cover image Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary

Keshni Kashyap and Mari Araki. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $18.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-618-94519-1

Tina, an Indian-American living in San Francisco, writes an illustrated diary to Jean-Paul Sartre as part of a semesterlong existentialism class in this charming coming-of-age story. Even if Tina’s background and high school are out of the ordinary, her problems are universal: Tina’s best friend ditches her for a boy and Tina has a crush on someone but has trouble making it work. All the while, Tina observes her older siblings’ love anxiety, her sister’s move back home after a broken heart, and her brother’s disastrous exploration of Indian dating sites. Tina’s purportedly existential observations on love and her contemplation of her own sorry existence will be familiar to witty young women troubled by low self-esteem. The artwork is sufficient, if a tad too simplistic at times. Occasionally the minimalist lines make it hard to differentiate between characters. Regardless, the amateur style of the book lends an air of authenticity that could be inspiring to teens unsure of their own burgeoning drawing skills. A story about Krishna lends the book its title. Tina is not religious herself, but she and her peers are exploring different religions as they grapple with racial identity. (Jan.)