The Greatest Thing

Sarah Winifred Searle. First Second, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-29723-5

Searle’s semi-autobiographical graphic novel covers teen relationships, mental health, art-making, and disordered eating with crackling specificity. In 2002, Winifred Cunningham is an anxious white 10th grader whose closest friends have recently transferred to other schools. Win, who is self-conscious about eating in front of others, “trick[s]” her body “into forgetting it was hungry by making it sick instead” at night and stays awake worrying. But she soon befriends wealthy, enthusiastic April, cued as white and nonbinary, and poetic, pansexual Oscar, who has brown skin. The three share a love of art and struggle with self-esteem, and they find an outlet by creating a zine, Gutterglimmers, which evolves over the course of the story, conveyed in full issues accompanied by zine-making instructions. With help from her empathic mom, meds, and a guidance counselor, Win eventually takes self-expression from the pages of her zine to real life, and finally reciprocates the overtures of a welcoming friend. Spare illustrations with a limited palette add to a visually and emotionally satisfying read about escaping depression and loneliness through art-making. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jennifer Linnan, Linnan Literary Management. (Jan.)
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