After finishing This One Summer, I wasn’t overly in love with it. Not only am I not a huge fan of graphic novels—which might be because of my limited experience with them—but I felt like it was just kind of missing something from the novels I read and enjoy. I’m not sure why I felt that way especially because after class discussion I went back and enjoyed it much more the second time around. Because I’m not used to the genre I think I got caught up in the text and missed a lot of what the pictures had to offer.
One thing we’ve talked about quite a bit is the usefulness of pictures. Personally I feel like pictures can take away from the text because their either distracting or overlooked. Also it steals away the most personal part of reading a text; the freedom of imagination is definitely lessened in a graphic novel. The characters are all depicted, their facial expression and even the settings are all laid out within the frames. You don’t have to think about how Rose feels about Windy’s dancing, it’s just shown. Similarly, when a movie comes out based on a popular novel some people don’t like the way it was done or who was cast for the parts because that’s not how they imagined it. I think the same type of thing happens in graphic novels except you are never given that freedom to imagine in the first place. I’m not saying that graphic novels are not useful; class discussion has proven they can be great aids especially in regards to weaker readers within the classroom, or even just being able to offer something different. But I think there is something special in novels and using imagination to fill in the holes and give the story a personal quality.
I think that’s why novels like Harry Potter and Hunger Games did so well. The settings and lives of these characters are so unbelievable that, as a reader, they can be as realistic or fantastical as you want. Importantly these novels also deal with a lot of the themes that we have read about in course material. So even though they depict utopian/dystopian societies, the themes and characters experiences can be universal—not everyone is a wizard trying to defeat the dark lord but they can relate to Harry’s school experiences, friendship, love etc. The escape in reading is what appeals most to me and is why I read. Getting to travel to another time and place, meeting new characters, is one of the most exciting things about reading a novel and I hope that aspect is never lost.
Maybe there are aspects in graphic novels that need the imagination but it’s nothing like reading a novel. For me it was more like watching a movie. Yes there were meaningful scenes and important themes, even memorable characters, but everything was laid out on the pages for me. I understand that we can all interpret pictures in different ways based on our cultural experiences but things like character are hard to imagine when they are right in front of you—if it hadn’t been a comic book maybe I would have pictured Windy as a blonde? Even though hair color doesn’t make or break a character.
I am going in to be a teacher like so many of my classmates and I debated while reading it if I would use it in the classroom. While I do think it’s a shame to miss out on creating your own world like one would in a novel, I can’t help thinking this would be useful in the classroom: even if it is just introducing students to a new genre. Variety is never a bad thing. I completely agree with an earlier blog post on why reading is good and why everyone should do it. If someone loves graphic novels, all the power to them! Keep reading! But how would they know that was a genre they loved if they are never introduced to it. Even though I don’t particularly enjoy graphic novels, that’s just my preference, I would never try to discourage reading in any form.