We’ve taken a month and we’ve obtained Blue Is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh. We’ve read it and drooled over the fabulous art, and we’ve probably had a lot of feelings. And you probably did all this while drinking Autostraddle’s The Warmest Drink. Now it’s time to talk about it. And we’re going to delve in quite a bit further than “did I like it or not?” But that is where we’ll start.
Warning. There will be some major spoilers. Please read on only if you’ve read it or if you don’t particularly care about spoilers.
Did we like it or not? And, of course, why?
I think for me to answer this question personally, I have to talk about it in two ways — I have to split the apart the two words that make up the term “graphic novel” and think of this first as a work of fiction and then again as an art book. As a work of fiction, I didn’t care for this book as a whole. I was really into the plot in the beginning, but after that it felt like it lost steam. Almost like a train chugging its way up a hill and the hill was just too steep for it to really succeed. We’ll talk about why I think it rolled back down the fiction-hill as we delve further into the book. But if I judge it purely on the art? This book is one of the most gorgeous I have in my collection. Which leads quite well into the next question—
How did the art further the story? Could this story have been told any other way?
Maroh illustrated it almost entirely in black and white, but in keeping with the title punctuated it with pops of color. Mostly blue! And the flash of blue, as the story went on, became inextricably linked to feelings of love and lust. And because this is essentially Clementine’s coming out experience, it almost became linked with her identity. I found that to be a smart choice on the part of the author, because on pages where there’s a ton of blue, the reader comes to expect a boatload of feelings and a much more emotionally charged portion of the story. In addition to that, the art so throughly nailed time and place that it was like reliving my costume design days. The clothing choices, particularly those of Emma and Sabine, scream “turn of the millennium dyke-tastic” and the piece of the story set in the quarter where all the gay bars are looks distinctly like the Marais (though it’s never specified). There’s no question about where we are and when we are, and I LOVE stories that do era really well.
Now, could the story have been told any other way? If you think about it, it has been. Or at least, an adaption of it. But we all know that it’s not really the same story. So looking at this independently of the Palme d’Or winning adaption, I’d say no. Now normally I call that the mark of a really solid graphic novel, like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. I can’t imagine the story there being told any other way, so the form and the story are so intertwined that it’s one glorious piece of art. Here though? I actually don’t find that to be a positive at all, because the reason I can’t see the story being told any other way is because there are massive holes in the plot and massive issues with the way the plot unfolds. If this were just a piece of fiction, no art included, there wouldn’t be anything present at all. Kind of like those candy bars with the air bubbles inside them. Just fluff, not really a ton of chocolate.
What do we wish could have been different in the telling of this story?
We’ll get to the plot in a hot sec, but let’s talk about the way the story was told. To map it out, we basically start with Clementine’s adolescence. During that time, she meets and falls for Emma and gets kicked out of her house because of it. Then we have a MASSIVE time jump. Massive. From her late teens to her early 30’s, with the intervening 13 years being summed up in just a few panels. And then we see Emma and Clementine fight, kinda break up, kinda get back together and then she dies. Done. When I hit that time jump, I was like, wtf? Because I felt like I had just been chugging along, reading a book, tralala, and then bam. I walked off a cliff.
Continuing that feeling into a metaphor, let’s talk about the portion of the story depicting Clementine’s adolescence as one cliff on one side of an enormous gorge. The intervening 13 years are represented by that enormous gorge. And then on the other side of the gorge there’s another cliff, and that’s Clementine’s adult years and the end of the book. Now, I am not saying that Maroh had to build is a perfect little bridge, complete and pristine, for us to walk across. I’m not saying she should patronize her readers and hold our hands every step of the way across it. Because then this graphic novel would be a graphic epic and the readers wouldn’t feel challenged to use their imagination, or to take some leaps. What Maroh did, though, is just as terrible for the reader. She gave us almost nothing to bridge that gap. So what she expected us to bring to the party was, like, the materials to build our own bridge. Or an extreme talent for jumping long distances. Or, like, one of those flying squirrel suits.
Now maybe you’ve got those things. But I didn’t. So I just fell into the gorge and was unable to climb out. Maroh lost me in that time jump.
What I wish she had done is built us some kind of thing to get us across the gap—maybe a series of floating stepping stones, or a complex rope bridge with holes in it and places to put our foot through. Enough of the plot to get us across to the other side without it being neat, tidy and unchallenging. That’s my biggest wish for the way the story was told. I wish she hadn’t lost me when she jumped through space and time faster than I could keep up.
