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How many hours of sleep did you get last night? Rate your overall mood from 1 to 5, 1 being poor. Rate your stress level from 1 to 5, 5 being severe. Are you experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide? Is there anything in your personal life that is affecting your duty?

When Sabrina disappears, an airman in the U.S. Air Force is drawn into a web of suppositions, wild theories, and outright lies. He reports to work every night in a bare, sterile fortress that serves as no protection from a situation that threatens the sanity of Teddy, his childhood friend and the boyfriend of the missing woman. Sabrina’s grieving sister, Sandra, struggles to fill her days as she waits in purgatory. After a videotape surfaces, we see devastation shown through a cinematic lens, as true tragedy is distorted when fringe thinkers and conspiracy theorists begin to interpret events to fit their own narratives.

The follow-up to Nick Drnaso’s Beverly, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Sabrina depicts a modern world devoid of personal interaction and responsibility, where relationships are stripped of intimacy through glowing computer screens. Presenting an indictment of our modern state, Drnaso contemplates the dangers of a fake-news climate. Timely and articulate, Sabrina leaves you gutted, searching for meaning in the aftermath of disaster.

204 pages, Hardcover

First published May 22, 2018

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About the author

Nick Drnaso

9 books418 followers
Nick Drnaso was born in 1989 in Palos Hills, Illinois. His debut graphic novel Beverly received the LA Times Book prize for Best Graphic Novel. He has contributed to several comics anthologies, self-published a handful of comics, been nominated for three Ignatz Awards, and co-edited the second and third issue of Linework, Columbia College's annual comic anthology. Drnaso lives in Chicago, where he works as a cartoonist and illustrator.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,038 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
December 4, 2022
Sabrina hits you in slow motion. It's a quiet, subdued story that is all the darker and more effective for it.

This is not a graphic story filled with action and thrills. The artwork is simple, understated, not especially eye-catching or beautiful, yet juxtaposed with powerful writing. As the story unwinds, detailing the everyday lives of these characters as they deal with family issues and grief, I felt increasingly unsettled.

There was a point in this book when I suddenly understood that this was not a dystopia. This is not a spoiler; the book never pretends to be one, but, at first, I had convinced myself it must be. This sparse, lonely, surely post-apocalyptic world where conspiracy theorists dominate the Internet and believe horrific murders and school shootings are a ploy fabricated by the government to push their agenda (or else, if they don't believe, they certainly want other vulnerable people to)... it's not our world, surely?

But, of course, it is.

Here, the story begins with the disappearance of Sabrina. We experience the aftermath of this disappearance-- her boyfriend's depression, the distortion of the truth and wild spread of lies online --through the eyes of an airman, an old friend of Serena's boyfriend.

We are shown how people are drawn into conspiracy theories, seduced by a need to find a reason for loss or hardship; a Big Bad Enemy to put blame on. It's terrifying how easy it is.

I felt so much simmering under the surface of this quiet tale. It's not dramatic, not in the way that word is usually used, but it's impact was intense. It's not fast-paced, yet I couldn't stop reading. I didn't cry, I didn't laugh, I didn't get angry as such... but I felt a little bit destroyed by it.
Profile Image for Carol.
323 reviews862 followers
October 22, 2018
Two things are true.

Sabrina made the Man Booker prize longlist —the first graphic novel to do so.
Also, its art is so lacking that, aside from one character who possesses blonde hair grazing his shoulders, all of the male characters are indistinguishable from one another.

A woman is missing. Her sister grieves. Her ex-boyfriend relocates, sleeps, spends an excessive amount of time listening to the radio, looks for a missing cat. A divorced father is conflicted about whether to seek a promotion or quit. Many frames bear far too many words, an imagined radio talk show host rambling on about conspiracy theories. Many others -perhaps 10% of the book - show a character standing in a hallway, and nothing else. It is pointless, lacks heart or any depth, and ends without provoking thought, emotion....anything.

This was one of the most lackluster and disappointing reads of 2018 for me, and I am irritated that this meandering, unfocused debut was the undeserving beneficiary of the promotional power of the Booker prize committee.

There are so many excellent adult graphic novels being published. Many display stunning artwork. Read one of those instead.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,195 reviews9,472 followers
June 22, 2018
Sabrina is the click just before the bullet, the knife behind the door, the unknown car outside your house, the dead battery on your kid’s phone, the cops at your door in the middle of the ordinary day, the phone call at 3 in the morning, the threatening text out of nowhere, the moment just before you realise what you’re seeing on the screen. Sabrina is an intake of breath.

Sabrina is about being anaesthetised by modern life so that you no longer have any appropriate responses left. And a lot of Sabrina is about finding yourself swirling in the vortex of anti-thinking called fake news, which means it’s also about that thing W B Yeats said so many years ago

The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

A few lines before that (in his poem The Second Coming) he said “Things fall apart. The centre cannot hold”. And they are falling apart, and the centre is not holding. The common ground between us is disappearing, it should have been protected long ago, like a national park or an elephant sanctuary, but we have no mechanism to do that.

Can we agree on anything? Is democracy real? Do we believe the nightly news? Are you given an actual choice at election time or are you just picking one or another of the heads on the hydraheaded beast?

Are we all living in some evil version of The Truman Show?

I see that some Sandy Hook families are suing the right-wing paranoid purveyors of the Truman Show myth. In the Daily News the caption read:

All the likeminded false-flag accusers say that events like Sandy Hook are fake news whereas of course it’s the fake news accusers who are pushing the fake news.

But sometimes, you know, our governing elite does indeed lie through its teeth to push its destructive agenda onto us. We may remember the enormous publicity given to the Weapons of Mass Destruction of Saddam Hussain

It turned out that this was completely fake news, and the west went to war about it. And thousands died, poof, just like that, only we’re not sure exactly how many because the people doing the counting died too.

Sabrina is a very quiet, an eerily quiet story about all of this.

Another great modern graphic novel.
Profile Image for Mutasim Billah .
112 reviews193 followers
May 31, 2020
Let's take a look at history. How does a nation choose to respond to tragic events? Say.... 9/11? Death of Marilyn Monroe? Kennedy's assassination? Sandy Hook? Columbine? Or even disease outbreaks like ebola?

Has acceptance of tragedy been a smooth path for the masses? Or has mass hysteria been a thing that resonates across time, dating back to the days of the Great Plague?

Sabrina was an ordinary woman, who didn't return home one night. A nation fell into disarray as a videotape disclosed a gruesome murder.

Sabrina is not a mystery novel, it is a story of a nation's conscience. The response of a nation and how it impacts the people who are directly affected by the tragedy. For instance, how did the grieving parents feel when conspiracy theorists lashed out saying Sandy Hook was a fake incident? Or when people say 9/11 was an inside-job? How does this social crises, aggravated by the Internet on social media platforms where people post questionable content relating to the tragedy from anonymous sources, impact a nation? What happens when fact-checking goes out the window?

