cover image The Cliff

The Cliff

Manon Debaye, trans. from the French by Montana Kane. Drawn & Quarterly, $22.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-770-46694-4

The soft colored-pencil drawings in Debaye’s Angouleme award–winning, English-language debut graphic novel belie the tragic themes at its center. The story opens with Charlie and Astrid making a suicide pact, promising to jump off a cliff together before their 13th birthdays. Both are outsiders, who share a secret, budding friendship with an undercurrent of romance that thrums with the possibility of danger. Charlie (who presents as “not even a real girl... not even a dude,” according to one of her classmates) is angry and known as a good fighter, which earns her a place in their school’s gang of bullies. At home, when Charlie tells her mother “I’m going to kill myself,” her mom responds, “Sounds pretty spectacular” without looking up from the kitchen sink. A sensitive loner with strict parents, Astrid is bullied relentlessly, and Charlie won’t blow her cover to defend her friend. When Astrid publicly challenges Charlie to accept her, Charlie doubles down and turns on Astrid, leaving her more alone than ever. At multiple turns, there are opportunities for Charlie and other characters to speak their feelings. What they choose instead—silence, fistfights, and, in the case of Charlie’s mother, allegiance to her boyfriend over her kid—pushes them all closer to the cliff. Black-and-white birch trees and decaying animal corpses nod to the world of fairy tales. Readers will be haunted by this simultaneously modern and painfully timeless tale. (Nov.)