Let’s talk about walking around your partner’s parents’ house ass-naked. Do the conflict moments in Blue is the Warmest Color feel realistic? Do they feel earned?
So the major driving conflict moment in this story, the conflict that sets all the tragedy in motion, is Clementine being ejected from her parents’ house and rejected from her family. How does that happen? Emma goes downstairs to get a glass of milk from the kitchen. And somehow, as a full-grown woman in her closeted girlfriend’s house, she thinks it is okay to do this stark naked. Like, she doesn’t foresee any consequences? It doesn’t cross her mind that maybe she should throw on some clothes? Any clothes? It’s not like Clementine’s parents don’t know she’s there, they just don’t know they’re both naked in the bed room, boning. So of course Clementine’s mom catches Emma ass-naked in the kitchen and bam, kicked out.
I’m sorry. That just doesn’t feel real or earned to me. But maybe I am wrong. Show of virtual hands, how many of y’all have walked around your partner’s parents’ house ass-naked? And keep in mind, Emma did this when Clementine’s parents were home. So only raise your virtual hand if you did this when your partner’s parents were home.
Even if a few of you say yes, I actually think this points to a book-wide issue of the conflict moments just being points to hit at any cost. There’s not really a heck of a lot of story to back them up. But not all the conflict moments. The parts where Clementine (and to some extent, Valentin) were being bullied in school were extremely real and extremely earned. This disparity lead me to do a little bit of research on Julie Maroh, and what I suspected to be true actually was—
Julie Maroh was 19 when she wrote this story. How do you see her youth affecting plot?
Now let’s look at this book a little differently. This book is damn fucking impressive now that we’re considering it was written and illustrated by a 19 year old. And as reported at this event, the story began with a competition Maroh won when she was 15. When I was 19, I would have generated conflict points that felt completely earned and completely realistic to me because I was steeped in late-teen-years hormones and everything was a conflict. I get this now.
It also explains the unrealistic quality of the portions of the book that take place in Clementine’s 30’s. Yes, authors can write things they haven’t experienced. Duh. But this very much feels like what a 19-year-old imagines a 30-year-old life to be, and without a ton of research. It explains the time jump—Maroh may not have known what to build that bridge with. And it explains the mysterious pill addiction that randomly pops up very very suddenly and leads to Clementine’s demise. And! And it explains why Clementine is mostly closeted after 13 years with the same woman. Now don’t get me wrong, there are a ton of reasons to stay in the closet, and for that long too. But what strikes me as youthful ignorance here is that a 13 year relationship could stay so static. Emma wants to be out. And in 13 years that hasn’t impacted their relationship or been a discussion or evolved at all?
It also took her five years to write the novel. Five. Years. That means she probably aged out of her own story while she was working on it—in other words, I imagine Julie Maroh got kinda sick of it. It’s only speculation, obviously. Julie Maroh doesn’t give interviews nowadays the same way she did before, so we can’t really ask her. But it would definitely explain the feeling I get of a train doggedly chugging up a hill and then just completely running out of steam. The end of the book feels rushed and uncommitted, and I’ve experienced that effect in my own writing when I get bored with my own story.
If this book were a physical space or object, what would it be?
Oh my, I’ve already called it a chugging train and a vast gorge with a cliff on either side. Ugh, now I have to come up with another physical space or object? And I made up the questions so I knew this was coming! Ah well, no take-back-sies and now let me see—I would say that Blue is the Warmest Color would be one of those ornate, gorgeous music boxes. Amazingly beautiful and fanciful, but a music box speaks mostly to youth and sentiment. And it really only does one thing—you open it and it plays music. It just does that in a really attractive way.
That said. I have a music box that I really love. So it is not impossible to love something because it is pretty and because it speaks to youth.
Why did Autostraddle choose to make The Warmest Drink the book club drink? Like, how did that relate to the story?
I thought really long and hard about the drink I created. Originally, I was going to pair Blue is the Warmest Color with a French red wine because of the book’s setting and the book’s weight on feelings of sadness—when I’m experiencing a sad story, red wine is my drink of choice. But wine felt too mature for both this book and Clementine’s relationship with Emma. It’s really a youthful story about first love and the loss of first love, and experiencing it with a drink required a few things from said drink:
1. It had to be warm and comforting. We’re reading this in winter and there’s a lot of feelings and I wanted the drink to hug you.