The first graphic-novel to be considered for the Man Booker Prize, Sabrina paints a compelling image of social conscience and coping mechanisms after a tragedy. The images are crisp, minimalist and haunting. Welcome to post-9/11 America, where fear, distrust and paranoia makes a nation go off the rails.... or does it?

A must-read.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
June 22, 2018
Nick Drnaso’s debut collection of short comics stories, the LA Times Book Prize winning Beverly, is sort of set in a far south side Chicago neighborhood. Drnaso, just 29, who grew up in a Chicago suburb, includes a few recognizable Beverly images in it, but he told me he mainly used that name because he liked the sound of it. I loved that book, reviewed it here, and used it in my comics class last summer. It reads like The Suburb from Hell.

Chicago is again the setting of his first comics novel, Sabrina, which is without question one of the comics events of the year--hell, it's one of the fiction events of the year; Zadie Smith called it a “masterpiece”--an amazing book that captures the present moment in ways I had not yet seen. Drnaso’s work reminds me of the work of Chris Ware and Adrian Tomine. And he’s good enough to be in this club, surely. You know Hemingway’s “iceberg” theory about stripping things down to their essence, and simplifying, letting people figure out themselves what is going on? That’s relevant to all these guys, but surely Drnaso is doing this. Less is more. Let the images tell the story in all its complexities.

“How many hours of sleep did you get last night? Rate your overall mood from 1 to 5, 1 being poor. Rate your stress level from 1 to 5, 5 being severe. Are you experiencing depression or thoughts of suicide? Is there anything in your personal life that is affecting your duty?”-- a daily survey Calvin Wrobel must fill out, given the high suicide rate in the U. S. military

Sabrina (not the witch!) is a woman that disappears on her way home from work. Teddy, her boyfriend of a couple years, is distraught, on the continuous edge of madness in the aftermath; he leaves the Chicago area (without any bags, even) and flies to Colorado to stay with an old high school buddy, Calvin, he has not seen in years, a guy who works nights in a very sterile environment in internet security for the U. S. Air Force. Calvin's wife, with their young kid, has left him to go to Florida, feeling ignored by him. Two isolated guys.

Calvin makes it to work every day, but Teddy barely survives, eating little, and one day stumbles on to a Breitbart-level talk news radio show discussing various theories about Sabrina’s disappearance, theories that confirm their own paranoid world view. A videotape surfaces of what may be the killing, spinning theory after theory, accompanied by death threats, and madness we see on a daily basis now. The events of the next year are increasingly insane as Teddy and Calvin are subjected to an onslaught of media conspiracy theories not unlike the folks that think the Sandy Hook massacre is diabolical fiction, all lies {See below). The media and fake news are central concerns in this scary nightmare which feels very real in the Age of Trump. Let's just say Kafka knew what he was talking about, and Drnaso could have been a buddy of Kafka.

The images we see in this novel are flat, largely expressionless, many of the characters seem similarly bland, and the action and characters are very influenced by these media images that threaten to engulf us, increasingly overwhelm us. This is post 9/11 America. It’s about fear, isolation, and paranoia and is really coldly disturbing, as powerful artistically as anything you might read. An intricately layered comics novel, social horror. A must read for everyone, I would say.

A review in The Guardian by Chris Ware!!


In it, he says, "And you will find yourself looking carefully, trying to piece it all together. I found the experience deeply unnerving. Most especially because Sabrina is a book that looks right back at you." Yes!

If you don't know what I mean when I say "Breitbart-level," "news,"for just one disturbing example of internet hysterical paranoid theories we can always turn to Ann Coulter:


Of course it gets worse, as with Alex Jones on Sandy Hook:

Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,412 followers
August 13, 2018
This is the first graphic novel in the history of the Man Booker to be considered for an award. To say it is worthwhile doesn’t capture the real slap these big-bodied, small-headed figures levy. Lives of quiet desperation indeed. There may be some features missing in the frames…don’t all our lives have features missing? This feels terribly urgent, and painful, as though we cannot go another day without talking about it.

Sabrina lives in Chicago and has a life that includes a live-in lover, a cat, a sister, and a mother. One day she doesn’t come back from a walk. Drnaso shares the aftermath, picturing what life was like for those who remained, particularly for her boyfriend Teddy.

What is this story about, besides the central mystery? It is about what we do when our lives are upended, how we act, how we carry on. There are people we will remember as kind, and helpful, and others we will remember as clueless, and poisonous. We have to live in the world despite the horror it can hold. We obviously can decide not to do that as well.

The drawings have a real momentum that ratchet up our stress and fear levels. We are not completely clear on exactly what has happened until some distant midway point. We are as in the dark as the characters. When we finally get the news, we are disinclined to believe it, given all the peripheral noise. And finally, the darn conversations with Florida, and the workmates ostensibly helping with job prospects…they are so real they do not seem fictional at all.

What about the creepy guy in the white pickup looking for the cat? Why was he there, and what did he want? Was he meant to be an ambiguous figure meant to toy with us when we were so suspicious of everything? Was it the suspicion in our own minds that made the experience of meeting him and accepting his help so uncomfortable? If the frames were lighter and the background noise of a woman’s disappearance not concurrent, would we feel such strain upon seeing him in the street?

The ennui we feel upon hearing of a preventable tragedy like a mass shooting by a disaffected youth is not inevitable. Whether or not this is Drnaso’s message, I think those who pick up this book will see that we must not succumb to despair, and that sometimes we have to rely on ourselves, so inner resources are critical. We need to store up those inner resources for rainy days, while working to be kinder, and changing the way we treat one another.

The drawings and captions are extremely effective in conveying mood, attitude, situation. For some reason when characters looked through the closed blinds, I always had a frisson of energy. This sense of one hiding away and being afraid to look at reality stays with me. Maybe we’re all a little like that: too wrapped in our insular worlds an not paying enough attention to people and things around us.

Wake up, Drnaso might be saying.
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
November 11, 2020
It is a rare thing when the New York Times calls a graphic novel “a shattering work of art” and lists it as one of the “100 notable books of the year,” and an even rarer thing—in fact, unique (so far)--when a graphic novel is nominated for the Man Booker Prize. Since both things are true of Nick Draso’s new graphic novel—and because its plot reminds me of an episode of Disappeared, my favorite ID Network show—I decided to give Sabrina a try.

The plot centers around Sabrina, but is not about her, but about her disappearance, and the effect that disappearance has on her sister Sandra, her boyfriend Teddy, and Teddy’s buddy and host/roommate Calvin, a Colorado airman who works for NORAD, stationed at Peterson Air Force Base. At first the book is mostly about simple grief and loss, but then disappearance ends in tragedy, a graphic video goes viral, and the conspiracy theorists, the talk show hosts, and the wackos on the fringe hijack the narrative. It is then that simple loss and grief become complicated, confusing.

