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Escape from "Special"

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  310 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Fantagraphics Books is proud to follow up our launch of rising star R. Kikuo Johnson (author of the acclaimed Night Fisher) by showcasing Miss Lasko-Gross in her graphic- novel debut. Escape from "Special" is the coming-of-age story of Melissa, who we first meet as a small child and depart from at the end of the book just before she enters high school. Willful, funny, and ...more
Paperback, 176 pages
Published February 26th 2007 by Fantagraphics (first published February 1st 2007)
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3.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  310 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Dov Zeller
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This compilation of semi-autographical comics starts with Melissa as a six-year-old frustrated that she can't remember her birth and therefore can't know for sure that her mother is her birth mother as opposed to, for example, someone who kidnapped her. She becomes aware at that moment of the limits and complexity of memory and therefore of narrative. She wants desperately to hold on to this moment of awareness, to reassure herself that in six years she'll remember this day. This kind of existen ...more
Sooraya Evans
Oct 09, 2017 rated it did not like it
Another pointless semi-autobio graphic memoir about an angry kid.
Disjointed story flow with artwork quality that's somewhat inconsistent throughout.
Not fun at all :(
I wanted to love this book a lot more than I actually did, especially since it was described as a cross between David B., Lynda Barry & Judy Blume. And since I related to so much in it---the trouble with female friendships, not fitting in at school and everywhere else, the idea of escape (and I loved that for her it was through comics and horror movies, which matched my experience but not that of many girls I knew....and the escape into horror movies is something I have rarely encountered in ...more
Hannah Garden
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, march-2019
This is the first work I've read by this comixer and she is real damn hell ass cool. Her art totally creeps under your fingernails and the character is someone I would have smoked behind the school with back in the 90s when we were teeny little alternateens.

Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was ok
One more semi-autobiographical graphic novel telling of the author's childhood as an other. I'm still feeling a bit conflicted about this one. On the one hand, I liked the illustration style - instead of the spare drawings I usually enjoy, this is rich illustration. And I found the author's childhood fascinating - she keeps switching schools, seems to be raised by hippies, and has trouble reading. She's constantly torn between hating/disdaining the other kids at school, and wanting to be accepte ...more
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
A quick and easy read despite it's sometimes heavy subject manner, Escape from "Special" contains a series of semi-autobiographical vignettes. The topics are nothing new in the vast world of stories about "weird" kids: a child not fitting in, her parents trying to do what's best (but not always succeeding), and the struggle to become comfortable with oneself. There's not really an ongoing plot, either, so when I finished reading I couldn't help but wonder if there was any real point.

Still, Escap
Derek Royal
May 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is an episodic book, composed of stories mostly two to four pages in length -- the longest one is eleven pages -- but it reads cohesively and even "novelistic." We get to see Melissa, the protagonist, develop from a little girl into a junior high student. (The last stories end right before she begins high school.) So in this way, there's a progressive arrangement to the stories, and in many cases, one context in a strip will have been set up or referenced in the previous. While some might r ...more
Jan 06, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: comics
A collection of short vignettes about how the author was misunderstood by those around her when she was growing up. Each vignette only runs an average of three or four pages though, so there's not enough room for us to feel her angst. Instead she tells us about her angst. The longest pieces towards the end seem to almost totally consist of the main character sitting and thinking to herself about how she longs to fit in but hates those she longs to fit in with in panel after panel of the protagon ...more
Feb 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really liked both the art (which reminded me of a warmer, less grotesque Howard Cruse), and the story (which reminded me of a slightly more current but less playful Lynda Barry).

