Title: Home After Dark.
Writer(s): David Small.
Illustrator(s): David Small.
Publisher: McClelland & Stewart.
Release Date: September 25th 2018.
Genre(s): Comics, Historical Fiction.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.
Adolescence is a tricky period in life. Without guidance, it becomes difficult to find your footing and be in a position to learn the great lessons that life has in store for you. It is in our nature to understand the world, to give meaning to what we don’t understand and to adapt to our surroundings. Context becomes key to a person’s perception of his environment, and without it, you can only move forward and find yourself oblivious to issues that are bigger than you. David Small, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed memoir Stitches delves into a brand new story set in 1950s America. In the form of a graphic novel, he gives us a look at the coming of age story of a boy who is not only a victim of circumstances, but also uncertainty.
Home After Dark is the story of thirteen-year-old Russell Pruitt. Following a dispute between his parents, his mother abandons them and his Korean War veteran father finds himself having to move away with Russell in a small town in southern California. While his father looks to find the means to help them survive their new situation, Russell looks to fit in without attracting any attention his way. As much as he tries to figure out what he should be doing with his life and how to act older than his own age, several events lead him to realize what his actions, or lack of actions, could do the people around him. The road to self-discovery is one that isn’t too kind on his pathos, but Russell doesn’t have much a choice but to survive the obstacles that lay in front of him.
If there’s anything David Small excels in, it’s his ability to tell a story through art. There is very little dialogue in Home After Dark and most of the story is silently delivered through a grayscale artwork. As brutal as some moments are, there is a singular innocence that persists throughout the story. The rough penciling style also strives to convey the harsh reality in which Russell Pruitt lives in, and once you get acclimated to the style, you’ll quickly stroll through the graphic novel and reach the end before you know it. The story also doesn’t limit itself in showing the readers the real-time events that occur in Russell’s life, but also offers us a glimpse inside the thoughts and dreams of Russell. These moments are abstract and leave a lot unexplained so that readers can interpret these instances for themselves. It’s this liberty that allows the pictures to deliver the gut-wrenching truth that Russell has difficulty grasping.
Within the coming of age narrative there are several themes explored and David Small is relentless in that regards. Taking the time to question ideas of masculinity while flirting with ideas of bullying and conformism, the culture in 1950s America could easily suffocate a young adolescent in his quest for identity. I personally found David Small’s approach to exploring isolation and belonging quite fascinating. In a world where you feel like it’s every man for himself, you’re inclination to feel approved and part of something bigger could easily swallow you whole. Having to make life decisions at such a young age can easily drive a person into proving himself that he can make it without any aid and the consequences of this situation can sometimes be devastating on their development. It’s this trap in which they find themselves that ends up being toxic and create more confusion than direction for teenagers.
Home After Dark is a wonderful coming of age story that will hold you by the collar and force you to see the struggle to manhood of a lost teenager in 1950s America.
Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a copy for review!