The Gulf

Tundra. Mar. 2024. 240p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9781774880739.
Gr 10 Up–Deep emotions emerge throughout this journey that couples teenager Oli’s internal struggle with an external quest to find a commune she once read about. Several teens, there for their own reasons, end up with Oli on her expedition, trekking through an area near Vancouver to an island that might hold the meaning they seek. Oli has lost her way, and as a result of significant bullying and shaming at school, she physically attacked another student. Feeling the pressure of graduation nearing, she makes a panicked decision and sets out after school one day, shocking those around her. De Souza’s graphic approach includes crowded panels that forfeit standardization in favor of movement and emotion. Showing scenes mostly outdoors, the blue, yellow, and green hued backdrops are ethereal and provide the story’s atmosphere of heightened impatience. Comparable to the hero in The Catcher in the Rye, the teens want more from life, including their relationships, but also bond in their shared misery. As the story builds toward the teens finding the commune, each guidepost provides answers to their questions without them realizing it. By the time they reach their destination, both readers and characters recognize that the quiet moments were the profound ones, giving the book an existential quality, aided by the fitting ending.
VERDICT While not for every teen, this graphic novel will provide a niche audience a way to reframe how they see the world when facing a crisis, making it a purposeful purchase for social-emotional learning.

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