The illustrations, well-planned and well-realized, create a slice-of life, minimalist effect. The tone of the dialogue is understated and subdued, and the colors chosen for inking are always pastels, even in the frequent darkness (except for the occasional dream, which shouts out in stark black-and-white). The sequence of panels resembled a movie story-board, filled with shots of characters walking long hallways, traversing interminable rooms, allowing the open spaces of the narrative to fill up with menace and silence. The drawing is minimalist too, which contributes to the power of the work: the faces of the characters are expressionless, lacking individuation. Males sometimes are indistinguishable from females: each looks like the other, everybody looks like everybody, soon we sense they look like us too.

In our age of fake news and far-fetched theories, crisis actors and false-flag operations, Sabrina is a memorable and sadly relevant novel. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Greta G.
337 reviews243 followers
October 28, 2018
I don’t really have much to say about this book. The second half was terribly boring. The book was physically hard to read due to the small squares, the tiny font and the excessive use of the colour grey ; the characters were all flat and looked similar and expressionless. Why this is a Man Booker Prize Nominee, is beyond me.

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Profile Image for Sam Quixote.
4,485 reviews12.8k followers
September 2, 2018
Calvin takes in his old high school friend Teddy who’s suffered a breakdown after his girlfriend Sabrina went missing and is feared dead. And so begins a strange odyssey through American life in 2018…

I really enjoyed Nick Drnaso’s Sabrina. It’s a clever, artful story that’s also entertaining, well-told and very much a product of our time. Through the fictional case of Sabrina’s disappearance, Drnaso highlights the bizarre conspiracy subculture that’s emerged online in recent years where large numbers of people choose to believe outlandish theories over reality (the Earth’s FLAT! etc.).

Except I wish he’d dug a little deeper in trying to understand this odd behaviour. He never mentions the repugnant Alex Jones/InfoWars but he’s represented by the ranting conspiracy theorist nut on the radio, and anyway I think Jones is more a product rather than the cause. I can speculate that it’s because people have become disenfranchised and disconnected from traditional institutions and society after so many lies so they now don’t believe anything they’re told, but there’s really nothing like that in the book which is why it feels a bit shallow and underdeveloped in that regard.

Drnaso’s more substantial in other areas like when he hints at our death-centric culture where some people feel they can only achieve significance in death over anything within their power in life. The sequence on the 9/11 memorial and the short video of the man despairing over his disappointment with life are both examples of this idea. And, though he never makes the banal point about how social media has only made some of us more isolated, I’m with him that the antidote to some of the nightmares unleashed by the internet is to spend time with real people doing real things in the real world.

The story starts slowly with a mundane conversation between Sabrina and her sister Sandra before morphing into something much more interesting and darker. Drnaso is a very subtle storyteller who doesn’t use omniscient narration or even caption boxes to let you know when the story jumps in time, though he’s very skilful and it’s never hard to follow what’s happening.

That subtlety works especially well regarding the videos that come out following Sabrina’s disappearance. Not actually showing the footage and leaving it up to the reader’s imagination made it much more creepy and effective. I found the social media profile photos more disturbing than actually seeing the videos themselves!

And, because we never know what’s going on in Teddy’s head, his stay with Calvin became increasingly tense. Teddy’s so unstable - what’s he going to do, how will he react to developments in the case? I also really liked how some violent conspiracy nut started sending Calvin letters claiming Calvin was some government stooge, a “crisis actor” - is Calvin safe? And that weird friend of his from work at the Air Force - is that the guy sending him the letters? That scene in the server room towards the end - chills! Drnaso genuinely kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat for the whole second half of the book.

Calvin himself is a bit of a dull main character and the ending fell flat but otherwise Sabrina is a solid, quality book. And I’m pleasantly surprised to find that a good book actually got nominated for the crusty old Booker Prize! I’m happy for Drawn & Quarterly and Nick Drnaso as they’ll make a shedload of money from the attention and hopefully all of the new comics readers - I’m sure this will be the first comic or “graphic novel” many people will read - will go on to read more from this excellent medium. Sabrina is a very good book with or without the award nomination which is just the cherry on top - come on Nick, I’m rooting for you buddy!
Profile Image for [P].
145 reviews511 followers
July 18, 2018
There’s an app which, when you input some personal information into it, will send you a message from a dead loved one. No one I spoke to about it could understand why such a thing would bother me. The resulting text could be posted on Facebook. Richard, you know I love you and that your granny is always looking down on you. The poster’s friends can comment sympathetically and like the post. No one understood. They thought I was upset for no reason. Chill out, they said. If it makes people happy, they said. They couldn’t understand how for me it was a symbol of everything that I despise about how we live our lives now, of how we interact with each other and the world; a grim symbol of what we are and where we are going. It could have been any number of other things, other examples. It could have been any one of a million tweets on twitter; the heartless, the idiotic, the hysterical, on all sides of the political and ethical debates. It could have been a video, shared indignantly around the world, of a dog being thrown down the stairs by its owner. It could have been the comments attached to a youtube 9/11 documentary. It could have been almost anything, but it was that, that shitty, insignificant app. I felt like I gave up that day. Not immediately, but over the course of a few hours. By evening, I felt as though some part of me had been hollowed out.

Sabrina is the first book published in 2018 that I have read this year. The first new work of fiction I have read by anyone for years. I was meant to be at work. I left early in the morning due to a pain in my shoulder that has been troubling me for three weeks. Before going home I dropped into a local book shop. The first book shop I have entered for years. Rarely do they stock the kind of literature that interests me. However, I had a gift card to use. It had been awarded to me, ironically, by my employer for outstanding work. I’d had the card for over twelve months. I immediately headed for the graphic novels and manga section. It was there that Sabrina caught my attention. I knew nothing about it. I had seen no prior reviews nor praise for it. I think it may have been the red, pink and black cover colour scheme that drew me in. There is no synopsis, either on the back of the book or inside the cover. Someone called Tony Tulathimutte is quoted. Sabrina is full of ominous, dead-quiet catastrophe. I had to buy something; the card was due to expire.

The book begins with the woman of the title cat-sitting at her parents’ apartment. Her sister comes over and they chat for a while. It’s the last we see of Sabrina. She disappears, later confirmed murdered. This sounds like the premise of a thriller, but Sabrina certainly isn’t that. There is almost no dramatic action or tension in it. There isn’t a noteworthy police investigation; there are no suspects, no mysteries to solve, and no grisly details, or images, relating to the crime. For the most part, the book maintains the sedate pace of its opening scene. Indeed, there are images and sequences that I never would have expected to encounter in a graphic novel, such as a character putting in his contact lenses or being given directions to a bathroom. There are also numerous conversations about nothing at all, or nothing important; chit-chat, small talk. Yet there is something moving about these banal episodes, as though you are being given access to intimate moments of the characters’ lives that you ought not to see. I think that most artists would have considered these details unnecessary, or likely to bore, and so it is to Drnaso’s credit that he recognised that these moments are, in fact, the most profound. They are when we are truly ourselves. It’s how we spend most of our time.

