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Shit is Real

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A broken-hearted woman drifts into depression as she occupies her traveling neighbor’s apartment

After an unexpected breakup, a young woman named Selma experiences a series of reveries and emotional setbacks. Struggling to relate to her friends and accomplish even the simplest tasks like using a modern laundromat, she sinks deeper into depression. After witnessing another couple break-up and chancing upon the jilted male of the couple, Anders, at his pet store job, Selma realizes that her mysterious neighbor is the woman of that same couple. Her growing despair distances her from from her eager and sympathetic friend. One day, as the mysterious glamorous neighbor is leaving for a business trip, Selma discovers the woman has dropped her key card to her apartment. Selma initially resists but eventually she presses the key to her neighbors lock and enters.

Aisha Franz is a master of portraying feminine loneliness and confusion while keeping her characters tough and real. Her artwork shifts from sparseness to detailed futurist with ease. Her characters fidget and twirl as they zip through a world both foreign and familiar. Base human desires and functions alternate with dreamlike symbolism to create a tension-filled tale of the nightmare that is modern life.

288 pages, Paperback

First published February 1, 2016

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Aisha Franz

21 books30 followers

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5 stars
100 (17%)
4 stars
176 (31%)
3 stars
208 (37%)
2 stars
61 (10%)
1 star
13 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 63 reviews
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.5k followers
September 24, 2018
Shit is Real by Aisha Frank is a great graphic novel about a young woman devastated by a break-up. Well, all we know is that she has been dumped, and is dealing with it. She doesn’t identify her emotions or detail anything about the relationship or the process of breaking up, but she is living alone, and—I will say—seems to be hallucinating as a condition of her relationship grief. She sees people with cat faces, people who morph into fish. ? Fish are central in this one, but not as in the cliché, “there’s a lot of fish in the sea,” as it pertains to partners. Fish are what faces melt into it under periods of stress. She travels into space. Which makes me think that science fiction, speculative fiction is part of this. And poetry comics, in that the images convey life experience. Metaphors. The uses of fiction in representing reality. And the cover conveys horror, as in what nightmare am I dreaming, or living through

Is this surrealism? Is she “losing her mind”? I would say this person is in fact losing it a little bit in the way people do when they go through trauma. Hallucination is more common than not, neurologist Oliver Sacks reminds us (Hallucinations). She has a friend she can count on, but when he friend isn’t there, she is back into it, this miasma of melting she goes through. She meets a guy at a pet shop who asks her to a party, they have sex once, he disappears, what? Wait—what just happened? What is real? When she sees him again she tells him an embarrassing thing, that she wondered whether she had hallucinated the whole experience of hanging with him for a time. Uh, strange, he says. Then we seem to know this guy is more real than a cat woman face. . . or is it?! What is real??! Answer: shit is real, and I like the way fine inventive artist Franz conveys the unreality that comes from isolation, grief, trauma. And friendship is real, her one true friend. Awesome book.
Profile Image for Drew Canole.
1,762 reviews1 follower
August 20, 2018
Wow, I think I enjoyed this even more than Franz's Earthling (that I read very recently).

She's really amazing at exploring human emotion in minor drama pieces. I connected with this one a bit better probably just because it explored a person who's similar to age to me. As opposed to the young girl in Earthling.

I really like the surreal elements of the story... and the fact that the story occurs in some weird futuristic world with animal people... although the parallels to our own digital age was very apparent. She explores relationships within a world of status and technology. How can we connect with others? To fall in love or to have genuine friendships.

Profile Image for Jesús.
378 reviews20 followers
May 1, 2019
An expressionist comic about a young, disaffected woman living in a city. It’s a very familiar premise, but it does offer at least a few new angles. But because it is such a familiar setup, I would hope to get some self-deprecating irony or humor to offset the cliches. Without that, it’s a fine book, but not one with very many payoffs.

