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Swallow Me Whole

3.65  ·  Rating Details ·  2,116 Ratings  ·  252 Reviews
Swallow Me Whole is a love story carried by rolling fog, terminal illness, hallucination, apophenia, insect armies, secrets held, unshakeable faith, and the search for a master pattern to make sense of one's unraveling. Two adolescent stepsiblings hold together amidst schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, family breakdown, animal telepathy, misguided love, and the ...more
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published December 2nd 2008 by Top Shelf Productions (first published July 8th 2008)
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Community Reviews

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Mar 02, 2009 Troy rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, read-in-2009
Damnit! I just wrote a long ass review and the goddamn internet ate it up and shit it out in some unknowable aether. Fuckers.


The review was good, but now you're just going to have to trust me on that because there's no way in fucking hell I'm re-typing it.

Anyway, I've been following Nate Powell since I found his punk-inspired minis, and he was and is one of the best draftsmen in comics today. That said, he often spirals off into doodle-y dream-narratives with tons of boring-to-read expe
Seth T.
Jun 18, 2009 Seth T. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
It's almost cliche at this point to praise Nate Powell's Swallow Me Whole, but it's not like there's any honest alternative. The book is just too good for anything else. Talented illustrator? Check. Talented storyteller? Check. Imaginative? Funny? Insightful? Worthwhile? All systems are go. Powell's art reminds me of some delicate hybrid between Craig Thompson and David Lapham—and amusingly, Swallow Me Whole is like some strange cross-pollination between Blankets and Silverfish.

Okay, well not re
David Schaafsma
Powell is described as working full time with people with developmental disabilities. He also runs a punk record label and performs in several bands... and oh, yeah, does these amazing, detailed graphic novels, by the way...This is my first encounter with him, in this story about a family dealing with a dying grandmother who is losing it, and two teens dealing with early onset schizophrenia/hallucination. The focus is on the two kids, with primary focus on the girl's more serious, less able to h ...more
Sarah Beaudoin
Jan 25, 2011 Sarah Beaudoin rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
I expected Swallow Me Whole to be a sweet, melancholy story of adolescence. I was unprepared for how disturbing and sad it is. I was also disturbed to get partway into the book and realize that the awesomely cute character Powell had drawn in my signed copy was actually an anthropomorphic pill.

There are a lot of pills in Swallow Me Whole. The story centers around siblings Ruth and Perry, who each have their hidden adolescent demons which manifest in different ways. Perry draws and Ruth obsesses
Feb 08, 2016 Jana rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
This was strange, very strange, but captivating.
Nicola Mansfield
Nov 23, 2009 Nicola Mansfield rated it liked it
This book is deep and difficult for me to write about as I'm not sure I "got" the whole thing. I'll make an attempt at my impressions. Two siblings both have psychological problems. The girl, Ruth, is the main character and suffers from delusions, paranoia, schizophrenia and OCD while her brother seems to suffer on a lesser degree from delusions. They also have their grandmother living at home with them as she is dying and also delusional. The book follows the girl's descent into madness while t ...more
Tom Waters
Oct 23, 2010 Tom Waters rated it it was amazing
Hook, Line & Sinker: Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole

Once a year (at best), I come across a title so powerful that it compels me to stop back at the comic store and devour everything else that the author has written. From every standpoint imaginable, Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell is an unmitigated masterpiece. You can read four dozen black and white titles this year before you find something that even begins to approach the beauty, scope, originality and genius of this story. I’m not one to
Oct 29, 2016 Patrick rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 13, 2009 Lobeck rated it it was ok
Shelves: comics
I had such high hopes for a longer comic by Nate Powell, but this book really fell short of my expectations. A lot of the story was hard to follow, which may have been somewhat intentional since the story deals with schizophrenia, but unfortunately that doesn't make it any less difficult to understand. If he had done a better job moving between external narrator and character experience, I would have had more tolerance for some of the confusion. For example, I discovered that the main characters ...more
Jul 28, 2011 Sarah added it
Shelves: graphic-novels, ya
I didn't like this book. It was really confusing and hard to follow - partially because the characters were not introduced in a clear way in the beginning and partially because the drawings were so muddled it was often hard to tell what you were looking at. Some of that was stylistic choices - I guess this is what it feels to be schizophrenic? - but really it just made the book confusing to the point where it was hard to care about any of the characters because you never really knew what was goi ...more
Aug 15, 2014 Keegan rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
This was one of the first purchases I made at one of my first Comic-Con. Nate Powell himself talked me into,the purchase after we enjoyed a brief conversation about the nature of comic criticism. I offhandedly mentioned thinking about how comics can illustrate (literally) intangible things, like time. He suggested, as all good salesmen do, this book as he renders images of mental illnesses.