2. It had to harken back to youth. And nothing says youth in the winter to me like hot chocolate.
3. There had to be a bit of spice, because the story does feature sections that bite with reality. For instance, the bullying or the fact that Emma can’t access Clementine in the hospital or the uncertainty that Clementine feels about her burgeoning identity. Those small pieces of the story smacked of realism and the hard parts about being a queer woman, and they required a few drops of jalapeño bitters.
Those of you who made the drink—did you get the same things from it? Did you feel like I was hugging you in the mouth while you were reading? Because I was. In my mind.
If we were to wish up a magical book fairy that would take this book and pass it along to someone who would love it or need it, who would that person be?
I feel like this book fell into my hands too late. I’m literally the age that falls into that time jump—the age that is glossed over in the story. So when I go looking for myself in this book, it’s hard to find a reflection. But the LGBTQ community doesn’t have a lot of the young love stories in pop culture that our heterosexual counterparts have. So this book is to be commended and valued for that, even though it does play into the LGBTQ-romance-ending-in-death-trope that we so often see. I think if I could give instructions to the magical book fairy, I would deliver this to a 15-year-old lesbian who feels very uncertain in her feelings and who could use a good cry. But I would also send that same 15-year-old lesbian Mosquita Y Mari and the classic But I’m a Cheerleader (yes, book fairy, I’m asking you to bring movies too, I’m sorry) so she can see a few examples, not all of which end in pill-addicted death.
Overall, not my very favorite. But I’m glad I read it because it’s super culturally relevant right now. And I’m glad I own it because it’s gorgeous. And I’m glad we’re talking about it because there is so much in here for discussion. I also wonder what it would have been like to read this in French—would the moments I found hollow resonate more when they aren’t translated? Because with anything translated, that’s always a possibility. Mostly what I can’t wait for is to read Julie Maroh’s next project, Skandalon. I feel like Blue is the Warmest Color is the first installment of a long and impressive career as an author and artist, and I look at it and see how Maroh is going to evolve. My prediction: it’s gonna be awesome for all of us lovers of graphic novels.
It’s time to discuss.
Let’s both agree and disagree. Let’s talk about your book feelings. Let me have it if you think I’m wrong (and I mean that! There’s no one right way to read a book). Please answer questions and ask your own in the comments below, and as with every book discussion I’ve ever lead, recognize that every read is valid and valuable. And guess what you might win for having this brilliant discussion?
We’re giving away an autographed copy of Blue is the Warmest Color to one lucky commenter!
Our own Fikri went to an event to hear Julie Maroh speak and get a couple of books signed. Maroh signed a copy just for the Autostraddle community! So how can you win it? Discuss the book in the comments below—either answer one of the questions I asked in the post, respond to another commenter, or ask (and answer!) a question of your own! Come Thursday 12/26 at 10 pm EST, I’ll pick a random comment using a number generator. But the catch is, the comment has to be about the book to win the book!
Update: And Our Winner Is…
Alaina! Not only was she randomly selected, she’s also got great things to say about reading books in translation. I highly recommend chatting with her in the comments. Congratulations, Alaina!
I didn’t know Maroh wrote this when she was 19! You’re right, it does make a lot of sense now, the way it seemed kind of off. I’m consistently amazed at what my younger (19-year-old) sister deals with in her relationship and how she deals with it, versus how I (at 25) would not put up with the same. 19, in particular, seems to be a hard year, relationship-wise.
I’m glad I learned that about Maroh/this book.
(To make sure I’m sufficiently commenting for book-winning purposes, I’ll elaborate.) I think that a nineteen-year-old writing about relationships has a lot to say about relationships, and a lot of real and true and sincere feelings, but I think their writing might resonate best with those at a similar age. I look at my sister, and my friends who dated at 19, and my girlfriend’s stories of her high school/college boyfriend, and I’m amazed (and not in a good way). It’s weird, because at 19 I would have felt fully-formed (like I’m sure Maroh did). But now? I don’t even feel fully formed at 25, but I definitely know I’ve come a long way since then.
And I think the walking-around-the-house-naked thing is definitely possible at 19. My friends fucked in cars outside restaurants, in a suburban park at midnight, in a pool with a parent inside the house at that age, all while semi-closeted. Walking around naked doesn’t seem to be a huge stretch.
Yeah learning her age really changed it for me. It’s less of a story looking backward as projecting forward, so the hollowness comes from imagination thinning.
(And in that way maybe you can read it almost as a teenager dissuading her future self from following the wrong path? Kinda cool.)
