cover image Are You Listening?

Are You Listening?

Tillie Walden. First Second, $17.99 (320) ISBN 978-1-250-20756-2

Running from her home in small-town Texas, 18-year-old Bea meets Lou, who is taking a road trip to escape her grief after losing her mother. A short lift turns into a longer journey when they find a lost cat and decide to return it to its home. As they search the empty miles of Texas for a town that may not exist, the road takes them to increasingly strange places, and menacing strangers begin following them on a hunt for the cat. And as the two gradually grow to trust one another, Bea conveys her reason for running away: sexual assault by a family member. This latest by Walden (On a Sunbeam) uses heavily detailed illustrations and luminous, startling color to depict both surreal landscapes and subtle expressions, imbuing the story with equal parts paranoid tension and quiet wonder. The tale’s fantastic elements are a mixed success; some moments feel effectively executed (a claustrophobically cluttered gas station, roads and bridges that contort in impossible ways), while others feel awkwardly made to fit (menacing but extraneous villains, the cat’s hidden powers). Ultimately, the volume is most successful as a nuanced portrayal of the connection between Bea and Lou, nearly a decade apart in age but young and gay and navigating trauma and loss in rural Texas. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 14–up. Agent: Seth Fishman, the Gernert Company. [em](Sept.) [/em]