cover image Justine


Forsyth Harmon. Tin House, $19.95 (152p) ISBN 978-1-951142-33-9

Harmon’s debut illustrated novel (after the illustrated biography The Art of the Affair) is a spare but vivid exploration of a lonely teenager’s complicated life. Ali’s life is small: she lives with her soap opera–watching Swedish grandmother and her cat, Marlena, in a small house on Long Island in the mid-1990s. She develops a crush on Justine, the checkout girl at the local Stop and Shop, and begins following her lead by obsessing about weight and surviving on only fat-free yogurt and Diet Coke, throwing up when she’s consumed too much, reading Vogue, tearing out pages of models and hanging them on her bedroom walls, shoplifting, and becoming part of Justine’s small circle of friends. Ali also explores her sexuality through her attraction to Justine as well as Ryan, a boy who works at a gas station. As Ali’s relationship with Justine develops, the group gets into greater danger. The author’s clean, thin-lined illustrations add period detail to the prose’s cool lyricism, and though there are some mesmerizing passages, the reader glenas limited insight into Ali’s interior life. Harmon traces the nuances of a teenage female friendship’s fraught dynamics with clinical precision. Agent: Jin Auh, the Wylie Agency. (Mar.)