Page by Paige

Page by Paige cover

The story of a young woman finding herself as an artist while adapting to life in the big city has been told before, but never so well or in so graphically interesting a fashion as in Page by Paige.

Paige has moved with her parents to New York City from Charlottesville, Virginia, and she’s feeling lonely and unsure of herself. She misses her friends and a more natural setting and feels she can’t be truly herself in this new situation. She even sometimes wonders who her true self is. However, inspired by her painter grandmother, she’s determined to figure things out through making art.

She also makes some new friends and sets out on a program of self-improvement, including beginning to share her art and learning to cope with others’ reactions to it. Unlike many other teen stories of this type, her concerns aren’t about finding the latest fashion or getting a makeover — instead, she wants to learn to ask for help and open up to people, admirable qualities that make her a better person, not someone who better fits in.

Page by Paige cover

While still a true comic, this book has some of the most creative artistic layouts I’ve ever seen. But they’re not there just to be attractive, although they are, and they’re not sacrificing readability for design. They’re immediately understandable metaphors and expressions of her feelings and imagination and secret self. For example, Paige draws a two-headed version of herself, with the outer face calm while the inward-facing mouth screams. Everyone’s felt that way sometimes, as though they couldn’t let out their frustration. Or there’s one of my favorite panels, the one where Paige, sitting surrounded by photographs and missing the home she left, says to herself, “I hate how all my friends now live in picture frames.”

Not only is this a story many teens (or others facing life changes) will be able to relate to, it’s also a pretty good guidebook for developing creativity. Each chapter is structured as one of Paige’s rules for her sketchbook, such as “No more excuses! … draw a few pages each week.” or “Live a LOT to get better material. Let yourself feel everything.” or (one I particularly needed) “Let yourself FAIL. Don’t take it all so personally.”

Author Laura Lee Gulledge is very talented, imaginative in her observations, and skilled at showing them to us. Her work is both very personal and yet universal in appeal. While reading, I found myself seeing the world in a different way. By showing us Paige’s story of the virtues of creation, I learned how to think about my circumstances in new ways — and that’s the best accomplishment possible for an artistic work.

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