Generations is the first graphic novel by Flavia Biondi translated from Italian to English, and it’s a strong debut.
Matteo ran away from home three years ago to Milan, but now he’s slinking back to his small country town to live with his grandmother and his three aunts. He’s embarrassed that his life hasn’t been working out as planned, he feels like a failure, and he hasn’t spoken to his father because Matteo doesn’t believe dad accepts his coming out as gay.
The art is European, which means to me detailed, with a focus on character expression and unspoken feelings. Yet it’s unique in style, without too many fiddly bits, focusing only on what’s important to tell this story and establish these people as substantial and relatable in a fully realized environment.
The conflict between the mores of a new generation and the hidebound expectations of older people is a timeless one to portray, but Biondi deepens her story by also making Generations the story of Matteo learning a lot about himself, including finding a purpose. He’s been escaping from difficult situations, running away from struggle. Learning to care for his grandmother, a diabetic wheelchair user, has given him new appreciation for life skills. He also comes to understand giving people the benefit of the doubt and being willing to fight for what he believes in.
This is a particularly good read for the teen/young adult market. Matteo’s internal monologue is clear and straightforward about his feelings and how he changes, without being patronizing or sledgehammer-heavy. Although he starts out aimless (and I tend to agree with his self-assessment), I was rooting for him by the end, particularly once he started looking outside himself. Generations is an easy read that sneaks in empathy for Matteo and those like him. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)