experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide? Is there anything in your personal life that is affecting your duty?
When Sabrina disappears, an airman in the U.S. Air Force is drawn into a web of suppositions, wild theories, and outright lies. He reports to work every night in a bare, sterile fortress that serves as no protection from a situation that threatens the sanity of Teddy, his childhood friend and the boyfriend of the missing woman. Sabrina’s grieving sister, Sandra, struggles to fill her days as she waits in purgatory. After a videotape surfaces, we see devastation shown through a cinematic lens, as true tragedy is distorted when fringe thinkers and conspiracy theorists begin to interpret events to fit their own narratives.
Sabrina depicts a modern world devoid of personal interaction and responsibility, where relationships are stripped of intimacy through glowing computer screens. Presenting an indictment of our modern state, Drnaso contemplates the dangers of a fake-news climate. Timely and articulate, Sabrina leaves you gutted, searching for meaning in the aftermath of disaster.
It’s no secret that I’ve never been a great fan of graphic novels and I typically only read them out of curiosity rather than a knowledge that *this is gonna be my jam*! So I 100% only picked up Sabrina because it is the first graphic novel to ever be nominated for the Booker Prize appearing on the 2018 longlist.
And after reading it I’m unsure as to how I feel about a graphic novel being nominated for a literary award. It feels somewhat incongruous to me, the Booker prize is inherently literary and graphic novels by their nature are visual and focus less on the prose. Although after one of this year’s winners, The Testaments, and how disposable that is one could argue that Booker is no longer exclusively the remit of the literary novel…
Sabrina does have an absolutely intriguing premise. That of fake news and paranoia in the light of mass terror events.
And the graphic novel certainly provides some thought provoking moments as it focuses on the impact of public hysteria on the members of the titular murder victim’s family and their extended circle of friends.
Yet I found this quite tough to truly get in to. I was not a fan of the style of artwork nor the colour palette used although I very much understand its reasoning. The drawings are very muted in tone and the characters are nigh on indistinguishable from each other save for hair colour. Faces are expressionless and so instead the emotion is discerned from the spartan nature of the imagery.
However by about half way through the book I suddenly found myself gripped by where the plot was going. I began to appreciate the detached style of storytelling and was fascinated to see where the book would end up. I had found the *key* to interpreting all the artist was trying to say with this book with the continual propagation of fake news and the impassioned conspiracy theorists trying to find their truth.
But then I lost my way again. I have to say I’m not really on board with the ending. I wasn’t seeking a perfect conclusion and I do rather like the epilogue… But prior to that there was a flash forward to four months later and that didn’t work for me. It felt too much of an unexplained jolt out of where the plot had been going.
There is a lot to admire in this novel. I do like its social commentary on fake news and the revolt against that. But I again come back to its longlisting for Booker and question if indeed it is literary enough… There was very little prose in this book. What was there was almost too underplayed for me due to its small font size but the book did show that so much can be said in so little.
And therefore I’m undecided for now about its listing. I do think that this book is both challenging and unique and those are two requirements that I always feel a Booker nominated book should have.
As for my rating of the book; for me it’s got to be three stars because even though I enjoyed much of this graphic novel it took too long for me to truly engage with, I wasn’t a fan of the expressionless interchangeable faces of the characters and did not enjoy the sweeping of prose to the side.
Still it’s a book I would recommend because of its relevance to modern society.