Braving the Storm

Reviewed by Amy Barlow

When I read the graphic novel Lonely Boys, by Sophie Bédard, for the first time I was hit by intense feelings of nostalgia. It brought back memories of being curled up on the couch with one of my favourite childhood books, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. While the settings and timelines of these narratives differ significantly, the similarities of the female journeys from adolescence to adulthood made this story feel familiar. One quotation from Little Women connects these stories best for me. Alcott’s Amy March exclaims, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship” (399). The quotation describes, in the case of Alcott, and suggests, in Bédard’s case, perseverance through fear, anxiety, sisterhood, and relationships. These themes allow many young women to easily relate to the characters.

 

Bédard takes readers on a journey that follows three female protagonists in their early twenties through their seemingly mundane yet dramatic lives. Jen, Ella, and Lucie are long-time friends and roommates who are reunited when Ella comes back to town looking for a place to crash after an unexplained year-long absence. Emotions run high as they navigate the challenges of relationships, jobs, and re-establishing trust and friendship.

 

The main characters display drastically different personalities, which makes it difficult for readers not to be able to identify with at least one of them. Starting from the first page, these characters grip the reader with emotion. Lucie’s despair over a recent breakup not only engulfs her life but also affects those around her. Her emotional state draws her closer to Ella as she looks for comfort. Jen’s standoffish attitude, on the other hand, keeps Ella at a distance. As Ella works through her issues, she looks for support from less prominent characters, who help add some interesting twists to the story.

 

Bédard brings in daily struggles of young women while also introducing what could be considered controversial topics, highlighting issues that many young women have difficulty dealing with. These issues allow the girls to strengthen their relationships while also learning more about themselves. While Lonely Boys is a story about young women, Bédard uses her characters to portray issues relatable to people of all genders navigating young adulthood.

 

Bédard’s use of a simple monochromatic line-drawing style works well to showcase emotion, making it easier for readers to empathize with her characters. This style allows readers to easily immerse themselves in the storyline without getting lost in detailed artwork that can overwhelm the narrative.

 

One of the aspects I found most interesting is how Bédard uses actual places in Montreal. In an interview she explains, “That coffee shop where the girls spend a lot of time is a place where I would go to write and draw . . . When they go to Pho Mylys, it’s just because I wanted to draw that restaurant because I was there all the time!”

 

Lonely Boys is a great addition to any collection of graphic narratives. I believe that Bédard’s story contains valuable lessons for all ages and genders, though due to some content it would probably be best reserved for ages fifteen and above.

 

Works Cited

Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. 1869. Engage Books, 2020. DesLibris, https://www-deslibris-ca.eu1.proxy.openathens.net/ID/459163.

Bédard, Sophie. Interview. Pow Pow, www.powpowpress.com/2021/05/07/an-interview-with-sophie-bedard-2/. Accessed 1 Apr. 2022.



This review “Braving the Storm” originally appeared in Canadian Literature, 26 May. 2022. Web.

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