Often with graphic novels it is difficult to care about, and certainly difficult to write anything meaningful about, the characters. One’s understanding of their motivations, their psychology, their emotions, their lives is superficial. And yet that is not the case here. Which is to say that, in subtle ways, Drnaso made me care, at least. We get to know very little about Sabrina’s sister, for example, except when she casually mentions that she was once ‘in the hospital.’ It isn’t explained why she was there, but one assumes a issue with her mental health. A couple of pages later she tells an anecdote about riding a bus to panama city beach on her own when she was nineteen and being harassed by three guys who want her to go to their room. Not much is made of it, but I suddenly felt something for this woman, I felt like I knew something about her and her dreams and her nightmares. There is, in fact, a deep core of sadness to Sabrina, one that goes beyond the central crime. Drnaso’s characters, like many of my friends, like me, are drifting aimlessly, lost, confused, making the best of things.

Of course, not everything in the book is mundane, even though at points it is possible to forget that a girl has been murdered in apparently gruesome circumstances. Part of Sabrina‘s focus is on the nature of grief, how it affects us, how we cope [or don’t] when something awful happens. This is mostly explored through Terry, Sabrina’s boyfriend. I’m not sure how much dialogue is attributed to him, but it cannot be a lot. He barely speaks throughout. Indeed, his introduction is as a man sitting silently in a bus station. Terry doesn’t eat either. He is even force-fed at one point. He sleepwalks through the book, as though he has all but shut down, as though he is a robot running low on juice. Yet none of this is surprising, to me at least, nor really all that engaging. The most striking moment is when he has a telephone conversation with Sabrina’s sister. She shouts and swears at him, she denounces him; and one understands that it is because he doesn’t grieve, he doesn’t react to tragedy, in the way that she expects, in the way that the public would expect. One is not allowed to grieve one’s own way, these days, one must not do it quietly and privately. It should be done in the open, at a funeral, and on social media. One must rally round, one must support those also affected, one must share. Terry does not, and so he is seen as something like a fraud, as someone who doesn’t care.

Sabrina also has a lot to say about how the public and the media deal with tragedies; and it is in this way that it most captured my attention. In my experience, whenever something awful happens – 9/11, the Paris shootings, etc – the public make it all about them, about their entertainment, their grief, about their desire for ‘truth’ or ‘justice’ or whatever. They use these tragedies to gloat, to get attention, to gain or wield power, to make jokes even. The media, on the other hand, feed them, whip them up, in order to make money, to get clicks, to sell their shit. Take the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, for example. None of us know what happened to that little girl, and yet that has not stopped us rushing to judgement, analysing, creating conspiracy theories, harassing and reviling the parents. It vividly struck me back in 2007 that the public at large did not care about the crime, nor the girl, nor the suffering of her family, what they cared about was their own agenda. We see this also in Sabrina, where those closest to the situation are accused of being actors and the video of the woman’s murder is called a fake. That video has, by the way, been leaked to the internet, for people to watch. We feel as though we have a right to these things, once they become public knowledge. Even Calvin – the closest we get to a hero – downloads it.

There is much more that I could write about all this but I am concerned that this review is overlong already. Before I finish, I want to praise Nick Drnaso’s subtlety and sense of control once again. The way, for example, that we chart Calvin’s mood through the health questionnaire he completes at work. The way that the artist/author drops motifs, clues and symbols into the text, such as the two times that characters are scared by someone approaching them on the blind side, or the ‘fake’ apples in Sabrina’s parents’ house, or the mysterious disappearance of Calvin’s cat, and so on. The way, finally, that the murder is kept from us, the way it is left to our imagination. The trust, to put it in other words, that is placed in us as readers is extremely satisfying. I would say, in conclusion, that Sabrina is the best book published in 2018, or that it will not be bettered, but I probably won’t read another one. So I will simply say that it is something approaching a masterpiece.
Profile Image for Dianne.
559 reviews909 followers
October 8, 2018
“Sabrina” is the first graphic novel ever nominated for the Man Booker prize. It made the 2018 longlist but failed to make the shortlist.

By sheer serendipity, I read this right after the Kavanagh Supreme Court nomination debacle. The novel makes a statement about the erosion of credibility and trust in the age of social media and “fake news.” What terrifying times we live in - we can’t trust what we see and hear, we have no idea what the truth is on anything. We are spun and manipulated - conspiracy theories and sensationalism whip us into a fevered frenzy. The immediacy of digital “news” and clickbait drive instanteous reactions and overreactions. Is it true? Does it even matter anymore?

Sabrina is a young woman staying at her parents house in Chicago, watching their cat. One day she walks out of the house and disappears. Her boyfriend, Teddy, who is gutted by her disappearance, goes to Colorado to stay with a childhood friend, Calvin, who works in the military investigating network security breaches. The devastated boyfriend is almost comatose in his grief. Shortly after he arrives in Colorado, videotapes of Sabrina’s murder are sent to news stations and her killer, Timmy Yancey, is identified. People begin speculating and developing outlandish theories online. One conspiracy theorist discovers that Sabrina’s boyfriend Teddy is living with Calvin in Colorado. Calvin begins to receive threatening emails, tying Sabrina’s murder in loosely with Sandy Hook. It’s all a big conspiracy and Calvin must be involved! Meanwhile, Teddy begins listening to a radio host who is convinced everything is a government conspiracy. This leads to paranoia and depression, until Teddy turns off the radio and turns himself outward, engaging himself in the real world again.

That is the bare bones of it; there are more characters and the richness of the content is in the little details. The book is very simply drawn and the color palette is muted and dull. The characters are childishly drawn, with very little expressiveness. I didn’t even realize at first who the character was on the last page of the book.

This was a 3.5 for me. I think, based on the selections the Man Booker committee made this year, that this novel was probably selected for its timely political and social commentary. “Sabrina” does capture the zeitgeist of our current times. Rounding up to a 4 because it gave me that electric spark of recognition - yep, that’s exactly where we are right now as a society. And good luck to us all!
Profile Image for David.
602 reviews128 followers
September 10, 2018
Disclosure: It was not possible for me to remain entirely objective when reading "Sabrina". Three friends and one sister are talented graphic artists. This made it hard to avoid envisioning what each of them might have done with this story. Drnaso's work is interesting and thought-provoking but - for me, uniquely - suffered by comparison.

What I did like:

The topicality of "Sabrina". Many important issues are touched on here.

The change of pace from standard Man Booker fare. Not that it thrills me to have a graphic novel on the longlist, but it is something fresh and new.

The challenging choice of subject matter.

The kindness and gentle consideration Drnaso shows his cast of characters.

The graphic depictions of lonely isolation, emotional distancing, and social displacement in the modern media age.

The androgyny of most characters. In fact I love this feature. It allows for a universality to depictions of behavior, personality, belief, and approach to grief that are unrelated to gender.