But something, maybe the short episodic structure - most vignettes are only two or three pages - kept me from feeling fully engaged.
Matt Graupman
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
The title of Miss Lasko-Gross’ graphic novel, “Escape From ‘Special’,” makes it seem like it’s some sort of action-packed adventure comic. Rather, it’s a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age memoir, a comics sub-genre that seems to have reached a point of over-saturation in recent years. “Escape From ‘Special’” stands out from its peers, though. With extra-dry humor, whip-smart snark, and a fearless willingness to piss people off, this comic proves that adolescence can be a dangerous adventure in ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely incredible! I think I saw this cover a while ago but never picked it up. I re learned about it because it was mentioned in a non fiction book I want to read but haven't yet called "'How come boys get to keep their noses?' : women and Jewish American identity in contemporary graphic memoirs." I'm very excited to read that.

Funny, like actually laughing out loud, sometimes very sad, this book I'm actually reviewing follows young Melissa through a series of short vignettes as she navigate
Katya Kazbek
I'm not that big on autobiographical graphic novels but this was pretty good. I think what could be explored more was the suffocating world of adolescent female friendships. When Melissa was contemplating if she might be gay, and realized that she would then have to suffer from even more complicated relationships with girls, I felt very validated. This! The very essence of growing up a weird kid who doesn't fit the mold in any way.
Katie Shepard
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
4.25 stars - uncomfortably close to my own awkward teenage years. The last 10 pages are the best of the collection and really convey the awfulness of girls that age. I don't miss it, but it feels good to laugh at it now.
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it
I have mixed feelings. This book captures so well a specific young feminine rage, horror, and awkwardness that it was hard for me to read in parts. The artwork evolves through the book as the character grows older. I wanted to like this more than I did.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
super super angry kid
Terri Anderson
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, graphic-novel
I read this after my 11-year-old granddaughter insisted that I do so. I liked it! Parts of it reminded me of thoughts and experiences I had about parents and friends as I was growing up. So much of what we learn and are told is quite arbitrary and contradictory, depending on who is telling you at a given time. Having learning difficulties, as Melissa does initially, means that a kid will be laughed at and made fun of. Being smart and getting better grades than others means that a kid will be tea ...more
Anger, rage, and the confusion and frustration that inevitably results from the endless, fruitless compulsion to fit in. Early on (at 6 years old), Melissa is horrified to realize that she can't remember her own birth, and decides that she much sear every important memory onto her brain. I remember having these same thoughts as a child, when I would narrate my life to myself. I always assumed I would remember the narrative at a later date and write it down, but Lasko-Gross actually followed thro ...more
This is Melissa’s semi-autobiographical story of her childhood years – growing up Jewish, free (as in raised by hippie parents), alternatively schooled (at least for awhile), and strange. She’s the dark outcast with the weird ideas who never seems to know the latest trends or fit in anywhere. She has difficulty learning, then surpasses her peers, who hate her for being stupid and then for being smart. Melissa can’t win. Eventually, though, it stops mattering to her – they stop mattering, and wha ...more
Mar 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
This is the story of Melissa who grows up "different" or "special" (in her words) compared to everyone else and then tries to fit in with the "normal" crowd. It takes her the whole book to learn that she doesn't have to try to fit in. If she doesn't fit in, maybe she doesn't have the right friends.
Ahhhhh the meanness of middle school girls. Poor Melissa. It sucks growing up/being different from the people you want to be friends with. I feel like we all have struggled with this feeling at one ti
Feb 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really liked this - the art is great, and varies well, depending on the emotional state of the lead character. The breadth of the "story" is grand -- from earliest childhood memories up to late teen. And the vignettes are often very poignant and moving.
But it doesn't read like a story, and that's what is throwing me off a little. There is no real arc, not discernible from the text or the art (though arguably, this does cover her early childhood and teen years). No traditional narrative. And I
Jun 09, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, comics
True tales of a childhood saturated in depression and anger - Not an uncommon subject in the comic/graphic memoir genre.

Part One of a trilogy. Part Two - A Mess Of Everything, covering the high school years, was recently released and has received good reviews. After reading Part One and knowing the general difficulties of the teen years, I don't expect much of an escape from the darkness for the main character- Melissa.