In an era when cartoonists like Leslie Stein are doing much better work with the same approximate material, I have a hard time finding a strong connection to Aisha Franz’s work.
Profile Image for Miglė.
Author 13 books397 followers
August 11, 2019
The style is creative, and the fantasy blends in nicely with reality.
What I found lacking was the story - it is there, but doesn't seem to say something new or more than many stories about post-breakup confusion. I get that this graphic novel is more atmosphere-oriented than story-oriented, but it just didn't make me feel anything, except for the appreciation for the art.
Profile Image for Mary Montgomery.
52 reviews3 followers
June 25, 2021
I liked the drawing style of this a lot - there were like more experimental elements exhibited like time lapse within one panel which was really interesting, mixed with some classic manga elements of things like huge animated exaggerated facial expressions and reactions. Plus Franz’s drawing style on its own is cool, I liked the layout and design of a lot of pages - like full page settings drawn behind floating panels, gutter color changes to signify like dream sequences, and the crazy style of panels when Selma was drunk. I like the character design and how there are randomly just non human characters that I wasn’t sure if some of them are supposed to be costumed humans or just like cat headed-normal human bodied entities / lizard people. Also really liked the style of clothing / aesthetic of the characters.

This story takes place in a technologically advanced future where it’s just like society is even more superficial and tied to their phones, work, appearances, etc. Selma seems to be someone who wants to break free of that society, but at some point she looses sight of that. It’s also a story of female friendship between Selma and Yumi. It was much more interesting than I expected actually and I really enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Sole.
Author 24 books121 followers
March 6, 2018
después de haber amado planeta tierra aisha franz no me decepciona. shit si real es una historia extraña pero emotiva, tuve la sensación de estar transitando momentos perturbadores y silenciosos, con una atmósfera casi lyncheana. las habilidades para narrar de la autora son dignas de la más justa de las envidias.
Profile Image for amyleigh.
440 reviews5 followers
July 25, 2018
Aisha Franz's 'Shit is real', like her first comic, 'Earthling', is weird and slippery. Selma, the protagonist, floats in and out of shifting worlds, unsure of their reality. Worlds populated by fish, by humans morphing into fish, by laundromats, by black cats. The narrative was a bit lacking for me, but it was nice to take a dive into Franz's world once again.
Profile Image for Edward Sullivan.
Author 5 books203 followers
July 8, 2018
A surreal, dream-like story about a depressed, heartbroken woman named Selma who experiences a series of emotional ups and downs while she occupies her traveling neighbor’s apartment. Originally published in Germany.
Profile Image for Laura (ローラ).
237 reviews112 followers
October 16, 2018
Blurb on the back calls it, "current dystopia". I think that's the best way to describe this. I feel like it 'got' it. Despite the technological "advances" and dream-sequences, this story feels modern and true.
Profile Image for Simon Sweetman.
Author 9 books48 followers
December 17, 2020
A good graphic, beautifully drawn and rather heartbreaking. Deep story. A great treatment.
Profile Image for Fadilah.
99 reviews14 followers
October 7, 2021
One day I will understand cryptic graphic novels
Profile Image for Susan.
52 reviews
June 29, 2021
quite possibly a perfect book. a depressed-panicattack-who-am-i-even-now feeling that can only be captured by the way this is drawn blurry and fragmented, i think. i love how water and swimming are used throughout
Profile Image for Erin.
119 reviews
December 1, 2018
Selma suddenly got dumped by her boyfriend and has to move into a cheerless new space. While trying to install shelves, she accidentally drills a hole in the wall; a hole that proves to be a portal into another life. Through drunken binges, hallucinations, and vivid nightmares, we experience the visceral sense of loneliness and depression that Selma seems to be going through; it’s super relatable. She occupies her neighbors world, trying to inhabit her put-together life. Will she ultimately discover what works in her own life and pull through?

The art and design in this book is great, definitely want to be part of that future.
Profile Image for K.W. Colyard.
Author 1 book18 followers
November 24, 2018

Among the many graphic novels that have attempted to capture the distinct feeling of facelessness that our all-digital, social media-minded age presents, Aisha Franz's Shit Is Real may come the closest to accurately portraying that experience. Following Selma — recently single, becoming isolated — as she floats through an increasingly weird landscape of strangers, Shit Is Real fully realizes the utter oddity of young-adult life today.

At 288 pages, Shit Is Real neither lingers too long, nor ends too quickly. Although Selma's story can hardly be marked "resolved" by the end of Franz's book, the series of absurd and unfortunate events leaves the reader feeling that too add anything more would be to stray too far, to intrude upon the protagonist's life. Every decision Selma makes, up to her most questionable — occupying a fashionable neighbor's apartment and assuming bits and pieces of her identity — may be walked back with ease. None of them moves her past the point of no return. Whatever she screws up is fixable, at least insofar as the events that follow will allow her to resume her normal life.

