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Swallow Me Whole (2008)

by Nate Powell

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2621187,004 (3.7)6
"Swallow Me Whole is a love story carried by rolling fog, terminal illness, hallucination, apophenia, insect armies, secrets held, unshakeable faith, and the search for a master pattern to make sense of one's unraveling. In his most ambitious book to date, Nate Powell quietly explores the dark corners of adolescence-- not the cliched melodramatic outbursts of rebellion, but the countless tiny moments of madness, the vague relief of medication, and mixed blessing of family ties. As the story unfolds, two stepsiblings hold together amidst schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, family breakdown, animal telepathy, misguided love, and the tiniest hope that everything will someday make sense" -- from publisher's web site.… (more)
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» See also 6 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Summary: Ruth and Perry are stepsiblings, but they share a distinct bond: both of them struggle with seeing and hearing things that others can't. He sees a small wizard who forces him to draw; she sees bugs where there aren't, and hears the voices of the animals she collects. Adolescence is hard enough, with its struggles with authority, issues with fitting in, tempestuous relationships, and a complicated home life, but when you factor in mental illness, it starts to border on too much to cope with.

Review: This is a dark, dark book, one that was not easy to read. I mean that both in a literal and a metaphorical sense. It is graphically very dark, lots of shadows and black spaces and sketchy lines, oftentimes overwhelming the characters. The text is also typically very small and scratchy, enough so that it is frequently difficult if not impossible to read. It's clearly a stylistic choice, and it goes along with the tone of the story, but it does make you work (and squint) to understand what's going on. It's also not an easy book emotionally. There are no easy answers given here; no answers at all, most of the time, and you have to look very hard to find the hope in some very bleak situations. What was maybe the most painful was that these kids had no one - their parents didn't seem particularly aware of what they were struggling with, and they didn't even really open up to each other. "Harrowing" is maybe not *quite* the right word, but it's not far off, either. 3 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: I didn't exactly enjoy it, per se, although I can see that it would be particularly powerful in the hands of someone who is struggling or has struggled with mental illness, particularly teens. ( )
  fyrefly98 | Feb 10, 2014 |
Strange ( )
  Sullywriter | Apr 3, 2013 |
Swallow me whole is an intense story. Offering a glimpse into the daily life of two teen siblings living with mental illness. This story shows the bond between siblings and the paths of growing up that lead us all in different directions. Full of accurate illustrations that reflect the text. This book creates a descriptive journey. ( )
  keely13 | Nov 28, 2012 |
Dark and disturbing and brilliant and sad and wholly engrossing back and white graphic novel. ( )
  danahlongley | Jan 9, 2012 |
A blended family copes with the dementia of an aging parent and the emerging mental illness of each parent's teens. Merits multiple readings. ( )
  kivarson | Apr 1, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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"Swallow Me Whole is a love story carried by rolling fog, terminal illness, hallucination, apophenia, insect armies, secrets held, unshakeable faith, and the search for a master pattern to make sense of one's unraveling. In his most ambitious book to date, Nate Powell quietly explores the dark corners of adolescence-- not the cliched melodramatic outbursts of rebellion, but the countless tiny moments of madness, the vague relief of medication, and mixed blessing of family ties. As the story unfolds, two stepsiblings hold together amidst schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, family breakdown, animal telepathy, misguided love, and the tiniest hope that everything will someday make sense" -- from publisher's web site.

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