…Walden's illustrations are beautiful, each panel full of deep purples, blacks and oranges that set the space of grief and isolation that Lou and Bea inhabit…Even with all the book's mysterious elements, the allure is not really in the journey the characters take. Its power lies in giving readers a quiet, meditative and empathetic space to explore how two characters deal with trauma.
The New York Times Book Review - MJ Franklin
Running from her home in small-town Texas, 18-year-old Bea meets Lou, who is taking a road trip to escape her grief after losing her mother. A short lift turns into a longer journey when they find a lost cat and decide to return it to its home. As they search the empty miles of Texas for a town that may not exist, the road takes them to increasingly strange places, and menacing strangers begin following them on a hunt for the cat. And as the two gradually grow to trust one another, Bea conveys her reason for running away: sexual assault by a family member. This latest by Walden (
On a Sunbeam) uses heavily detailed illustrations and luminous, startling color to depict both surreal landscapes and subtle expressions, imbuing the story with equal parts paranoid tension and quiet wonder. The tale’s fantastic elements are a mixed success; some moments feel effectively executed (a claustrophobically cluttered gas station, roads and bridges that contort in impossible ways), while others feel awkwardly made to fit (menacing but extraneous villains, the cat’s hidden powers). Ultimately, the volume is most successful as a nuanced portrayal of the connection between Bea and Lou, nearly a decade apart in age but young and gay and navigating trauma and loss in rural Texas. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 14–up . Agent: Seth Fishman, the Gernert Company. (Sept.)
Combining dreamily gorgeous artwork and lyrical, sophisticated storytelling, 23-year-old Eisner award-winning graphic novelist Tillie Walden has emerged as a master of her craft.” —
O, the Oprah Magazine “Delicate and emotional and inspiring.” — The Comics Beat “Equal parts paranoid tension and quiet wonder . . . A nuanced portrayal of the connection between Bea and Lou.” — Publishers Weekly “Walden’s subtle writing and art lend an air of mystery, and manga-esque character designs and detailed backgrounds provide generous helpings of atmosphere . . . The narrative offers no easy solutions, but the reader is still left feeling hopeful and, perhaps, a little healed.” — Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review “Walden is up to her usual visual tricks in her latest, with intriguingly layered, intricately detailed images in rich, warm, sunset colors that lack concrete realism but cultivate powerful atmosphere . . . A moving story of recovery and resilience.” — Booklist, starred review "Walden crafts a story rich in metaphor about two gay women on a journey through trauma and grief...A tsunami of emotions—sharp and heavy." — Kirkus “Walden deftly explores weighty subjects within the deceptively simple road trip narrative . . . the combination of real-life trauma with magical realism makes this tale of queer friendship, healing, and rebuilding in the wake of pain and anguish an important addition to collections.” — School Library Journal Walden crafts another graphic novel exploring themes of trauma, healing, identity, and chosen family...like the illustrations, the protagonists’ reality is shaped by their emotions, and by book’s end each has had space to process some of her pain. " " —Horn Book “With its spectacular art and original storytelling, Are You Listening? is a profound and magical road trip through a surreal landscape with two characters—and one special cat—who will break your heart.” —Laura Ruby, author of National Book Award Finalist Bone Gap : On a Sunbeam “Tillie Walden is the future of comics.” —Brian K. Vaughan, Saga series and Paper Girls “ On a Sunbeam is a rare treat.” —Martha Wells, author of The Murderbot Diaries and The Books of the Raksura “I couldn't put this down.” —Ann Leckie, author of Ancillary Justice “It was so easy to curl up in the art and lose myself in the story.” —Becky Chambers, author of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet Spinning: Eisner Award winner “[A] stark, gripping graphic novel memoir.” — Washington Post “Engrossing.” — New York Times “Intimate and compelling. A quiet powerhouse of a memoir.” — Kirkus Reviews, starred review “A haunting and resonant coming-of-age story.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review “Deeply satisfying.” — Booklist, starred review
Gr 9 Up—"When something horrible happens, or something amazing…it makes you feel like mountains could shatter, or the sky could disappear." Eighteen-year-old Bea is on the run. Life at home has become more dangerous than attempting to make it in the world alone. After missing her bus, she is connected with Lou, a family acquaintance who invites Bea to hitch a ride with her out of town. Inside the intimate confines of Lou's car, the tension between the two is palpable, as neither wishes to explain her reasons for leaving town. But they soon discover a lost cat and resolve to return it home to a town in Texas that isn't on the map. As the two travel across the mystical landscape of West Texas, truths as harsh and stark as the Texas terrain come to light. Walden deftly explores weighty subjects within the deceptively simple road trip narrative; Bea's experiences with sexual assault by a family member are revealed, with Walden's surreal artwork and lettering reflecting Bea's distraught, disoriented feelings. VERDICT While the story suffers from inconsistent pacing heightened by the ambiguity of both characters' backstories, the combination of real-life trauma with magical realism makes this tale of queer friendship, healing, and rebuilding in the wake of pain and anguish an important addition to collections.— Elise Martinez, Zion-Benton Public Library, IL
Two women on the run from their pasts travel across west Texas.
Eighteen-year-old Bea runs away from home without a plan except escaping—until she crosses paths with 27-year-old Lou at a gas station on the way out of town. They share the same need to get away from all the people they know. Together, they embark on a road trip to Lou's great-aunt's house in San Angelo and then to return a lost cat to a mysterious town called West. However, the dark and foreboding Office of Road Inquiry pursues them in search of the cat in their possession. Walden (
On a Sunbeam, 2018, etc.) crafts a story rich in metaphor about two gay women on a journey through trauma and grief. The unpredictable, shifting landscape in which lakes appear and roads change course encapsulates the treacherous and nonlinear path of healing. Complex panel layouts in dark tones and moody reds often bleed together, and stretches of silent art fit the heaviness of the tone. Background characters whose eyes are hidden add to the rising sense of anxiety throughout the story. In the midst of this intense atmosphere, Lou and Bea develop a moving bond and deep trust that allow Bea to open up to Lou. The resolution offers hope that both characters will continue to heal. Characters appear to be white.
A tsunami of emotions—sharp and heavy.
(Graphic novel. 14-adult)