In Waves

This graphic novel interweaves the biographies of two historically significant surfers with the autobiographical narrative of the young contemporary protagonist, who also surfs. What it also depicts is the kind of reverence that the activity evokes. This aspect of the book offers an effectively researched history, combined with an emotional engagement with surfing.

What the book is actually about, though, is the nature of grief and coming to terms with loss. The protagonist’s narrative charts his initial meeting with Kristen, to whom the book is also dedicated, and the growth of their relationship. It also charts the course of the cancer that eventually kills Kristen, and her determination to live life as fully as possible despite her illness.

It is a complex narrative which employs two muted colour schemes, one consisting of blues and turquoises, the other various shades of brown, to differentiate the narratives being told. The drawn line is clean, sparse and evocative, the overall effect lyrical. The page layouts make great use of place to establish context and create a sense of movement in relation to surfing, and the narrative tells of the solace it offers the protagonist.

This is a lovely piece of work, and very moving. It is a challenging read that will attract both adults and young adults. It also offers readers a space in which to engage with the powerful emotions the book contains, and, perhaps, come to understand them more, whether through empathy, or through reflection on personal experience.