I almost would like to wait until the trilogy is complete before rating this
Nov 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics, yyay, nonfic
there are some moments in here that show things that are cringeworthy for an adult in hindsight, but that are true to callow youth - using the word "retard", depicting the thought of a stereotypical African photo spread for National Geographic. It doesn't diminish how raw the struggle is for Melissa to deal with being "special", which often just means feeling wrong and weird. It's told in vignettes that add up to a larger picture of her childhood and adolescence, which is how growing up can feel ...more
Apr 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: comics
When you're a kid, being labeled as special is not necessarily a good thing. In Melissa's case, it means that other kids don't like her much and teachers think that she doesn't understand anything. Her outspokenness and eccentric ways are often misunderstood as she struggles to fit in. Blocky black and white illustrations give this semi-autobiographical comic a homemade feel, as it describes the author's childhood as somewhat harsh but with moments of occassional joy. Fans of Lynda Barry's carto ...more
Nat Smith
Jan 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
Keep reading! at first, I was not feeling it, but then at turns it was quite moving and had some moments of breaking and thinking. Overall, the misfit narrative always speaks to me, so wait it out, it gets better and I can't wait to see more of her work. It's bound to carry the same projection of improvements and vignet gold. reminds of times when I wish I could have said what I wanted instead of just thinking it. I like to think these were not similar and were in fact truths. misfits are my fam ...more
Jul 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphic-novels
I read this in one day, in about an hour. The drawings are cool and have a dark twisted look, but I found the stories to be too short with no real depth. I would often find myself thinking, "What was she trying to say? Or “What was the point of that?" There was no real clear message in many of the stories, maybe because they lasted about two pages. The stories did start to pick up and get more detailed and interesting at the end and I liked her overall message of embracing your awkwardness. Wort ...more
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was ok
I thought this book was kind of meh to be honest. I have noticed lately (It could be just me) that a lot of comics like this that are coming out, the writers and/or characters have been Jewish, or of Jewish faith. It doesn't bother me, I've just started noticing it. I feel like this book was somewhat rushed, maybe it could have explained more in her life, or of the situation, rather than just starting off at her elementary years (Or middle school? I can't seem to recall) It should reach out to t ...more
Feb 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Dang! I read this book a few weeks ago, and now I can't remember what exactly the back of the book said that I wanted to quote.

This is a coming-of-age story, at least semi-autobiographical, told in comic book form. It is about a girl who ends up being an outcast, mostly because she doesn't feel it necessary to go through the trouble of trying to fit in with her peers. It is both heartbreaking and lovely. I liked that it didn't sugar-coat the main character's life and experiences but went ahead a
Jul 28, 2011 added it
Shelves: ya, graphic-novels
An interesting collection of short memories of the author's childhood - spent being shuttled between different special education classes and schools. She really captures the alienated feeling of childhood and teen years and her insights into the special ed system were interesting but not as resonant as the core themes of alienation that ran throughout. I am eagerly looking forward to the sequel!
Read with a fair amount of cringing, knowing exactly where she was coming from. It's a little hard to piece together any sort of narrative--these are a bunch of tiny little snippets, rather than stories or full memories; the book is more montage than memoir. I liked it okay, but wasn't blown away.
Apr 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Hmm... this was a bit of an odd book, but I did like it overall. The main character has such a shitty childhood that it was almost painful to read sometimes. Between the Waldorf schools, the hippy parents, and the general awkwardness of the main character, her life was definitely challenging growing up. It was nice to see her finally accept it towards the end of the book.
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Born Boston Massachusetts 1977
B.F.A in Communication Design, Pratt Institute


Fantagraphics Books: Escape From "Special" nominated for YALSA's 2008 Great Graphic Novels.
Fantagraphics Books: A Mess Of Everything
Comixology: Miss Lasko-Gross Some Short Stories 1994-2014 (
Z2:HENNI nominated for YALSA 2015 Great Graphic Novels for Teens.

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