cover image But You Have Friends

But You Have Friends

Emilia McKenzie. Top Shelf, $14.99 trade paper (116p) ISBN 978-1-60309-527-3

In her candid graphic memoir debut, McKenzie pays tribute to her longtime friend Charlotte, who died by suicide, sketching her memories of their relationship with loving humor. When “E and C” meet in high school in a town outside London in 1999, Emilia, whose childhood was spent being dragged along by her globe-trotting family, finds a best friend for the first time. The pair share a passion for books, movies, and mixtapes, and the outspoken, opinionated C introduces E to political activism and encourages her to start drawing diary comics. She also shows glimpses of depression and suicidal ideation. As the two grow up, they remain close even when living apart, and regularly travel together. But when C’s lifelong mental health problems worsen, she’s hospitalized, and then ends her own life at age 34. After C’s death, E is left wondering, “If we can’t, or won’t, save each other... what’s the point?” The funeral and wake take place only days before E’s wedding, deepening her grief and sense of leaving her friend behind. McKenzie creates a scrapbook of vignettes, some brief and lighthearted, others longer and emotionally wrenching, that gradually form a moving narrative. The friendly, character-focused art, reminiscent of Roz Chast, draws the reader gently in. This restrained and resonant portrait of friendship finds meaning in small moments of connection. (Aug.)