Sandra's Open Mic section, showing how much bravery was required and how very ill-equipped communities have become for face-to-face discussions of difficult, uncomfortable topics. (It also helps to underscore why so many may flock to internet platforms in order to express themselves anonymously and in relative safety.)

How well Drnaso captures the ease with which we become voyeurs of other people's misery; the frightening facility with which one can toggle from video game to video horror.

The final panel. So real. So moving.

What I did not like:

The layout (only three box sizes; mostly 1/6 squares alternating with 1/24 squares with the occasional 1/2 page panel placed (always) horizontally). I believe this is intended to represent quotidian constraint and the limitations placed upon the individual in society, but I did not think it was an artistic strength.

The abundance of tiny font. A book should not be physically difficult to read.

The high gray value of almost every color, particularly when it marred textual clarity. I understand why it was done this way, I just didn't like it. A book should not be difficult to see.

The uniformly flat affects of all characters. Where others have seen extreme subtlety of expression, I saw catatonic zombies.

The muted emotional pitch as presented here. Despite the feelings of numb withdrawal and apathy Drnaso was obviously hoping to achieve, it felt excessively sluggish and dour.

The choice to have this so heavily weighted toward Calvin.

This is a quick read and a unique experience. If you place it on your TBR list, I would get to it sooner than later. "Sabrina" is au courant and I'm not convinced it will age well.

2.5 *
Profile Image for Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer.
1,777 reviews1,260 followers
August 7, 2022
Actauries’ Cave photo 98D3C77F-70FC-4B6D-BF0C-761EE5B733F4_zpszyztftzm.jpeg

Longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker Prize this is the first graphic novel in the 50 year history of the Booker.

There is a case to be made that great literature, of the type I normally enjoy and which I expect to be on a Booker longlist, can be indulgent and introspective, focusing on the beauty of language and on the internal reflections they generate, rather than focusing us back on the urgency of the external environment. The risk is that like the inhabitants of Plato’s Cave we start to see literature as reality rather than as a shadow of the real world.

The picture at the start of this review is one I commissioned myself from a graphic artist to convey this idea and presented at an international conference, in a different but related context, relating to the profession in which I operate - and in this case the risk of focusing too much on pure numbers and not the underlying catastrophic events that generate them.

The Booker judging panel this year seem to have deliberately set out to snub the established literary fiction (which dominated the longlist last year) and instead produced a longlist which contains a mix of debut fiction, readable fiction, genre fiction and bordering art forms (not just graphic fiction but poetry) and one which is more an attempt to capture the state of the world (a world on the brink, in their own words) rather than the state of the finest English language literature.

In this case the focus is on an area I have not seen covered before in literature - the US alt-right conspiracy world of shockjocks, BTL comments, clickbait videos and message boards. More specifically theories around high profile domestic atrocities, for example https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy...

And the graphic approach used here, in the more complex and wordy frames is an effective way of capturing these different media; while the silent and simple frames capture well the bewilderment and sense of threat felt by those who innocently become entangled in these theories.
Profile Image for Meike.
1,515 reviews2,458 followers
August 1, 2018
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018
Oh, you poor, narrow-minded snobs who think that just because a book has pictures in it, it must be shallow! Newsflash: "The medium is the message" never meant that the carrier defines the content, but that every carrier has specific qualities that allow messages to be conveyed differently, and that the carrier has an impact on the way a message is sent and perceived - which brings us to what makes a successfull graphic novel. Nick Drnaso finds wonderful ways to let his language and his drawn images with their specific qualities work together in order to create one coherent work of art instead of just piling up words and pictures.

The story focuses on Calvin, a surveillance specialist in the air force. He wants to help out his childhood friend Teddy, who had a nervous breakdown because his girlfriend Sabrina mysteriously disappeared. When it becomes clear what happened to her, Calvin and Teddy become targets of the news media and conspiracy theorists...

An important theme in the book is loneliness: The dialogue often consists of polite, but empty phrases, many images show just one person in a lonely room, hall or street, the story hints at different dimensions of alienation, and the coloring is very bleak and within a limited range. In this context, Drnaso discusses how and to what ends acts of violence like abductions, murders or mass shootings are committed in the media age, how the news cycle spins and how victims and their families are victimized a second time as a consequence of sensationalist reporting and the way some viewers react to it. When the pressure mounts, Calvin and Teddy react very differently, and Teddy even becomes susceptible to conspiracy theories that re-enforce his feelings of pointlessness and desperation.

I liked the quiet minimalism Drnaso employs to tell his story, and which contrasts directly with the loud media outrage he depicts. He draws with very few lines, there is nothing that wouldn't be necessary to tell the story. The reader has to look very closely at the faces to see the nuance in the expressions - and it is the need for nuance, for close attention and an acute awareness that this author wants to highlight in his story.

It's easy to see the merit of this book, and I'm all for including different forms of storytelling in the Booker list as long as the quality justifies it - in this case, it does.
Profile Image for Trudie.
526 reviews561 followers
October 29, 2018
This was one of the titles from the 2018 Booker Longlist that I had been putting off reading, partly because I had issues getting hold of a copy but also as I am not an enthusiastic reader of the graphic novel form. This review needs to be considered with this bias in mind, readers with an affinity for this type of book would be better placed to judge Sabrina

To engage with any comic or graphic novel then I need to be 100% hooked with the visuals, this is a visual storytelling medium after all. In this case my eye would rather be anywhere else but scanning panel after panel of flat, grey monotony ( every possible drab tone is here - putty, puce, khaki, taupe, even a weirdly greyish raspberry tone I don't have a name for). Obviously, I am getting a little hung up on colours but even with this inglorious palette things could have gone better if I didn't feel like every character might have had their soul sucked out in some sort of Invasion of the Body Snatchers type situation. I just couldn't deal with these essentially genderless and vacant looking characters. I can see how all this fits with some of the themes of this particular story and is Drnaso's chosen style for Sabrina but it was alienating for me.

I am not really giving Sabrina much in the way of critique of the story because the central aspect of it I found so disturbingly horrific ( and unbelievable ) that it kind of threw me off balance for the entire book. I do acknowledge there are interesting points to be made here on social isolation, media-fueled conspiracy theories, the twisting of facts and the insidiousness of social media in driving fake news. Obviously, if your going to drop in topics like Info Wars and Sandy Hook deniers then your graphic novel suddenly becomes very topical and relevant and yet for me that doesn't automatically make it a great book.

At the end of the day it didn't really matter to me how socially relevant, and deep the storyline was I found it hard to remain engaged and to force my way through all this tiny tiny font.

I remain stubbornly unmoved by the first graphic novel to make the Man Booker longlist.
Profile Image for Emily B.
426 reviews421 followers
April 6, 2023
This wasn’t really what I was expecting...

Firstly, the artwork was a little difficult at times. People were really hard to differentiate. But In general I did like the minimal feel of it.