Oh, I like that idea of looking forward instead of backward, and dissuading yourself from the wrong path! That’s a really great way of looking at it.
It’s interesting to me, how we try to project out lives. Like, we know someone for MAYBE five years, and we decide to spend the rest of our lives with them? How can we possibly pretend to know what the future will hold?
But how can we remember being young? I only remember discrete bits of being a teenager and of that angst. I can’t imagine that I would do a good job of writing about a 19-year-old’s life, and certainly not in a way that 19-year-olds would resonate with.
I completely agree! Finding out that she wrote it at 19 made some sense.
Pretty much agreed. The first 2/3rds is a competent, if too familiar, lesbian coming of age story, with fantastic art. Then it skips the interesting-to-me part. So, fine, you’re gay and in love. What next?
And that’s where the interesting modern conflict exists. We got the early internal conflict, but now – do you come out? How does the world react, and how does that change you? Or do you try and live a closeted, secret life? And when the partners take different paths, how does that possibly work?
Instead, it just sort of peters out, with an ending that needed to hit points for the actually good framing sequence at the beginning. Alas. It wants to throw guilt and regret at us, but the things to regret and the sources of guilt were glossed over.
Still, the first half is good, and I’m glad it’s getting some buzz. We need better stories for our community, and with this and the (vastly superior) Orange is the New Black being talked about, it makes it easier to sell the good stuff that people are dying to write, so there’s that.
Maybe she was just posing these questions (where next? how the hell do I get through my twenties?), rather than actually answering them.
To answer your question, no I’ve never walked around my partner’s parents house naked. Actually my partner’s parents don’t know that we’re dating because he’s already married and they (he and his wife) are not out as poly to their families. Which is interesting for me as a lesbian who is out and proud about nearly every facet of my identity…I haven’t read the book but I think that as an out and proud person dating someone closeted might cause some friction during a 13 year relationship and maybe the author should have included some indication of that. However, finding out that she was 19 when she wrote the book really sheds light on the weird quirks in the story.
Even dating someone who is out but chooses to be less publicly visible kinda rubs on me. It feels a bit like I’m being dragged into the closet.
Everything I believe in says that we homogays should be visible – and visibly cute so that other people will like us.
So being with someone who doesn’t want to be that visible sometimes makes me feel like I’m betraying our entire culture. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be to be loudly out and with someone who is actually closeted. Yeah, I think it’d affect their relationship…
I know what you mean about being rubbed the wrong way. I think the reason why I’m okay with it in this situation is because he’s not close to his family at all and thus rarely sees them so it doesn’t come up often. As for his wife not being out to her family as poly, I’m not dating her so I don’t really care. Actually, I’m in search of a girlfriend now and being totally out (with the possible exception of being closeted at work) is a must.
I understand why people are closeted but it’s not really for me.
Yeah I was in a few poly relationships a few years back and (imho) it’s even harder to come out as poly as it is to be out and queer. People know what gay is. Honestly, a lot of people in the more mainstream world flat don’t know what polyamory is.
I remember trying to tell my mother that I was dating a couple….it was a fully new relationship, and I’m not terribly libidinous, so we hadn’t had sex (in fact, we broke up in matter of about 2 months, before any sex was had, and then got together about 2 years later, and again broke up before we worked our way through the maze of sex limits). But as I was trying to be honest about my romantic relationship to my mother? She first assumed that someone was cheating on someone….and when I repeated that we were all aware and all involved she finally resorted to: “So it’s a threesome? I was wild once too! I once went to a nudist colony.”
She flat could not conceive of a loving, caring relationship outside of the lines of monogamy. She had to make it a kink. Very strange.
My theory on the closet? It’s less about honesty and more about constantly shattering assumptions. And for some people it’s too hard/scary/dangerous/tiresome to constantly be reeducating people. I get it. But I find it stifling.
You know, I struggle greatly with this book (and even more so with the movie, which I won’t really even delve into here because that’s a whole new can of criticism) because I love it and hate it at the same time. Being 21 and having my own coming out experience when I was 18, I identify with the true-to-life struggles that Clementine experiences in the book; however, I am also left feeling very empty by the plot at some points. As you so eloquently mention, the bullying feels real; the aspects of being a young, queer person trying to find her way in the world feels real. Everything to come after that just does not and it left me feeling very unfulfilled by this book.
