La Perdida

Jessica Abel, Author . Pantheon $19.95 (275p) ISBN 978-0-375-42365-9

Carla Olivares, a young Mexican-American woman, goes to Mexico City to try to get in touch with her Mexican side. She's got her own, distorted ideas about what that means, and her annoyance with an old boyfriend who's leading his idea of the romantic expatriate life (by hanging out exclusively with other expats) makes her even more nervous about coming off like an outsider. She starts hanging out with a bunch of local lowlifes and blowhards who feed her guilt about being a privileged "conquistadora." They talk big (about stardom and revolution), but barely scrape by on petty crime—which eventually becomes not so petty, and sucks Carla into a vortex of fear and violence. Abel's published several books of her shorter comics stories, but for her first long-form graphic novel she's developed a new, impressively assured style, built around bold, rough brushstrokes. She's got a telegraphic command of body language—her characters' faces are simplified to the point where their eyes are usually just dots—and the backgrounds nicely evoke the architecture and heat of Mexico City. What really makes the story compelling, though, is Abel's sensitivity to character and dialogue—Carla is the narrator, but she's hardly a heroine, and the way crucial meanings are lost in translation ratchets up the dramatic tension. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/16/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 275 pages - 978-0-375-71471-9
Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-307-49637-9
Hardcover - 270 pages - 978-1-59497-367-3
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