Although it kept me entertained, I was hoping there would be something more. Maybe an explanation? Maybe some hint at why and what really happened to the character that the graphic novel is named after.
Profile Image for Fuchsia  Groan.
162 reviews196 followers
November 6, 2018
Sabrina, de Nick Drnaso, es la primera novela gráfica en ser seleccionada para la long list del Man Booker Prize. La crítica ha sido unánime en los elogios, y, entre los lectores, hay opiniones de todo tipo. Por cada reseña que leía, mi curiosidad se multiplicaba.

Sabrina Gallo, una mujer de 27 años, desaparece un día al volver del trabajo. El misterio no tarda en resolverse. No es de eso de lo que trata el libro. Sabrina es la historia de los que se quedan, de Sandra, su hermana, de Teddy, su novio. De cómo se enfrentan a la pérdida. De Calvin, amigo de la infancia de Teddy, recientemente separado y que lo acoge en su casa. De la soledad, del aislamiento, del horror, de la dificultad de hacer frente a un trauma de ese tipo.

Pero a ese horror se le suma otro: la policía encuentra un vídeo del suceso. El vídeo se filtra y se hace viral, para la gente pasa de ser noticia a convertise en cotilleo, los medios se aprovechan, todo el mundo tiene sus teorías, sobre Sabrina, sobre Sandra, sobre Teddy, incluso sobre Calvin. Se usurpa el dolor y se convierte en espectáculo, y no falta el que se aprovecha para manipular sirviendo a sus propios intereses.

La obra me ha parecido interesante por la multitud de temas tratados, aunque se me ha hecho algo lejana toda la trama de las teorías de la conspiración, que tiene una importancia fundamental. Leyendo sobre ello, veo que guarda importantes paralelismos con lo que ocurrió en Sandy Hook con el programa de Alex Jones, a quien desconocía totalmente.

A pesar de que el tema podría dar para un drama, el tono es desapasionado, al igual que la parte gráfica: tonos pastel, personajes totalmente inexpresivos, pocos diálogos.

Quizás por eso, es interesante, pero no engancha. Es demasiado frío, y solo se explaya (en mi opinión demasiado) en las noticias, los correos electrónicos, el programa de radio. Creo que entiendo lo que quiere hacer el autor, poniendo el foco en el aspecto social y distanciándose del personal, pero pienso que un equilibrio entre ambas partes habría dado mejor resultado.
Profile Image for Antonomasia.
973 reviews1,198 followers
August 17, 2018
Sabrina reminds me a lot of The Killing. Forbrydelsen, that is, the Danish original. I've never seen the American adaptation, and never previously wished I had. Like the first series of Forbrydelsen, Sabrina examines in deep detail the effects of one young woman's murder on those around her, rippling out to those a degree or two removed, and then into the media and the political landscape. But it's very American: resolutely unglamorous, uncool middle-American, where nearly everyone is slightly overweight and not noticeably fashionable - maybe wearing Walmart clothes - lives in featureless modern housing and works in equally blank, soulless offices. Life lived to the sound of aircon hum under polystyrene-panelled ceilings and clicks on clickbait, a state-of-part-of-the nation novel. There are slankets and vertical blinds. His wife left after “she said I was detached and oblivious”. It’s a reflection and image of white middle-America in the late 2010s, the way The Simpsons used to be in the 90s – grown anhedonic, wired, tired, crueller and more paranoid, turned inward.

So after that paean, why only 4 stars? WTF? I’m just not that keen on the art style. I’m fussy about that with graphic novels and comics, and with the 'big' subject matter and high production values, I'd have liked more detail and realism. On the plus side, though, the rounded, almost childlike friendliness of it conveys how comfortable parts of America are with mile upon mile of buildings that would depress many Europeans, with things like the place of the military in US society, and with shock-jocks – and the paucity of detail and shading communicates the flat bleakness of normality, and of existing - just being not fighting - through shitty circumstances. (Two big half-page detailed panels stood out: one of a kindergarten - a page in a children’s book a character opens - and one of an auto sales lot. Another page from the same children’s book produced a fascinating sense of uncanny-valley dislocation, showing a spot-the-difference that has 25 differences instead of the stated 20, and two panels of animals at a dancing lesson where a lion looms, with unspoken sense of threat, over a mouse who’s apparently meant to be an equal, and not prey.)

Drnaso is really good on other types of detail. It’s not often in books that characters talk about things like getting a second opinion from dentists, or a trivial entertainment news story, without it leading to or meaning anything else. This is real, mundane existence trundling on, while not too far away, someone else is shattered by a life-defining event. Some things just seem better delivered visually: the simplicity of 11.34 on a clock owned by a character who works a back shift and has just got up; we see a holiday happening rather than reading one of the many hackneyed ways it could be verbalised. You can show the layout of websites the reader may recognise, and it seems undeniable that panels better evoke the state of being tired in half-light and clicking on stupid shit, and for a longer duration, than most novelists (other than maybe Tao Lin) would bother with. The art style really seems to come into its own here, as part of the cocooned feeling people have when they do such things.

It was around pp.70-80 when I felt real heft from this book; it had been seeming pretty clever, but then, something was sealed in the way it addressed what happened when : the local journalists, middle-aged and totally uncool but professional and human, the police interactions with the characters, and details like the unstereotypical realness of a landlord who wore shorts.

The only drawback was that, a bit later, it didn't really match the verbal and emotional urgency of real-life accounts of being caught up in conspiracy theories, like the account by the father of one of the Sandy Hook children. Or was that due to Calvin's personality and occupational experience? (Also,

But if real-life conspiracy theory shows say things like the fictional Albert Douglas radio programme does here, then Drnaso just made me totally grok why people - people like a few friends of friends, former acquaintances and so on, not just ‘random idiots’ - fall for these things. At time of writing, I’ve never heard more than a two-minute clip of stuff like Alex Jones, focused on a contentious issue. Not all this preamble about the state of the world that would appeal across the political spectrum, and which you’d have to be doing really, really well in your life, and be at least semi-detached from the news, not to agree with at least somewhat… I’m nodding along and nodding along and only when he says the bit about the [US] government carrying out 9/11, or inventing shooting incidents, do I reject and switch off. And if the verisimilitude of the show Drnaso has created is anything like that of the online articles here, some of the real presenters must be very much like that.

Sabrina feels very very real, yet always manages to swerve being too ‘on the nose’, to mix metaphors. The closest to that Drnaso gets is when characters, having hoped for some distracting TV pabulum, end up switching on to (sod’s law; bleary, fatalistic sod’s law) a news item about the 9/11 museum, and a senior staff member at the exhibit says: “we want guests to leave with an increased sense of the value of a human life, that each one is important and won't be forgotten”… but then it’s only become even blunter to show this because of American policy and events that happened in the last few months, since the book was written.