I had no idea that Maroh was as young as she is – which truly explains so much. This book left me with so many questions and it left me feeling empty after the love that I had fallen in love with myself ended so abruptly with death (Death? I mean, really? Can’t we have more successful same-sex relationships in the media?). Nonetheless, I do praise it for the fact that it IS another queer-centric piece of media, which is a win for our community.
I love the colourization in the art, but I really don’t like the style of her line-art. Your analysis of her use of colour makes me want to dismiss my feelings about the lines though, just a little, and think of the whole piece as a a symphony of colours.
Also? Fully agreed on the temporal leaps front.
Essentially, the effect is that you fall in love (or at least agree to accept) characters at a specific age, and then you suddenly are expected to toss them aside and let them be something entirely different. And this angsty/innocent love story that you were totally into is torn away, and you have to replace it with something jaded/bitter?
I dunno, I’m 31, but I really would rather stick with younger characters somehow. They have more growing to do, and I think I like to read growth, not stagnation.
I really don’t need to read about the angstyfeels of a grown-ass woman…but my inner 16-year-old still needs a cuddle-buddy sometimes.
I agree with you about enjoying younger characters–I really liked the moments in this book that were completely spot on about the rush of first love and lust. They gave me a nice sort of nostalgia for the same feelings I had at 16.
I absolutely adored this graphic novel – mostly the first part though. I feel like a large portion had just been deleted by accident (something I’ve done to one of my novels before) and it’s not exactly fixed by any bridge either. But these are important things to write about: the afterteens. People – especially girls – change so much and this change might just as well be written about. Explain the pill addiction, so the whole dying thing doesn’t just drop out of the sky. The only reason I didn’t cry as much as I could’ve was because I was just confused. Like, how did this even happen?
Either way, I really enjoyed reading it and I’m glad to own it. The artwork is fantastic and I wouldn’t want to read this any other way than in a graphic novel.
Having read the review and the comments I am left wondering if this is something I want to bother reading. If it peters out at the end maybe not.
Anyone feel like I should bite to bullet and just buy the dang book already?
You should buy it, if only because the LGBT graphic lit that’s out there is pretty limited, and supporting BITWC is a way of supporting LGBT graphic lit.
And it’s enjoyable. I really liked being part of the conversation around this book/film. There was so much conversation around the film, but I don’t really need another male-gaze-driven image of lesbians. That’s why I think buying the book is a good way to enter the conversation.
You guys, I read this whole thing in one sitting at a bookstore and I feel like a bum and like I STOLE INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
It’s SO QUICK.
I love both queer narratives and graphic novels, so I was super excited to read this book and I did enjoy it. I loved the artwork. As for the story, I have mixed feelings. I think if I’d read this book at 15, when I was sort of starting to figure my sexuality out and I hadn’t read any books at all that were about queer people, I would probably have enjoyed it much more. Reading as a 20-something who has now read a fair amount of books about lesbians, it bothered me that the book essentially got the full bingo card of tropes, from all the coming-out angst to Clementine getting kicked out of her homophobic parents’ house to a lesbian character dying at the end. Maybe this had something to do with the author’s age; I hadn’t realised she was so young when she wrote it. Still, I wish I saw more lesbian narratives that didn’t rely so heavily on these tropes.
I found much of the story very touching and relatable, particularly with regard to how scary it can be figuring out you’re queer in your teens, but was then disappointed when things like the ‘walking around girlfriend’s house absolutely starkers’ incident happened – completely unrealistic. I was also disappointed by the huge time jump. I’m one of those people who wishes stories would show the bit that happens in between the couple getting together and breaking up. Common consensus seems to be that the middle relationship bit doesn’t make for compelling narrative, but I had questions I wanted to be answered. I wanted to know what kind of life they had together before they broke up, what issues they were having that led to it. Instead, we were teleported years into the future when they broke up and then Clementine died. I wish the ending had been different; I found it abrupt and unfulfilling. My reaction was “wait, what just happened?” I didn’t really understand how these things had come to pass and wished the plot in the latter half had been given as much attention and development as the relatable story of young love in the first part. I don’t know, I just thought the characters deserved better.
I’m glad I read this book, but it’s not without its problems. Like I said, my teenage self would probably have got more out of it.
A lot of people are saying that their teenage selves would have enjoyed this book, and as someone who is currently their teenage self, I did really enjoy it.
