"Sabrina": Wasted potential, wasted pages.
Sabrina by Nick Drnaso
Sabrina, 27, goes missing and it's the story of the aftermath of her murder...but is she really dead? Her younger sister Sandra is trying to cope. Sabrina's boyfriend of two years, Teddy, has a nervous breakdown and moves into his friend Calvin's place in Colorado, and ghosts his house in underpants.
This is more a novel than a graphic novel, or rather a novel that has images in it. A typical American crime dramedy story of the type you watch on Discovery's Crime Files. Throw in some insensitive paparazzi, alternative facts, real news, fake news, conspiracy theorists, self-proclaimed experts on radio, and (ahem, ahem) American Herd Mentality on social media, and you have this novel.
While the missing case gets solved, the murderer found, and video of crime getting downloaded by 5 million people, I did feel the fear. This is like real-life; it is happening right in front of my eyes. The online trolls/investigative theorists questions the authenticity of the video, they question the authenticity of Sabrina's existence, ask the suffering boyfriend to speak out, and send death threats to Sandra and Calvin for uttering Sandra's name in place of Sabrina's because he was irritated by reporters.
But does this story give us anything new?
We have had better graphic novels, with much-much better art. The art is too clean and clinical, almost reminding you of a detached House of Cards world. The colour play and detailing is bare minimum; a finer form of the same style can be seen in Ritu Modan's books. Some panelling choices were good and interesting to read, and I liked where the dialogue box forces the character into a corner. But the lettering was definitely annoying!
And the characters, sad to say, were too white. We have hardly ten characters who speak in the book, and only Sandra's lover had a slight trace of colour. When we have read so many graphic novels of different kinds over the years, with great themes and political narratives, this book was disappointing by the existing standard. The meta-fiction ending was predictable from the very first page, and the only conversation Sabrina has with Sandra.
I got intrigued by the book, because of its name and the entire Booker Buzz around it. I read interviews of the author and goodreads reviews, and all the praise given in major news portals. It was the graphic novel of the year. And after reading it once, I thought I missed something, so I read it again slowly, and this time, I am wondering what made Booker pick it for the long list. It is such an overrated piece of work, it neither breaks the panel forms or narrative structure, nor does it bring in an interesting art style. The story loses its originality and becomes a drag of a read.
One of the most disappointing reads of 2019, Sabrina is such a wasted potential of a graphic novel. And it cost a dent in my purse too. I read it, so now you guys don't have to.