Even if, like me, you don’t really like much of the American culture served up wherever you look, I think there’s something valuable in Sabrina: the tendencies of the media and the online world shown here are becoming almost global. Or maybe it’s even good because of not liking it, because it illustrates where all this stuff is coming from, the heart of a white Americanness that’s implicit background in that Hollywood blockbuster or New York literary novel: the Joe Averages in the flyover states who are the market or the silent cultural antagonist, but rarely talked about (at least for foreigners) in a way that is unvarnished but also, because of using fewer words and not referring to anyone’s voting habits, basically respectful.


I wanted to write about Sabrina as a work in itself, unconnected to its Booker longlisting. Quite apart from the fact that the reviews on Goodreads will probably stay online considerably longer than the 2018 Booker Prize longlist is of interest to anyone other than a handful of geeks, Drnaso cannot be blamed for creating a work that isn’t up to Booker standards, as some posts do. A literary novelist publishing in Britain would always have it in mind. But a graphic novel has never been longlisted for the Booker before. (Although I consider that, like a female Doctor Who, it was well overdue - something some of us expected to happen quite some time ago, given prior discussions in the media.) So it probably never would have crossed a graphic novelist’s mind to have a Booker-type set of expectations in mind. I think it’s unfair to star-rate Sabrina using its Booker Prize appropriateness as a criterion, although ranking it in the longlist as a separate exercise is an entirely different matter.

The Booker should be introducing readers to the work of authors that will wow them. I'm not quite as bowled over by Sabrina as I was by Paul Beatty's The Sellout or Richard Powers' Orfeo but it is very very good, and I'd certainly read more by Nick Drnaso if I had the opportunity.
Profile Image for Teresa.
1,492 reviews
April 22, 2019
É raro eu lamentar o dinheiro que gasto num livro, mas acontece. Pagar quase 22 euros por um livro que li numa tarde, que me ia deixando pitosga e me fala de assuntos que estou careca de saber é mesmo um desperdício.

A bonecada: alguns quadradinhos com letra minúscula e outros com letra preta em fundo cinzento; personagens todos fisicamente parecidos e vestidos de igual, excepto um que está quase sempre em cuecas.
O conteúdo: os órgãos de comunicação, as redes sociais, e outras vias da sociedade moderna para espapaçar os miolos das pessoas (hoje li na Internet o título de uma notícia sobre dez videntes que andam ao despique para ver quem acerta na data do fim do mundo — certamente o vencedor receberá um prémio).

Apesar destes desagrados, gostei da mensagem final: a solidariedade, o afecto entre as pessoas e pelos animais, são a "tesoura" que pode cortar a rede tecida pelo medo, pela solidão, pela tristeza e pela loucura e maldade alheia.
Profile Image for Marchpane.
293 reviews2,128 followers
July 25, 2018
Sabrina makes for an uncomfortable reading experience. This is not a book for people who ‘read to get away from the news’. It is bleak, pessimistic and very, very topical.

It is one thing to read about characters going through grief, feeling isolated and disconnected from the world, unable to feel joy, unable to feel anything at all. It is an entirely different thing to watch them do so. In Sabrina, we see people curled up in a ball on the floor, or lying face down on a mattress, or staring blankly into space, their pain excruciatingly bare. We watch as characters go about the mundane tasks of daily life, much of it involving staring at screens. We watch as they attempt to connect with one another, only to fail. The emotional heft of the book is restrained, but forceful, and the minimalistic art and muted colour palette only add to its sense of alienation.

In other ways too, the visual medium is used to powerful effect. The repeated appearance of a mental health survey (“rate your overall mood from 1 to 5”) speaks volumes about our modern world in a single image. The internet – fake news, conspiracy theorists and trolls – features heavily, and this takes on extra immediacy as we see news feeds and web pages in the same basic format as the characters would see them. Disembodied voices, through internet comments, emails and talkback radio, pervade the book with aggression and paranoia.

The contrast between this frenzied-news-cycle, social-media-cacophony and the often mute, numbed trauma of the characters is stark. Sabrina is a scathing comment on the current state of our world.
Profile Image for Rod Brown.
5,293 reviews174 followers
June 10, 2018
I'm quite a bit frustrated by this book. First, the art, page layout and writing are so influenced by Chris Ware as to be totally distracting. And as with Ware, I find that the tiny pictures distance me from the story, and the characters, with their expressionless faces and often unexpressed inner thoughts, are nearly ciphers.

The first half of the story seems determined to show how mundane life can be for people looking in from the outside of other people's tragedy. I felt a little meta as I gazed into the book dispassionately at one character dispassionately gazing at another experiencing great personal loss. I recognized the awkwardness within myself of dealing with such events, but still found it a bit tedious to read.

Around the midpoint, the creator introduces a talk radio program that ties the events of this story into the false flag conspiracy theories that assert the government is staging the Sandy Hook shooting and other massacres as part of a strategy to take away the rights of American Citizens. I believe this is the first time I have seen this issue addressed in a work of fiction, and it really started to make my blood boil as I thought how the suffering of the loved ones of victims is being negated and even criminalized in the minds of people who see the grieving as bad actors in a vast conspiracy.

If the first part is how we detach ourselves from tragedy, the second part addresses how we can go overboard trying to insert ourselves into the tragedy: constantly hitting refresh hoping for new tidbits or insights, overanalyzing, spreading rumors, becoming trolls, growing paranoid, spiraling into doomsday scenarios.

Having gotten me riled up, the story cannot offer me any really satisfying conclusion. The world is what it is, terrifying and mundane, and the characters move on with varying degrees of hope and/or despair.

I ultimately land on a thumbs up for the book, but I must admit that that may well be due to the fact that I used to live in Colorado Springs in the same neighborhood where much of the book is set. Hey, I said we all need to somehow insert ourselves into the story.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,050 followers
September 17, 2018
I'm not connecting well to this year's Man Booker Prize long list. This is the first graphic novel ever selected for inclusion and the story is drab drab drab - the characters are not really dealing with significant life crises and all illustrations feature small-headed large-bodied people in subdued hues. An undercurrent of conspiracy theory that becomes quite a threatening presence and is unresolved.