Art-wise, the book is gorgeous, and all of the details Maroh puts in, like the close up of a CD, or the way Clementine’s writing style in her diary changes as she gets older make it endlessly rereadable. I didn’t realize that Julie Maroh was 19 when she wrote it, but I guess that could explain a book that has a disappointing overall plot, but lots of amazing little details, which is a shame because I found the teenage sections so real- the angsty questioning in your diary, and not knowing but simultaneously being certain of what you want.
I read the book in French (it kind of counts as school work right?) and looked at the English translation in a bookshop, but was disappointed. Some things which sounded really beautiful in French were just cheesy in English, but as an English speaker I’m probably inclined to thinking that everything sounds beautiful in French.
I read it in French. C’est magnifique ;-)
Have you read it in English as well? I’m debating buying the French version to compare the two. Translation can really make a difference in tone, especially.
Wow, I didn’t know she was 19. I kind of wish she’d waited a few more years to write it? So she had both some years to reflect but also so she felt the change and transformation of queer identity and relationships and politics and understanding I guess.
I wonder about the translation/how things translated (or didn’t). I wish I could read French!
I also thought the novel fell short of being great. I’d rate it three stars. I like the issues brought up at the beginning, but the weird jump that ends with death left me confused. The art was AMAZING but the story line needed some work. I also wondered about the whole walking around naked thing, who does that? Even in a straight relationship?
Oh wow, finding out she was 19 when she wrote it makes a huge difference…you can definitely tell. I agree with almost everything in the review: I was definitely in love with the art–that easily my favorite thing. Also, I’m not sure if it is because I read it on my kindle, but it was such a quick read, which was surprising!! I almost feel like I need to read it again, because I bought it, read it, and left an Amazon review all in about 1.5 hours.
My biggest question I had throughout reading was more about the translation. I wonder if Maroh translated it or if she hired a translator. Some of the lines seemed…I don’t know, non-native? Almost as if whoever translated clearly knew English, but it definitely want the language most comfortable for them. In any work of fiction, there’s a sort of poetry that’s inherent when it’s in its native tongue, that with a REALLY good translator you can hope to get through, but I didn’t get that.
I read it in Spanish and the translation was incredible. But I can’t say anything about the English translation. :(
Yes, I was definitely taken out of the narrative when Emma was walking around naked in Clementine’s parents’ house. That’s almost creepy, especially since Emma was supposed to be older and more experienced. (Having absolutely nothing to do with sexual orientation — it’s pretty rude and presumptuous to do that. Nobody wants to see their kid’s sex partner naked in the kitchen, no matter who it is!)
Also agreed on the bizarre time-jump, but the age of the author certainly informs that. I was glad (MOVIE SPOILER ALERT!) that they altered some of that in the film adaptation, despite it spanning as many years. I loved the graphics and definitely didn’t regret reading it (took around a half hour total), but did find it to be somewhat… rudimentary, for lack of a better word. Knowing more about the author certainly explains that.
Bonus comment: I was on the subway at one point and turned the page to one of the more graphic sex scenes (was not expecting that yet). The elderly rabbi sitting next to me then read over my shoulder the entire rest of the ride. So I’ll always have THAT awkward experience!
I agree about the time jump, and how some things just didn’t add up. Like walking around your partner’s parents’ house naked and how it seems that her parents were clueless about a 13 year relationship. Well, okay, after she died, the father made things really tense when Emma came to visit and read Clementine’s diary, so obviously they knew then.
I agree the story has some negative points. When I saw that she went naked to the kitchen I was like whaat? that would never happen! And of course as soon as she did, I knew she was going to be found.
A thing I liked though is the colouring. As you said it starts out black and white, then some blue starts popping out and we get the feeling that blue is inviting, warm and represents love. Then during the 13-year bridge we get some purples and then the later years are more represented with yellows (coincidentally the colour of Emma’s hair) and the blue is almost gone, maybe to represent the absence of that warmth and the beginning of the bad things. After the break up its mostly greens (especially the hospital parts). I think the colouring of the book (together with the art of course) is what bring it together, expressing emotions in a way the author possibly couldn’t quite put in writing.
As for the story itself, the beginning is great, a cute-ish (minus the throwing out of the house) love story, but I agree that after 13 years of living with the same very-open-about-her-sexuality girlfriend they would have had some divergences already on this subject. We don’t really see the circumstances of why she cheated (unless we are to believe that she still wants to be straight) or how they relationship evolved in those 13 years. It lacks a lot on the later years.
I have not had the opportunity to read this book or see the movie, both things which I am desperately sad about. So I would like to enter to win a copy but am afraid of being spoiled but my comment should be about the book so this is a struggle.
