Graphic novels don’t get enough recognition. They are often brushed off as being ‘not real’ books or only for kids. Some schools don’t even have them on their shelves. I’ll admit that I don’t read as many graphic novels as I should. They aren’t something that I gravitate towards, which is a big mistake on my part because there are so many incredible stories waiting to be read. When I saw A Map to the Sun by Sloane Leong, the beauty of the artwork and design caught my attention before anything else. The pages are printed on alternating pastel colours which really makes a striking impact on the eye. The artwork itself has minimal detail because the artist chose to focus on the character’s features rather than their surroundings.
The story centres around a group of young women who form a basketball team – the first in their high school. Two of the girls, Ren and Luna, have a history. They were once close friends until Luna abruptly moved away without saying goodbye. Now she’s back in town and wants to resume their friendship, but Ren is still hurting. The tension between them puts the whole team at risk. The rest of the storyline follows the teammate’s lives on and off the basketball court.
What drew me into the story was the character development. The main characters are all diverse young women who bring depth and complexity to the story. Each character has her own strengths, weaknesses and flaws. You don’t often see that kind of writing in teen fiction stories. They all come from different family dynamics that each have their challenges. Ren’s mother left, Anella is bullied because of her weight, Luna is an orphan living with her aunt, and Jetta has a constant need to rebel against authority.
Playing basketball means something different to each girl. However, being on a team gives them a sense of self worth and the reader can see the characters slowly becoming more confident throughout the novel.
The colour palette used in the illustrations matches the tone of the story. Darker colours are used during the emotional scenes. The shades selected almost tell a story of their own. The characters are drawn as diversely as they are written. Each of the girls were given their own unique body type, which is another thing you don’t usually find in teen fiction. I appreciated the fact that although they were all different shapes and sizes, they all kicked butt on the basketball court.
If you don’t normally gravitate towards graphic novels, I strongly recommend starting with A Map to the Sun. It is a great example of how graphic novels are just as capable of showcasing compelling character stories as traditional novels.
– Lesley L.