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Prison Island: A Graphic Memoir

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3.12  ·  Rating details ·  476 ratings  ·  104 reviews
McNeil Island in Washington state was the home of the last prison island in the United States, accessible only by air or sea. It was also home to about fifty families, including Colleen Frakes's. Her parents—like nearly everyone else on the island—both worked in the prison, where her father was the prison’s captain and her mother worked in security. In this engaging graphi ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 1st 2015 by Zest Books
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3.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  476 ratings  ·  104 reviews


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David Schaafsma
May 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Again, the title is enticing, as is the simple cover art, and the subject matter is also intriguing. A girl and her family live on the last prison island in the US, McNeil Island, in Washington State! Could be cool, eh? And since Frakes largely depicts herself as a young girl here, seen from a kid perspective, that could invite kid readers in, right?

Well. . . turn the page and not much really memorable actually happens. There's very little social outlet for kids. Her parents work at the prison.
...more
Tobi
My parents lived on McNeil when I was in my 20s, The Frumpies, one of my bands at the time, recorded a bunch of records in the basement of the warden's mansion. There was a perfectly square cement room that we used as an echo chamber that was ideal for recording my voice and the effect has been seemingly impossible to replicate. I really miss it.

We spent a lot of time out there, so I can definitely relate to the authors' depiction of boredom and isolation. We even wrote an instrumental called "S
...more
Anna
the blurb will tell you that this is about her childhood on the island. this is a lie. it's mostly about her last visit to the island before it shut down. there were some childhood stories, but not very many, and the lack of characters made this super disappointing.
Peter Derk
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
There were three main problems with this book.

1. It kinda jumps around to different times and events, which makes it hard to get in the mindset of how cool and weird it is to live on a prison island. There was a nice sequence about how hard it is to get a pizza, which is a true struggle in the best of times, and I wish more of the book had been like that, and that the timelines were better separated or the story was more linear or something.

2. Again, like the Wonder Woman book I just read, the t
...more
Elizabeth A
Mar 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
It seems to me that almost everyone is writing a memoir these days, and while I do believe that we all live interesting lives (at least to ourselves), I'm not sure anyone else cares. The publishing industry seems to churn out memoirs at an alarming rate. Maybe it's because they are easy to write, and people are fascinated by an insider look at the lives of celebrities, but come on, not everyone lives a memoir worthy life!

Now that I've got that out of the way, let's talk about this book. Literall
...more
Sesana
Oct 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: comics, memoir
It's an interesting memoir, but mostly because the subject itself is so interesting on its own. The island is fairly isolated, which leads to basic difficulties with things like groceries or ordering a pizza or having a birthday party. And so does living right next to a prison, for that matter, especially when a prisoner escapes. But Frakes didn't really add much to make it more than just interesting.
Raina
Aug 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
McNeil Island is the former location of the last prison in amerika accessible only by air and sea.
Colleen Frakes was one of the kids who grew up there.

The island is in the southern Puget Sound - the ferry to the island leaves from Steilacoom, a small waterfront town a short drive from my library. Frakes went to The Evergreen State College, which is in my town, and apparently works in a library in Seattle at the moment. One of my mom's friends grew up on the McNeil Island, too.
So there's a loc
...more
Cassandra
OK, obviously I can't be objective about this book because I know and adore Colleen. So I'll just point out some of the things about Prison Island that rule:

Really excellent bat drawing on page 172
Perfect, evocative illustrations that capture the feel of McNeil
The cat on page 144
I just really enjoy how Colleen wove in the narrative of a "last trip back" to the island with memories of actually living there in the nineties/early aughts.
This is the best graphic memoir of them all.
Russell Taylor
Mar 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a memoir not overburdened with airs of literary aspiration. Rather, it's a well-told collection of childhood memories from a fairly normal youth put in a mildly unusual environment, strung together with a bit of nostalgia on the occasion of a last visit to the place that shaped her. No deep traumas are discovered or revisited, no great social cause is invoked, and no lesson is learned. It's an accessible, well-paced, and entertaining read. Layouts are simple and regular, the art composed ...more
Sparkleypenguin
May 23, 2017 rated it liked it
It was okay. The pacing and overall story line confused the hell out of me and just felt disjointed and unconnected.
Michael
Nov 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: sequential-art
Die Geschichte einer jungen Frau, die einen guten Teil ihre Kindheit mit ihren Eltern und der Schwester auf einer Gefängnisinsel verbracht hat - natürlich nicht als Insassen, sondern ihre Eltern arbeiteten im Gefängnis.
Häufige Umzüge, bevor die Familie auf die Insel kam, haben Freundschaften nicht gefördert. Auf der Insel gibt es zahlreiche neue Erfahrungen: Häftlinge, die Gartenarbeit erledigen und vor denen man sich fürchtet (oder auch nicht); die Schwierigkeiten, einfach mal eine Pizza anlief
...more
Amanda
Sep 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2015
Colleen and her family grew up in unique circumstances. Her parents both worked in prisons and their longest assignment had them both living and working on the last prison island in the United States. The island was limited to prisoners, employees and families; a tiny community connected to the mainland by ferry. Growing up in these circumstances provided it’s own challenges; such as having to talk precautions so that escaped prisoners couldn’t use their pool toys to escape and getting a pizza d ...more
Nicola Mansfield
Dec 10, 2015 rated it liked it
This certainly sounded like it would make for a cool story. The author's real-life account of growing up on a penitentiary island. Unfortunately, I found it dull. The author chronicles a last-chance final-look trip her family makes when the prison & island were shut down and depopulated. The story flashes back to episodes from her childhood on the island and life as the child of migratory prison guard parents in general. Slight humour and a fairly interesting peek into an unusual lifestyle, ...more
Eric Piotrowski
I found this on display at a used bookstore while searching for something to read during lunch on a day off. It was perfect — easy to get into, accessible art style, nothing too heavy. In a way I feel bad giving it only three stars, but I liked it, and that's a sincere compliment.