I do kind of wonder if there are people who identify with this story as their story, and whether that changes with the book vs. the movie.
The description of the plot makes me kind of not want to read it (another dead lesbian? Really?), but the way you talk about the art makes me change my mind all over again! The older I get, the pickier I get about comic book art, but the panels I’ve seen of this book are gorgeous and I like the way the rest of it sounds in this review.
I think I’m just going to get this from the library, because I’m so torn I don’t want to spend money on it and end up angry at myself. The art is amazing, but the older I get the crankier I get and the less patience I have for teenage narratives, so it sounds like it’s a 50/50 toss up if I’ll like this or not.
I cannot handle how much I loved this book. I absolutely loved everything about it, the story, the beautiful artwork, everything. Maybe it is because I identified so much with Clementine. Her life is basically mine, with the family and friend drama and hiding from everyone with so many secrets and fears. This is probably why I was so touched by this book and cried until I had a savage headache. I am going to keep my copy forever.
Wow, she was 19!!!
I have wanted a copy of this book for a while and am excited to see the movie as well.
The knowledge that Maroh wrote this at 19 is fascinating considering it was set up in a semi-flash-back way with Emma reading Clementine’s diaries. While reading I thought it was curious that modern day Emma had little insight to contribute even though the story was told through her eyes (of Clementine’s words). Had Maroh been older perhaps we would have seen more reflection and felt a little less abandoned by the story at the end.
As far as the book/artwork go, I reaaally loved it. I read Jerusalem by Guy Delisle for a class once and he had a similar way of using (lack of) color that really complimented the emotional content in his panels; I feel like Maroh’s color did the same thing and sort of subtly guided the reader to pay closer attention to the richer aspects of her story.
I share many of the feelings regarding her time-frame and the end of the narrative. I also did not know what age she was when originally writing the novel, so there’s that.
Overall, I feel like it’s a solid graphic novel if you consider the art alongside the narrative. I’ve enjoyed others more and less. I was super impressed, though, with her style of art and how she handed Clementine fantasizing about Emma early on in the book and how Clementine freaks out and that kind of unleashes this flood of emotions and her questioning her attraction. An entire separate thread could be done on the film, but I really loved the way they handled it in the film too. It’s only a few minutes into the (long-ass) film, but I was already tearing up; it was definitely familiar and struck a chord.
I really, really wanna read this and see the movie, but alas, money.
I usually try to keep an author’s biographical information out of the picture when reading a book, but knowing Maroh’s age really illuminates some things in the book. I agree that you can definitely write characters that aren’t your age, and do it well, but I think Maroh’s problem comes back to “write what you know”. The experiences that feel real likely feel real because Maroh had experienced, witness, or feared experiencing them herself. There doesn’t seem to be any “knowing” surrounding the more hollow experiences– what it actually feels like to be in a 13 year relationship with someone who is closeted, what it actually feels like to grapple with addiction.
Though very different, my thoughts about the book are similar to the thoughts I had leaving the movie: “Sigh. I so wanted you to be better”.
I read and reviewed this graphic novel for a different site (paperdroids.com, check it out!)and I had many of the same feelings as everyone else here. To me, it was a old, overdone, kind of boring coming-of-age and coming out story that we’ve seen a million times or more, done in a totally beautiful, artistic, original way. And that’s okay I think.
Splitting it up so you think about the art and the story separately is a good idea, because the art is absolutely stunning while the story is merely meh, but I agree that this is not the way graphic novels are supposed to work. Fun Home is a good analogy, because that is a story that could literally be told in no other medium (thought I’m VERY excited to eventually see the musical adaptation of it, especially since Alison Bechdel gave it her blessing).
So while I definitely enjoyed reading this graphic novel, it did not strike to the heart of me the way other works have, and the way I was promised this would. So I was slightly disappointed, but I think that goes more to the way this book was hyped that to anything truly failing in the work itself.
It’s interesting to me that she was only 19 when she wrote this… that really does put her take on the coming out/romantic evolution process in perspective. I, too, was surprised by both the naked walking around AND the ending. Didn’t really feel like Maroh earned it to be able to insert those sorts of plot twists then and there.
