Between reading Lumberjanes and watching the premiere of the newly re-vamped Powerpuff Girls, my week was filled with monster-fighting girl power, which is exactly how a week should be. In fact, as a subgenre, monster-fighting girl power is one of the main components of my wheelhouse, and I’ve been excited to get my hands on this volume for a long time. I’ve been a fan of Noelle Stevenson’s work ever since I read her graphic novel Nimona last year, and Lumberjanes completely met my expectations.
Lumberjanes is a young adult graphic novel about five teenage girls at an unusual summer camp (called Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types, which tells you pretty much everything you need to know). While the girls try to participate in normal camp activities like canoeing and plant identification, the appearance of some gigantic monster or mysterious tunnel always seems to lead them off course. As the girls work to outsmart and defeat every monster that comes their way, they begin to piece together clues about something mysterious and supernatural happening in their camp; something that, it seems, needs to be solved by a kick-butt group of friends.
Lumberjanes is delightful mostly because of its wholly imaginative and entertaining storytelling. Every element works together so nicely–I mean, what doesn’t sound perfect about a group of teenage girls solving mysteries in a camp filled with monsters? It’s just impossible not to have fun. The dialogue is also fast and funny, and the art style accents that sense of humor perfectly. It’s hard to describe, but the pacing of the story and art style together makes each page feel almost animated. The humor and storylines are fast and entertaining, but it’s also worth it to slow down and really look at the pictures. The book is beautifully illustrated. The monster designs are scary, but also zany and fun, and the outdoor environment is so colorful and alive. The environment of the story is so encompassing as you read, which is so enjoyable.
Another thing that I really like about this book is its approach to presenting gender. You can get an idea from the fact that the camp advertises itself as one for “hardcore lady-types.” The five girls represent a broad spectrum of gender representation, not just along the tomboy/girly-girl divide, but outside of that binary altogether. There are even two characters that seem to be developing feelings for one another, opening up the inclusion of LGBT-themes. Each character is just themselves, full of contradictions and difficult to categorize, but completely unique and identifiable, just like real people are. And they are all so strong, and not just in a generic way involving superhuman abilities and tight spandex clothing. They solve puzzles, use math and science, and figure out how to best work together. They’re sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t negate their ability to rise to the occasion, often relying on each other. It’s a great portrait of female community and strength that’s so wonderful to see, especially in a work aimed towards younger readers.
So, if feminist, LGBT-inclusive, monster-fighting, outdoorsy graphic novels sound like something you’d be into, go find a copy of this book. If it doesn’t, I’m not sure how much you’re getting out of this blog. (Also, a fun note for those in Columbus: Grace Ellis is giving a talk at Ohio State on Wednesday, April 13 at 5:30 p.m. Details here).