Review: Renee by Ludovic Debeurme

ARC Copy provided by Net Galley.

10850148I stand somewhere between three and four stars on this one. I came in having no idea what to expect but itching to read a graphic novel. With comparisons to both Craig Thompson and Daniel Clowes, I was intrigued. I see more Clowes in the story, but I see more of Thompson in the art style.

Anyway, this is the sequel to a previous graphic novel called Lucille, which I had not read, so I was entering this story en media res. Still, I read it, and things began to make more sense as the story went on. Here, we have Lucille, an anorexic teen coming to terms with the imprisonment of her lover, Arthur, who apparently rescued her from a rapist and was imprisoned for doing so (I’m not entirely clear there). We have the titular Renee, a young girl learning to co-exist with her past, body image, sexuality, and self-harm issues. The stories of each character cross in ways that might seem a bit far-fetched, but, then again, we cross paths with dozens of people on a daily basis, so who am I to say?

The story jumps between Lucille, Renee, and Arthur that, at least initially, appears to be very confusing. In some cases, I lost track of who I was following, but, as time went on, the transitions felt a bit more natural as I came to know the characters and their stories.

Are you sure you don’t want to come see your father with me? It’ll make him happy, you know.

The art style is borderless and, at times, very simple, which reflects the mental state of the characters. Negative space is used to an immense degree here.

In some ways, the topics covered in Renee feel a little cliche in 2016, and some of the
character transformations seem a bit sudden, but, at the same time, I wanted to know what happened. Renee is an ambitious graphic novel. Graphic novels are difficult to do well, never mind when there are three simultaneous stories occurring that parallel one another. For me, the story is a bit lacking, but it’s the art and ambition that drew me in.

Debeurme’s art (despite its sparse nature) gives the story depth, and I feel like there’s one particular image involving people crawling from under skin that will stick with me for quite a while.


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