Monday, July 12, 2010

Graphic Novel Monday: Mercury, by Hope Larson

Mercury, by Hope Larson. Published 2010 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

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In 2007, author and illustrator Hope Larson won an Eisner Award as an up-and-coming talent in the comics world; her book Mercury is ample demonstration of why.

In Mercury, she tells two stories which take place in the same setting albeit at different times. In 1859 in Nova Scotia, a young girl named Josey meets a handsome, intriguing stranger named Asa Curry, who promises to help her father find riches in the hills. He seems to have a particular talent for finding gold but there's something not quite right about him, and her mother is deeply suspicious. In the present day, 10th grader Tara Fraser is dealing with the stress of losing her family home to fire. Quite by accident, she finds a very special necklace, a family heirloom that also belonged to Josey- one that might hold the answers to her family's problems.

Larson tells the stories by alternating between the two, varying the visual style slightly as she goes back and forth. Throughout she uses a black and white style that I found particularly effective in the 1850s sequences, where much of the story takes place in dark woods and stormy nights. The black background adds both a spooky and old-fashioned feel, perfect for whistling winds and pitch-black forests. I liked how Larson opens the book by showing how the same patch of land changes over the years, from virgin forest to suburban neighborhood. And in the present-day sequences, I like the sense of setting Larson creates. Tara's not just living in a generic town, or even a generic Canadian town; Larson's use of local slang, nomenclature and cuisine creates a very specific sense of place.

Overall I'd recommend Mercury with enthusiasm for anyone interested in graphic novels. The combination of the two stories works well; Tara's sweet coming of age tale mixed with rescue fantasy compliments Josey's dark and dangerous tale of superstition and doomed love. The book is aimed at readers 12 and up and I would have no problem giving this to a young adult or teen reader. I think graphic novel newcomers would also enjoy this book. It's a fine example of the form; I heard that Larson is working on the graphic adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time; I can't wait to read it, and anything else Larson does in the future.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.


Mystica said...

My experience with graphic novels is zero and actually I doubt I have even seen one. I should go look for one to know what its like.

Trisha said...

I like the idea of interweaving stories in graphic novels. Thanks for the suggestion.

Zibilee said...

I have been love dual narrative stories, so this one sounds good to me. I also like that the author varies the artwork between the two sections. Glad you liked this one. It might make a good read for my kids as well!

bermudaonion said...

I've only read one graphic novel that had more than one story and it wasn't my favorite. This one sounds like it's done better since it has different visual styles.

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent review, Marie. The story line sounds like a good one.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I would be a graphic novel newcomer, and I think I'd be interested to give this a whirl -- thanks for posting!

Anonymous said...

i enjoyed larson's 'chiggers' and 'gray horses' will have to check out this one as well.

thanks for the post.

Marie Cloutier said...

Mystica, this is a good one to start with!

Trisha- it's a nice book.

Zibilee, I think it would be great for middle readers and teens :-)

Bermuda, it's just a slight variation but enough to get the point across.

JewWishes, thank you!

Coffee, yes, this a great one for newbies to graphic novels!

Contemplatrix- great! you'll enjoy it if you're already a larson fan.

Amanda said...

I read another one by Larson (Gray Horses, I think it was called?) and it's definitely time for me to read something else. I've seen this around quite a bit and it looks very interesting.