Mental illness, in this case schizophrenia, can be hard for visual narratives because the disability itsel
Richard Van Camp
Nov 08, 2012 Richard Van Camp rated it it was amazing
You know this is a great graphic novel if you’ve done your best to read it twice and then Google the title so you can read what this book was actually about! Nate Powell pushes what illustrated literature can achieve in Swallow Me Whole because a movie, a novel, a mobisode, a poem, a short story—any other genre couldn’t accomplish what’s been achieve here. This novel is about two step siblings suffering from mental illness. I was confused exactly about which character was afflicted with schizoph ...more
Jan 23, 2011 Jacki rated it liked it
Summary: Two step-siblings struggle with mental disorders, one plagued by imaginary bugs and voices of dead creatures, the other by a tiny wizard on his pencil who tells him what to do.

Verdict: A solid but strange piece with a few flaws.

Yay!: Graphic novel format is a terrific way to treat the topic of hallucinatory disorders, because the reader can see what the character sees. Occasionally the reader doesn't know if they are looking at reality or delusion, but that's the point. This story is a
Peter N. Trinh
Jan 11, 2009 Peter N. Trinh rated it it was ok
A very surreal look, and an extremely insane take on sequential art. Of course, that was the goal, so such indeed does the comic justice.

Unfortunately, it's not of my typical fare, so I didn't enjoy this work as much as I probably should have. While the setting is very familiar to most, there is no development of characters or setting added to the story; much of it is meant to be understood already, and the comic has an atmosphere that may be alienating to some readers.

The visuals are nothing sh
Aug 17, 2010 Shannon rated it it was amazing
My favourite graphic novel to date, Swallow Me Whole in a consuming glimpse into the life of a family with hereditary mental illness. Using dark and dream-like graphics and sparse dialogue, Powell masterfully develops the tone of the novel, and he easily convinces you that mental illness is another dimension into which anyone can easily slip.

Right from the start, the book is rich in symbolism - the first page of the book shows a dejected frog being preserved in a specimen jar. Later, we meet a l
Oct 19, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it
I decided to read this book after reading an article in which famous comic book writers were asked to recommend to readers some of their favorite graphic novels. Jeff Lemire, of whose work I am a huge fan, recommended Swallow Me Whole, an Eisner Award winning book by Nate Powell. It's about two step-siblings who are suffering from various mental illnesses and the effects that those illnesses have on their lives and the lives of their family members. The story is deeply affecting on its own, but ...more
Feb 02, 2009 Walter rated it it was amazing
Two step-siblings hold together amidst schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, family loss and dysfunction, animal telepathy, misguided first love, and the tiniest hope that things will someday make sense. But the best way for things to make sense may well be to give in to the family madness.

Searingly brilliant. Hypnotic. Disorienting. The best graphic novel portrait of adolescence since BLANKETS, and this is a portrait of mental illness from the inside, to boot. Full of WTF moments where
Dec 29, 2009 Patricia rated it it was ok
This was a confusing book about a family with many mental problems- a grandmother, brother and sister. It wasn't clear to me exactly what those problems were and I had to read the reviews to find out the exact nature of the problems, which included OCD and schizophrenia and hallucinations. I found it rather unbelievable that these two teens were able to navigate through the world so well when they were also trying to cope with mental illness, and their parents seemed rather clueless to me. Too m ...more
Sep 30, 2012 Kirsten rated it really liked it

This is a compelling and beautiful account of mental illness and hallucination. It feels a bit like Powell has given us a small window and allowed us to feel, at a visceral level, what it's like to experience such things. It's terrifying, but also incredibly compelling and even beautiful.

