A curious ghost takes center stage in Lights, the third volume of Brenna Thummler’s bestselling middle-grade graphic novel trilogy, which will be published by Oni Press on September 6. The first volume, Sheets, was published by Oni Press in 2018.
The trilogy’s title refers to both the sheets that 13-year-old Marjorie Glatt washes in her family’s laundromat and the sheets that the ghosts who haunt it wear as their visible form. Marjorie is coping with the loss of her mother, who recently died in an accident, and Wendell, the ghost she befriends, is recently deceased and trying to navigate his new circumstances. Thummler doesn’t shy away from the heavy themes of grief, loss, and bullying, but she balances them with humor and relatable characters to create a story that is hopeful and uplifting.
Sheets was one of Oni Press’s bestsellers, and Thummler has expanded it into a trilogy. The second volume, Delicates, which published in 2020, depicts Marjorie’s deepening friendship with Wendell as she makes a new human friend, Eliza, at school. Both books were well received by readers and critics alike, with Sheets named one of Barnes & Noble’s Best Books of 2018 and Delicates making YALSA’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens list.
Now Oni has announced the third volume, Lights, to be published this fall. The news comes after a difficult year for Oni Press, which weathered a series of layoffs in 2022 that included most of the company’s top brass. In December, parent company Polarity announced that Hunter Gorinson, former v-p of business development at BOOM! Studios, would take the reins at Oni as president and publisher.
Lights focuses on Wendell, depicting his life before he became a ghost. As his memories begin to dim, he teams up with Marjorie and Eliza to find some answers, and they begin to wonder if his death was actually an accident. At the same time, Marjorie starts to befriend some of their classmates who bullied Eliza, putting their friendship to the test.
“Lights takes a small step outside of where the first two books have been, into a space that’s more snowy, sad, and suspenseful,” Thummler said. “With Wendell at the forefront, this book examines the complexities of relationships as all three protagonists grow more self-aware.”
In both Sheets and Delicates, Thummler tells her story in a way that is appealing not only to middle-grade readers but also to young teens. Editor Grace Scheipeter attributes that to Thummler’s artwork and storytelling and also to the way she lets the characters grow. “Sheets and Delicates cover hard topics like grief and death, and the same is true for Lights,” she said. “Brenna carries through that same approach of tackling tough topics in a way that younger readers and YA readers can really connect to, but in the end, it’s still uplifting and comforting and relatable.”
For Thummler, finishing the trilogy has meant saying goodbye to Marjorie, Wendell, and Eliza. “These characters have lived in my headspace for the past six years, and in Lights especially, they have made me record some of their most hard-hitting experiences,” she said. “While there is always a sense of relief that comes from saying farewell to long-term house guests, there is also a heavy sort of emptiness, and it was important that I send them off the right way. Marjorie, Eliza, and Wendell have shaped me just as I have shaped them, and I hope readers will find a new kind of comfort in their final story.”