Blankets by Craig Thompson: Touching, beautiful, perfect

I don’t know how to describe the way I feel about Blankets other than, when I closed its covers, it made me cry.  Not because the ending was sad, because it wasn’t, it was beautiful and hopeful, but because I couldn’t believe  what I had just experienced and I couldn’t believe that it was over.  For the first 200 pages of Blankets, I read slowly, immersing myself in every single drawing, every line, every word.  For the last 350 pages I was consumed by the story.  I have no recollection of anything happening outside of its pages.  I was wholly a part of Craig’s  world and nothing could have drawn me out of it.  Did hours pass?  Possibly.  I honestly couldn’t tell you.  All I can tell you is that I have never been moved by graphic novel like this and there are only a few traditional novels that have  made me feel the same way.

Craig Thompson says that Blankets came from the urge to describe what it is like to sleep in the same bed as someone for the first time.  There is no sentence that sums up Blankets better than that, but there is so much more depth to it than that.  Craig, the son of very religious parents, weaves two stories that have a blanket at their center: sharing a bed with his younger brother when they were children and falling in love for the first time with Raina, a girl he met at a Christian camp.. This is a book about passions (religious, sexual, familial, romantic) and how they are at once complementary and contradictory.  They push and pull against one another as much as they make each other possible.  When one passion cannot be reconciled with another, how we deal with the force of that disappointment eventually defines who we are.

Blankets made me really think about my own religious journey.  Religion is a huge part of this graphic novel and I know that that can turn some people away.  At the center of the story is Craig’s questioning of his faith, that until his young adulthood was a blind faith.  It’s honest, but it’s still reverent.  At the center of this novel is not losing one’s faith, but being able to ask questions about it.  About taking a personal journey to discover your relationship with faith, no matter what that faith or the result of that discovery may be.  I know that I appreciate this part of the novel because the way Craig feels about things really mirrors my own life, but I don’t think it should be a deterrent for anyone reading this novel.  It is about so much more than just religion; it’s one coming of age story in which everyone can find pieces of themselves.

Often after finishing a novel I say, “Wow, that book made me want to go back to the front page and read it again.”  Well, for the first time, I actually did it.  I read Blankets twice in one night and found that there were so many small things and connections that I missed after my first reading.  For example, Raina and Craig begin their relationship as pen pals and at one point we see Craig draw a picture for Raina.  Later, when he finally visits her house, that picture is on Raina’s wall.  It’s details like that that truly make a graphic novel a masterpiece.  But that is not the only thing that makes Blankets perfect.  It’s Thompson’s excellent use of negative space, the recurring themes and images, like blankets and snow (blankets of snow!!), typography and so much more.

Blankets will make you ache.  It will make you pine for the particular way first love consumes you.  It will bring you back to that particular loneliness that is high school, in all that you are forever surrounded by people.  It will remind you of the fits of fanaticism that being a child and a teenager allow.  Even if your life is completely different from Craig’s, I challenge you not to find snippets of your own family here in both Craig and Raina’s.  I challenge you to read Blankets and not be moved.  Please, please read this autobiographical comic: it doesn’t get any better than this.


36 thoughts on “Blankets by Craig Thompson: Touching, beautiful, perfect

  1. i’ve only read on graphic novel and liked it but took a while to adjust to reading it. i’m a bit on the fence on the religion thing myself but your review and rec is so strong that i might have to take a peek! i love when books reach out and speak to me. glad you loved it!

    1. Nat: I think that you’ll enjoy this. What graphic novel did you try to read first? It’s definitely an adjustment, but once you’re used to it, I couldn’t imagine not having GNs in my life!

  2. This sounds really beautiful, and that is coming from someone who really doesn’t read graphic novels! Your review has made ME ache… ache to read this one! It really sounds so good and like it covers all the great things that I look for in my fiction. So glad to see that 2010 is shaping up to be a great reading year for you!

    1. Steph: I think you’ll love graphic novels, especially this one! I’ve had a really remarkable reading year so far! I definitely can’t complain.

  3. Yay! SO PUMPED to read this with Ana later this month. You make it sound brilliant. Will keep my eye out for the smaller details, such as the picture you mention.

  4. Woah! You captured a lot of my thoughts on this one a lot better that I did when I reviewed it recently…

    Can’t believe I missed the thing with Raina’s picture! Makes me wish I haddn’t returned it to the library. 😦

  5. What a lovely review of a lovely book. I will add that I really liked his capture of Raina’s family. They felt really real, especially Raina’s dad.

  6. Awesome review! I really, REALLY liked Blankets – I don’t think I reacted as strongly as you did, but it was an excellent graphic novel. My favorite thing about it was definitely the love story – it totally brought me back to high school, to my first real relationship. I’m so thrilled that you loved it so much!

  7. This book sounds amazing and your review was just gorgeous! My school library had this on display today and first thing in the morning I plan to grab it 🙂

  8. You just absolutely convinced me to read this book. Right. NOW! I’ve been meaning to, really, but my libraries don’t have it. I’ve been considering buying it, but we’ll see. I absolutely loved your review. I wish I could write the same for a graphic novel! 😉

  9. I absolutely loved this book, and you get complete credit for introducing me to it on Twitter! This is what I love about bloggers and the book community — I never would have even considered reading this graphic novel, but your glowing recommendation was such an impetus… I HAD to read it. I literally became obsessed with finding it! Stories about first love get me every. Single. Time.

    My own review will be up shortly — I’ll be linking to you! Thanks for sharing this with all of us 🙂

  10. I was at a fnac store when i bumped into it. I grabbed it, read the first few pages and then lost myself on that beautiful story. It was the first graphic novel i’ve ever read and i sure am glad i read it. It was a mind-blowing story… i don’t have words to describe it… it was pure awesomeness put together into 600 pages. I loved every bit of every line, every drawing, every everything… The love story was simply amazing and i almost cried when it ended, though i did felt some relieve when he burned everything, except the blanket, she gave him and every single one of us can relate to at least a part of the story making ‘Blankets’ something completely godlike.

  11. wow i didn’t know it was autobiographical thats interesting. I am currently around page 360 and the only reason i stopped reading was cuz the bell rang (i was at school). I agree it is an amazing book i cant wait to see what the ending is and ill probably read it twice as well. nice blog 🙂

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