It just doesn't go farther than that. It doesn't need to. This is a simple, honest, straightforward memoir about living on a prison island. It delivers exactly what it promises on the tin. It's interesting and well-pace
...more
Courtney
Apr 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: ccpl, ya, visual
2.5 stars. There's no real narrative arc here. It's more a series of interludes about the author's experience living on a prison island in the PNW. Perhaps this structure is a good fit for the intended audience (YA), but I think it does limit the overall impact of Prison Island.

I like the novelty of the topic (and I learned the term "Island Brat"), and some of the vignettes are well-written, but I bumped it down to 2.5 stars because it doesn't do much with the visual style. If a graphic memoir
...more
Heather Gallagher
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novel
Quite a freaky idea to consider growing up on a Prison Island. But this graphic memoir gives an insight into what that would be like with the author spending her teenage years on McNeil Island where both her parents worked int he prison system. The most poignant episode was when Colleen tried to have a birthday party on the island and because one of the prisoners had escaped there was a lock-down and only two kids ended up coming to the party. The island has since been decommissioned but in its ...more
Kate Stericker
Although a graphic memoir about growing up on a prison island sounds fascinating in theory, the stories Frakes recounts are fairly mundane and lack any kind of narrative arc. This book might be best appreciated by someone with a personal connection to McNeil Island rather than a casual reader. I did enjoy Frakes' art style and narrative voice, though, so I'd be interested in checking out her future projects.
Erica
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
It would have been nice if the author had chosen one topic to focus on. Like the history of the island or stories about inmates. Her few stories about boring times with friends wasn't interesting enough. Or maybe even talking about the politics behind prisons and what makes prison islands unique? There was such potential here...
Hannah Witscher
Feb 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This was okay. There wasn't much of a story but it was interesting to see what it must have been like to live on a prison island.
Jannah
Sep 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: pnw, memoirsnbios
A family reunites to say goodbye to McNeil Island and the penitentiary where the parents used to work before its doors are shut for good. As they drive around the island (with the father constantly fretting over whether or not they'll make the next ferry) they reminisce about the time an inmate escaped and almost ruined a birthday party and other quirks of the life they spent there for 10 years.
It's a brief love letter to life on the prison-island but I feel like the description and illustratio
...more
John
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Unique.

I moved around a lot as a kid. That's not that unusual, as Colleen Frakes' new memoir shows. Like me, she often felt alone and isolated in her new towns, but one place she lived took it to a whole new level. Life on an island is hard enough, but add in a prison and things get extreme.

This book reflects back at the years on McNeil Island, while also interspersing an decade-later return to the island just after the prison was shuttered and just before the island was permanently closed to v
...more
Jason
A good read, but a bit too short!! I wanted more history, maybe? More stories from others who lived there?
MariNaomi
Dec 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, graphic
A quiet, charming book that reminds me that there are so many ways we might have experienced childhood.
Hannah Notess
Aug 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Interesting story! The art was just ok, but somehow she conveyed that lost-in-time-and-mist feeling I get when I am on some of the islands in Puget Sound. A very Northwest book.
Caitlin
Jun 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
This should have been a way more interesting story than it was. The most intriguing word in the title is PRISON but most of the book could have been about living on any island, and even then the anecdotes would be flimsy and uneventful. Despite taking place in such an interesting location, the book lacks atmosphere thanks to the oversimplified and underdeveloped art style and the insulated viewpoint. Why didn't Frakes delve into the conditions of the prison itself and the lives of its inmates, w ...more
Jesse
I was very excited to read Prison Island by Colleen Frakes. Frakes grew up in the last U.S. prison accessible by only air and sea. Both of her parents worked there and they lived in the tiny community. I liked how Frakes interspersed her past with her final tour of the island.

I felt like I was only getting a fraction of her story. There are so many questions I have that weren’t even touched on. What was dating like as a teenager? What happened when she finally did get glasses? What were the dif
...more
Elizabeth
In Prison Island, Colleen Frakes relays the story of her childhood growing up on a literal prison island, as her parents were guards there. I was hooked by the title and premise (of course), but I genuinely enjoyed the content.

Frakes' art style is cute and easy to read, and the maps added a lot to the ease of comprehension. I thought the transitions in time (between present day and her childhood) were smooth and easy to grasp. It was really interesting to see how different it was to live on a se
...more
LeAnn Suchy
Sep 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: graphic-novel, memoir
I didn’t think this was very well done. The beginning started off good, she was connecting the pieces, and then midway through it just felt like little snippets she wanted to throw in. Things weren’t connected well and the ending just sort of stops. The epilogue makes no sense either because it’s not really explained as to why I needed to know that.

I bet it was really interesting growing up on an island where the only thing there is a prison, but this was pretty boring. If this were more well ro
...more
Johnny Trash
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: keepers, history
A quick read, as graphic novels tend to be, it took me an hour or so to finish. But well worth picking up. An insight into an unusual childhood and a reminder that not everyone grew up like you did. Frakes moves elegantly between the present time of the book, when she travels back for one more visit to McNeil Island, and flashbacks to growing up on this small island which held a working Federal prison. The book rings true and portrays a childhood that is relatable to anyone who didn't fit in bec ...more
Jennybeast
A memoir about growing up on McNeil Island in Washington state, which housed a prison, a nature preserve, and the residents to support the prison. Pretty interesting local/historical subject, and talks a little about the ghost town that is left now that the prison is closed and all of the residents have moved off. Its got some funny moments, and in general is a gentle memoir of early middle school and ferries and island life. Enjoyed it, but it's a pretty quiet story.
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