{comic} the art of shadows

will and whit coverWill & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

Amulet (Abrams), 2013. Trade Paper, 192 pages including “soundtrack,” author’s “inspiration board” for book, & recipe for “Blue Crush Cookies. ages 12 & up.

Laura Lee Gulledge’s debut Page by Paige (2011) involved not only a great story about moving to a new place, finding new friends, romantic drama, and discovering the self, but it was full of inspiration for creative-minded readers and indie-scene and nerd-world allusions. Her sophomore return of story, inspiration, and pop culture is just as satisfying.

“This is the story of how I escaped my shadow.” Will (end of “chapter one”)

Will and Whit Illustration

Wilhemina “Will” Huckstep is all about old fashioned things, helping out her Aunt at the family antique shop, creating lamps out of found objects, and “unplugged” summer adventures with her friends before her senior year of high school. But as Hurricane Whitney charges towards her small Virginia town, so does the one year anniversary of her parents death. And with the promise of an extended blackout, her fear of the dark intensifies. Fortunately, Will is not alone. She has a loving aunt, her best friends Autumn and Noel, and a new creative venture (replete with new pals) when she discovers an arts carnival has been formed in town.

will sample 2a

When Will talks about the shadows that haunt, Gulledge interprets them into shapes that relay the underlying anxieties Will is dealing with as the everyday of her summer progresses. The bicycle takes on a shadow of a bicycle built for 3, saddles empty but for Will’s. The shadow of the house is a row of headstones. Life is moving forward despite them, and Will seems determined to continue with it, constructing lamps to ward off the dark corners and still moments where painful things intrude. The storm facilitates a confrontation, but hers isn’t the only conflict.

willwhitNoel, the only male of a trio of friends, has been harboring a crush on Autumn for a long while. But she isn’t going to wait around forever—not that she is terribly ambitious, which is a lament of her highly-motivated Indian physician parents. Noel is perusing Culinary Schools, but Autumn despairs of pursuing much more than her Puppetry, and even there she is shy.

Noel’s younger sister Reese is the light-spirited buoy of the novel, humorously negotiating the necessary shift from IM to in-person gossip and event documentation. Her artistic pursuit? jewelry. The Arts Carnival introduces Ava (a songstress), Blake (dancer), and Desmond (movie maker) as well as potential love interests and a venue for pushing the artists to the next level—which for Will, may be sculpture.

There are plenty of fears going around and while Gulledge does not treat them lightly, she has a deft hand at bringing her characters and story together without sinking the boat early and asking us to tread through suffocating angsts. She tackles hard issues and contemplates different ways of channeling ideas and emotional energies.

I need to try out the soundtrack set out for each chapter. We have most of the songs. Even still, I love their inclusion.  And I have to say that Gulledge’s pop culture references are hug-worthy. I was geeked to read the Sally Sparrow quote (from Doctor Who’s “Blink”), an allusion to Lord of the Rings, and in the cemetery there are headstones for Rory & Amy Williams (shared), Wash (Firefly/Serenity), Joyce Summers and Tara Maclay (Buffy).

I continue to find the storytelling aspect of Gulledge’s b/w illustrations really attractive and fun. Will & Whit is beautifully-fashioned. Gulledge’s work is easy to recommend, and I can’t wait to see what she will come up with next.



recommendations… girls & boys 12+, if one likes stories about friendship, family and/or contemporary dramas; accessible to fans of comics or no; certainly for the creative-minded, music-scene-infatuated, and/or nerd-girl (or -boy); are fans of Hope Larson, as her work came immediately to mind (which is a good thing).

a concenter-quality read: significant characters of color, diverse community.


book trailertumblr project bk site (incl. musical)–

my review of Page by Paige

{images belong to Laura Lee Gulledge}

Published by L

I read, and I write. and until recently, I sold books.

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