Blue by Pat Grant: Book Review

blue_cover_lg Pat Grant - Blue, ondas

I picked up Pat Grant’s graphic novel Blue as part of my 2015 Reading Challenge. I don’t read graphic novels, unless you count manga, and I didn’t know what I wanted to try. There were a few I considered reading, but I couldn’t borrow them at the library and at the moment I can’t afford to splurge $30 on something like Blankets or Ghost World, which I still want to read one day because I quite like graphic novels now and I like the idea of reading more.

Blue intrigued me for a number of reasons when I was looking through the library catalogue. First, Pat Grant is Australian and I do like to honour that on occasion when it comes to art. Anyhow, the plot of three teenagers wagging school to feast their eyes on the remains of a dead body on the railway tracks while strange blue alien creatures are immigrating into their town Bolton, struck me as both familiar and whacked. Of course, I had to read it just to see what was going to happen.

Pat Grant is a great cartoonist. I really liked the art. It’s comical but also makes a point about Australian surfer culture. Most of the art is various shades of blue, mixed in with brown and cream. The palette worked really well, I thought, for the content of the story.

Now, if you’re looking for a graphic novel with a whole lot of plot, this one might not be for you. I mean, there’s a lot of underlining story in Blue and a fair bit happens to Christian, Verne and Muck on that one day, but the plot doesn’t follow a conventional structure. You don’t get a lot of details in regards to how the blue aliens chase out the Aussies living in Bolton, for example. Which didn’t bother me, really. Still, the sci-fi/alien element of the story is a fascinating play on immigration and one that I don’t think needs further explanation, as we can merely look to Australian history and Australia today to understand the implications of it. For example, one page in Blue is a full spread of cartoons that includes a drawing of Australia with the inscription ‘We’re Full.’ I’m not an advocate for the ‘stop the boats’ in any way, frankly it upsets me to no end. Including brief but powerful cartoons such as that was incredibly clever. I found the inclusion of the blue aliens thought-provoking. The way Grant deals with the aliens dregs up other themes, too, particularly racism, and it’s all very ironic and great. I guess it’s hard for me to explain. Point is, there’s a lot more to this graphic novel than Aussie surfer bogan gags. It’s really trying to say something about Australian culture, and what it’s saying doesn’t exactly paint Australia in a good light. There is something kind of sad about it. 

The other thing that drew me into this graphic novel is its similarity with Stephen King’s The Body (which is never a bad sign and I love that novella). Grant talks about this in the Afterword, gearing us to the knowledge that while King was an inspiration, “the body” storyline was also inspired by his own childhood, as he also went out to see a dead body one day with a friend. So, Blue is a fascinating mixture of memory, autobiography and surfer culture that really dregs up some important themes that are worth spooning over. While I kind of wanted more (because, once I got into Blue, I really got into it), I enjoyed Blue a lot. It’s funny and clever and well worth the read if you’re looking for something innovative that has something important to say beneath the surface layer. Wonderful art and a wonderful story. I think I just might have to splurge on a hardcopy for myself one of these days.

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