I actually read the last section three or four times to try to suss out what exactly happened, which is a little frustrating, maybe, but I think it's one of those endings that you have to sort of relax into
May 17, 2010 Anina rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels, teen
The illustrations are beautiful and the whole thing is psychadelic in a thoughful way. This book is getting a lot of praise and that's because it is very good! It's kinda like "Lost", if Lost were a book about teenagers with schizophrenia (and there's still two weeks for it to turn out that way!).

Also like Lost, I am not always sure what's going on in this book. That's why, four stars not five.
Dec 05, 2009 Emily rated it it was ok
Shelves: y2009-graphic
A few parts that I enjoyed, and overall I liked the artwork, but overall just meh. This book didn't Swallow Me Whole, as it were. It ended up feeling pretty surface-oriented for something dealing with such a heavy topic. I liked Alison Bechtel's depiction of childhood OCD much better. And David Small's Stitches was much more haunting and taut.
Brea Grant
Nov 12, 2008 Brea Grant rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes comics not about superheroes
Recommended to Brea by: zane
a great indie comic that deals with schizophrenia and family.
to be perfectly honest, i'm not sure i understood it 100% of the time, but i somehow still got a lot out of it.

i would suggest trying to read it in one or two sittings as well. spread out over a week or two, it was hard to keep up with.
Nov 10, 2008 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Magical, touching, captivating, funny, and beautifully drawn, this is probably the best graphic novel I've read this year.
Nick Kives
Feb 22, 2011 Nick Kives rated it liked it
I read this and while I was reading, all I was thinking was "What the hell is going on." But thinking about it afterward, it was actually a pretty interesting read.
Oct 16, 2012 Jason rated it really liked it
Engaging, mysterious, beautfiully drawn.
Tom Gaetjens
Dec 13, 2016 Tom Gaetjens rated it liked it
Similar to Powell's Any Empire, this book does climax with a so much magical realism that the magic starts to overpower the real. Unlike Any Empire, this logic of the story was a bit easier to suss out and the finished product was, for me, more effective for this reason.
Adam Šilhan
Jan 11, 2017 Adam Šilhan rated it it was ok
Dost možná na to intelektuálně nedostačuji, ale bohužel to šlo mimo mě. Mrzí mě to. Věřil jsem, že se mi bude líbit.
Dov Zeller
I went into this one thinking, "this is gonna be good." Because it gets much praise, and also I just read "Any Empire" which had some great moments and a lot of the reviewers said, "good, but not as great as the amazing 'Swallow Me Whole'"... I found both of the books very uneven. With fascinating and compelling moments, but on the whole, hard to follow in ways that don't for me add to the power of the work, but just to my sense of confusion.

In "Swallow Me Whole" I was most interested in the re
Eric Rabkin
Sep 26, 2016 Eric Rabkin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
True for adolescents and others still growing

A subtle depiction of the extremes we may all feel in the face of chaos or loss. Beautifully paced, intelligently, drawn. A book I will recommend to others both as art and because it helps make sense of both mental disorder and supposedly ordered lives.
Feb 05, 2015 Ollie rated it liked it
It tickles my fancy seeing punks so fully embrace independent comics and actually improve the medium. Perhaps this reflects a punk ethos of sorts or maybe it's just that they hold themselves to the same standards as "professionals" do. These people take their work seriously.

Nate Powell's Swallow Me Whole has gotten a lot of attention over the years. While most stories focus on a beginning, middle, and end, Swallow Me Whole is mostly focused on the middle. It tells the story of a "dysfunctional"
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