I agree with everything that you wrote. In a way, it did remind me of the fanfictions I used to read as a teen a few years ago. The story certainly has a heart, that’s for sure, but it feels unfinished. Clementine gains strength and character through her teenage years, and that is so very well depicted, but then it all falls apart, and it really doesn’t make much sense. At least not the way it’s told; the story is in desperate need of some more background and slower pacing. Unfortunately it falls into the common tragic-lesbian-narrative we all are so familiar with culturally. And it’s such a shame! I mean, I’m not saying it has to have a happy ending, but if you’re going to tell a sad story, do it well and thoroughly. Let us rest, let us reflect on what we just read and saw. All in all, it’s not a bad story. It was entertaining, and touching at parts, so that’s nice. Not bad for a 19 year old, at all. And very good use of colors; I like the way she creates an atmosphere that suits the story so well. I hopes she keeps improving her drawing and storytelling; she definitely has potential!
As a sixteen-year-old, semi-closeted queer person, this book did a lot for me. I’m in those emotionally charged teenage years experienced both by the author and the protagonist, and I relate well to that part of the story. Of all of the queer film and literature that I have managed to digest in the last year or so, not a whole lot of it speaks to queer youth. “But I’m a Cheerleader” is amazing, but the story is detached from everyday life in a way that “Blue is the Warmest Color” isn’t. Another film that comes to mind is “The Incredible Story of Two Girls in Love” (Baby Laurel Holloman!) but I had trouble relating to either main character. I thought that the beginning of the novel was beautiful, well done, and inspiring. The incident with Clem’s parents was (despite being somewhat unrealistic) terrifying to me. I could understand the homophobia and internal struggles that Clem had in her youth. The book made me feel more normal and less alone, even when the ending fizzled.
I loved the beginning of the story, but felt slightly lost after the time jump. As a 19 year old, I saw a lot of myself in this story and in some ways my relationship reflected Clem and Emma’s. A lot of it felt painfully real, especially the scene where she falls into the black abyss when she finds out that her friends think she’s a lesbian. The book was moving at the perfect speed, and then I just wanted way more of her later life. I wanted an explanation of the pills, and more time with her death. I assume Emma and the mother had a lot of time together, and I wanted to see their interactions.
I cringed and was mentally yelling at Emma for walking downstairs naked… like come on. Why would you do that?? It seemed so contrived and just a way to get Clem kicked out. AND if I was Clem I would have been pissed at Emma because that could have been easily avoided by putting clothes on.
I read this after seeing the movie and someone said it was better. It was. I liked the art and use of color. I thought it did a good job of capturing the fear of coming out and the excitement of first love. I did think the naked Emma was inconsistent with the story and reality. If I walked into the kitchen and found one of my sons’ SOs naked, I wouldn’t be thrilled (regardless of their gender). And the ending felt like somebody didn’t know how to end it. But knowing she wrote it at 19 definitely makes me cut her some slack. I wouldn’t have known how to end it at 19 either. I also got “superficial conclusion” on all my essays in high school English so I’m not really one to talk.
I kind of wish I’d read this before seeing the film. On the one hand, this is about as true to life a lesbian-orientated graphic novel as you’re going to get (sex and death included). The time-shift/jump is a bit off-putting and took me a little while to realise what had actually happened, having to go back and re-read the last few pages to have my brain catch-up. But saying this, I really do love it. My girlfriend and I felt the same about the film too – it was long but in places it was unmistakably raw and actually hit a nerve because this is what we all go through or have been through at some point.
Back to the book though, there are always going to be plot points that don’t appear to fit but the naked walking around the house and being kicked out scene actually rings of some truth – someone being confident enough to walk around “in their own skin” but coming up against prejudice and dislike and discomfort from those that are seen as being the ones who should love you no matter what. I mean, that’s what I read into that scene, anyway. I know that I’ve done a midnight flit to the toilet naked but this is in a house full of lesbians so no chance of being kicked out for that…
My final call on it? I’m a fan and the illustration style has something intrinsically French to it. It’s smooth and doesn’t detract from the storyline, adding to it when it needs to and ultimately being able to help move the story forward.
How will we know who the lucky comment author was who won the book?
Oh, you definitely hit all the spots that I felt weird about. Especially the Emma-just-going-downstairs-in-her-birthday-suit thing, and the fact that Clementine just stayed closeted for so long? Like, both of those things should have caused more conflict between the two of them than they actually did.
But as a 19-yr-old queer who just recently came out, I appreciated the earlier stuff, like Clem’s total confusion over her identity, the conversation that she has with Valentin on the Ferris wheel when they both sort of come out to each other, and even the time when Clem’s friend kisses her (even though it was a little unrealistic). So…mixed bag.