After the immense success of the best-selling, Eisner Award-winning Smile, it’s no surprise that Raina Telgemeier has created another graphic memoir. Sisters takes a somewhat wider view, looking at her family, particularly her relationship with her younger sister.
The book is structured around a family road trip from California to Colorado in a minivan driven by their mother and including Raina, the five-years-younger Amara, and youngest brother Will. They’re going to a family reunion, but first, they have to survive camping, a huge storm, screaming siblings, and Raina’s fear of snakes.
When younger, Raina wished for a sister to share things with, but the arrival didn’t match her dreams. From the first time they met, they didn’t get along, with the baby crying when placed in her big sister’s lap. In Raina’s telling, Amara was always angry and determined to do something else from whatever was expected. The two girls both liked drawing, but even that was a competition. You can imagine how much fun the two have trapped in a car for days together.
The family is used to living in cramped quarters, with the five of them in a two-bedroom San Francisco apartment. One of the most interesting elements of the story is the portrayal of the strategies they work out to get some space alone (even if it’s an illusion). Raina depends on music played through headphones, while Amara struggles to use their computer, given its location in the living room.
Raina’s simple, direct style and bold lines make for easy to read panels, with emotions exaggerated through large saucer eyes. It’s pleasant and comfortable, with skilled storytelling so readers never wonder what’s happening. The voyage structure allows for images of various scenery, and along the way, flashbacks show incidents from their growing up together.
Near the end, we finally get a little insight into Amara’s point of view; until then, we see her only from Raina’s perspective, as an annoyance. There’s also a larger family question raised but not answered, but that’s what happens with autobiography. Events don’t always resolve cleanly, with clear answers.
Sisters will be successful with the many young readers that made Smile such a hit. Although the particular event may be unusual — not many families want to spend a week on the road — the elements are universally applicable to anyone with a sibling. I found the family reunion scenes particularly painful, as the sisters don’t fit in with the youngest cousins, running around full of energy, nor the older teenagers, concerned with what’s cool.
Sisters is due out in August through the direct market and can be ordered from your local comic shop with Diamond code JUN14 1280. There’s also a hardcover edition priced at $24.99 (order as JUN14 1281) and a box set with the previous Smile ($21.98, JUN14 1282). Find out more at the author’s website or read an online preview. (The publisher provided an advance review copy.)