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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson & Dan Jolley

My parents are gone, so I'm responsible for my little brother Todd. I have to make sure we stay alive. Many kids are sick or starving, and fierce gangs are stealing and destroying everything they find. Lots of people have given up, but here on Grand Avenue, some of us are surviving. Because of me. 
I figured out how to give the kids on Grand Avenue food, homes and protection against the gangs. But Tom Logan and his army are determined to take away what we've built and rule the streets themselves. How long can we keep fighting them off? We need to find another place for us to live safely. 
A strong place. A secret place. 
In a world like this, someone have to take charge. 

I'm relatively new to the world of graphic novels, having only read one other prior to The Girl Who Owned a City, but I was intrigued by the title and cover of this novel when I stumbled across it in a Chicago bookstore. Like many readers, I've had a recent love affair with all things post-apocalyptic and this graphic adaptation of O.T. Nelson's novel by the same title appeared to fit into that category nicely.

First, it seems appropriate to note that I have not read the original version of The Girl Who Owned a City, so I can't say how closely it follows the original text. The graphic adaption, however, doesn't waste time and immediately plunges the reader into the situation at hand. A virus has killed everyone over the age of 12, leaving Lisa, her little brother Todd, and the rest of kids in her neighborhood (and presumably the rest of the world) to fend for themselves. Luckily, it appears the virus has run it's course and the children now nearing the age of 12 are safe. This novel has an interesting vibe and was reminiscent of Michael Grant's Gone series. 

I was interested to see how certain issues would be resolved, but many of them ended up being glossed over or ignored completely. At one point, a boy ends up with a badly burned face, but, all things considered, he recovers quite easily. Seeing as none of the characters are over the age of 12, I was a bit distracted by this. At the same time, I could see reading this novel at a younger age and not seeing this as a huge issue. I think I would probably be more interested in the big events (and shocked of the burn) to pay much attention to details like that, but I can't necessarily say this would be true of all younger readers.

Even though the premise of The Girl Who Owned a City is pretty far-fetched, it definitely sends a message of empowerment to younger readers. Each of the main characters has a specific focus (agriculture, military, medicine, etc) and important function as the children try to build themselves a community. 

I didn't necessarily everything in this novel to be all that realistic, but the voices of the characters rung true. Lisa is a savvy and strong heroine, but she's often childish. She's being forced to grow up and take care of her brother (and many of the kids in community), but she routinely falls back into selfish behavior, claiming things, like the city, as "her's." The kids are being faced with a difficult reality, but they're still kids... they play, they joke, they fight. This aspect of the novel felt very realistic to me.

The characters looked a tad bit old, but other than that, I loved the illustrations. I'm unsure how the characters were described in the original novel, but I loved the diversity of the kids involved. A wide range personalities, ages, and cultures are represented. The placement of the panels and the color choices accurately reflected the novel's tone as it progressed, giving the reader an overall impression of the events, even before reading the text. The facial expressions - particularly the eyes - of the characters were all fantastically depicted and conveyed a wealth of emotion.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. Sure, the plot was slightly lacking in detail at times, but I'm fairly certain this was the fault of the original text, rather than a result of adaption into graphic narrative. In my opinion, the story conveyed through the images themselves more than makes up for the sometimes weak plot.

Graphic Universe, January 2012, Paperback, ISBN: 9780761356349, 126 pages.


  1. Great review, Sara! I don't actually read many graphic novels but I have been looking for some to check out. I'm not sure about the young age of the characters in this one but it does sound like an interesting story. I may have to give it a shot!

  2. Good review, it sounds really good.

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