(Again, why this? Why now? I get that the entire point seems to be "This is America" but it's so unpleasant to experience in this form.)
Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,401 reviews11.7k followers
November 21, 2022
I haven't yet read a book that demonstrated how conspiracies spread as well as this one. Also, Alex Jones and the likes can rot in hell.
Profile Image for Chad.
7,722 reviews868 followers
May 22, 2019
I forced myself through the first 100 pages before I set this aside. This is just one big monotonous slog to get through. The majority of it is just one droning, mundane conversation after another. I just can't get how everyone liked this. The art is bad too. Everyone is drawn as an overweight and andragenous blob with very little in defining features. You really only have hair styles to tell the characters apart. Ugh, this was boring.
Profile Image for Tomasz.
416 reviews773 followers
March 4, 2023
Fenomenalne. Na pozór surowe i wyprane z emocji, ale pod spodem wszystko aż bulgocze, a napięcie ciągle rośnie nie znajdując ujścia. Komiks świetnie ukazuje to, jak łatwo jest wpaść w otchłań teorii spiskowych, przez co mam wrażenie, że jest jeszcze bardziej aktualny teraz, w naszej pandemicznej rzeczywistości, niż w momencie powstania. Zdecydowanie jedna z najlepszych powieści graficznych, jakie miałem okazję w życiu przeczytać.
Profile Image for Neil.
1,007 reviews637 followers
August 17, 2018
When Douglas Adams, of Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy fame, was asked for his views on e-readers, he said

“Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food”

I know that several of my GR friends do not agree with this and have a strong preference for paper books, but my personal view has always been that the words in the book count for more than the way those words are delivered (I do about half my reading in print and half on the e-reader or iPad) and that the message of those words is more important again.

I don’t read many graphic novels, but I have a similar take on them. A graphic novel is an alternative way to deliver a message, to meditate on themes, to stimulate the reader’s imagination.

Sabrina has disappeared and Teddy, her boyfriend, heads to the home of one of his oldest friends, Calvin, who works as a “boundary technician” in the US military, leaving Sabrina’s sister, Sandra, alone to cope with her grief. Gradually, Calvin is pulled into a web of conspiracy theories and he himself becomes a target of fringe elements who see conspiracies everywhere, including in what has happened to Sabrina.

Calvin’s job is worth noting as (as Gumble’s Yard has pointed out) boundaries and borders are a key element in several of the Man Booker long listed books this year. Calvin tells Teddy,

”We have our networks, right? You know, sensitive information is being exchanged electronically across the globe. I look for weaknesses in the system, update firewalls, investigate possible security breaches.

Everything Under and Warlight have also used boundaries as key elements of their story-telling. Given that the judges this year have clearly stated that they picked the longlist to reflect the state of “a world on the brink”, it is not surprising that the topic of borders, boundaries, edges is common across several books. You don’t have to look at our modern world for long to see issues related to this.

There is a lot of loneliness in this book, too. From Sandra left alone when Teddy leaves, to Teddy hiding away, to Calvin’s family problems: many of the images poignantly show just one person alone in a room. The effects of victimisation through the Internet (emails, message boards etc.) that isolates a person is highlighted as Calvin and Sandra in particular are set upon.

I was thinking about why this works as a graphic novel rather than more standard text narration. In the end, both ways could work: I am sure someone could have written a novel in words with the same story as Drnaso has communicated in pictures and it could have worked equally well. But, as I said at the start, for me, all delivery methods are valid: it’s the message that counts and, if that is strong, who, really, is worried about how it is presented?
Profile Image for David.
659 reviews315 followers
January 31, 2019
In an exciting development the Man Booker longlist includes, for the first time, a graphic novel.

But why this one?

I mean that rich middle section with tinfoil hat wearing talk show hosts calling out conspiracies and crisis actors in our thriving clickbait culture speaks to the current American dumpster fire beautifully. And the email from "Truth Warrior" is a perfectly realized little gem with its own subtle twists moving from soothing empathy to sputtering rage. But all of this is wrapped up in a bland burrito. The flat muted colours and the barely rendered characters centred on each rigid panel gives it a feel like an airplane emergency card, and just about as compelling. And yes I get it, it's supposed to feel banal and tedious. But is it better in this format? I liked the meaty, almost too text heavy section. Would this have been better as a short story?

If I'm being generous, Drnaso does use images to portray an underlying threat - the held knife behind the door, the gun revealed in act one, the end times bunker noted without comment. But overall the flat style draws too much attention to itself. Look! We are all living lives of quiet desperation, empty and flat! Look at these long uncomfortable silences, these placid faces! LOOK! Do you get it? I'll keep hammering it over your head with these repeating boxes following the flat rhythm of a comatose patient's heartbeat. MuCh mUnDanE! VeRY DiSapPoInT.
Profile Image for Matt Quann.
630 reviews383 followers
October 5, 2018
[3.5 Stars]

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso made a huge splash when it became the first long-listed graphic novel in Man Booker Prize history. I think it's important to realize that Sabrina's not the first graphic novel worthy of the prize, and this instead represents the prize caching up with the medium and not the other way around. Regardless of the nomination that will forever hang over this graphic novel, Sabrina stands on its own as a convincingly realized story of internet culture and its effects on the real world.

I don't know what exactly I was expecting going into this book, but Sabrina is a pretty dour read. The eponymous Sabrina goes missing, and the fallout of her disappearance reverberates first amongst those closest to her, then to the bowels of the internet. There's some truly discomforting scenes in which Sabrina's family members are harassed online by conspiracy theorists that think Sabrina's disappearance is actually a cover for a deep-state attempt to destabilize the American populace.

Leading the charge of this wave of madness is an obvious radio-personality stand-in for Alex Jones. I can't say that I've made it through an entire episode of Info Wars, but what I've seen is enough for the connection to be easily made. Drnaso's reticence to resolve many of the plot threads left me unsettled and works to mirror the experience of the characters who fall victim to internet trolls.

By the time I closed the last page of Sabrina my mood had taken a precipitous pitfall. This is not a book that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy about the state of humanity. Still it does a great job a bringing to life the contentious and often awful results of connecting anonymous groups with nefarious aims and outlooks across the internet. Part of the reason Sabrina works so well is that is seems so plausible. Perhaps I felt so unsettled by the experience of reading the book because the ludicrous e-mails and theories that fill panels throughout the read feel like they could have been written by real people.

Though uncomfortable to read at times, Drnaso has got a thought-provoking piece of work on his hands. I hope lots of others decide to give this one a read: the Booker should have more exciting choices like this!
Profile Image for Tim.
70 reviews31 followers
August 4, 2018
Absolutely amazing book. Nick Drnaso's characters are stoic and quiet in a world that is falling apart around them. It is a book about the times we live in, and it packs a real punch. I'm so glad for the courage the Booker judges showed in including this on the longlist. They must have known they would be subject to closeminded criticism by people unwilling to see the benefit of this book.
Profile Image for Lúcia Fonseca.
216 reviews31 followers
May 14, 2019
Pois hoje entrei numa livraria porque... não é preciso justificação.
Vi este livro e pensei “se calhar levo” e depois sentei-me. E como quem lá trabalha me conhece, estou à vontade. Li esta GN em menos de nada. E sabem o que pensei no fim? Pois. Não que seja má. Aborda um tema muito atual, as fake news. Mas é uma coisa muito ligeira. De repente é aquilo e depois, do nada, termina. Tem páginas e páginas cheias de nada. Muita trivialidade que não contribui nada para a história. A arte também não é nada de especial. Perecem desenhos de um aluno medíocre de EV.
Em resumo, não façam o que eu fiz numa livraria e não gastem dinheiro nisto.
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