Shit Is Real's nail-biting moments come when Selma is in danger of being found out, when the strange, interim life she has crafted for herself appears to be on the verge of collapse. It is at these times, when Selma sidles up to the morally gray areas of her life, that Franz's graphic novel feels the most real. The reader may cast judgment on the protagonist — for masturbating in another person's bed, say, or for wearing a stranger's clothing — but is ultimately forced to admit that nothing she does is harmful to anyone other than herself. Selma is at least minorly self-destructive, to be sure, but she lacks the flamboyance and flair required to take another person down with her. Instead, she founders and bobs in the water, failing no one but herself. Just when we think the waves have overtaken her, she reappears, and we are reminded of our own, depressing resilience.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

Profile Image for Joséphine (Word Revel).
726 reviews278 followers
November 9, 2018
Actual rating: 2.5 stars

Initial thoughts: This is the weirdest graphic novel I've ever read. Set some time in the future, it was hard to discern what was reality and what was part of Selma's imagination. Was her ex-boyfriend some sort of alien with a reptile head or was that how she saw him after he threw her out of their apartment? In terms of feeling lonely and cut off from friends, peering in from the outside, not knowing what comes next, this book was relatable, though.

The artwork fit the psychedelic vibe of the book. I found the world building blended the familiar and strange pretty well, considering technological advances, our increasing health consciousness, and general ambivalence towards our surroundings. Still, I wish there had been more to the plot, rather than just dreamlike sequences in response to Selma's loss of identity after her break-up.
Profile Image for tan.
33 reviews
September 26, 2019
This is a very surrealist depiction of a very human experience, which is losing your way and sense of self after a traumatizing event. In this book that event is the protagonist losing her job, boyfriend, and apartment all at once. Absolutely gorgeous, the art style is extremely stylistic which is perfect for the extreme use of visual metaphor. Despite the fact that only part of the story is grounded in reality, I never lost track of what was happening, and everything worked together towards the larger theme and plot. Definitely a work which deserves a deep reading. One of the best graphic novels I've read, in how it takes advantage of its medium (gorgeous layouts and pencil drawings which give a very unique experience), the honesty and vulnerability of the artist, and the flagrant disregard for spelling anything out, because it's not necessary.
September 11, 2023
Late in this graphic novel a nude old man at a party gets into a bed made out of giant lettuce leaves and one of the characters observes: "I don't think I understand art at all!"
Reading this book made me feel the same type of bewilderment as that character. I did not understand this at all. It's a story of a breakup, sort of. It's a story of financial jealousy, of quasi-friendship, of hook-up culture, of technology. But it's also a dystopian nightmare, a book about dreams, a book about lizard and cat people coexisting with humans? I have absolutely no idea.
I also did not love the art and at every turn of the page I felt like I was being dared to give up and walk away. I didn't, I stuck with it, but I don't feel like it paid off for me at all.
Profile Image for Kristen.
47 reviews9 followers
August 9, 2018
the first 20 pages had me bracing myself for the entire book to be an unending surreal, what-the-fuck-is-even-happening phantasmagoria that lacked substance, but it was not that! while the book is definitely hallucinatory and weird, those sequences don't feel like they're needlessly so. the weirdness is connected to the main character's reality, her emotional unraveling post-breakup as she begins to feel disconnected from and ignored by her best friend. i'm relatively new to appreciating/critiquing graphic novels but i just...can't bring myself to like weirdness for weirdness's sake. i want some story ok!!
Profile Image for Jessica Haider.
1,791 reviews259 followers
July 30, 2018
3.5 stars

This graphic novel is primarily about the main character's loneliness after she breaks up with her boyfriend and in turn feels neglected by her best friend who is busy in her own relationship. This book is odd and surreal drifting in & out of dream sequences. I read it in under an hour and overall found it enjoyable (and weird).
Profile Image for Maggie Gordon.
1,896 reviews139 followers
September 2, 2018
Shit is Real is quite the literary trip. It explores loneliness and the ennui of the modern millennial. It also feels a bit like taking a bunch of drugs and watching the world warp and spin around you. It's hard to get a grip on what is truth and what is simply a dream or desire. A fascinating read and one to ruminate on.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
269 reviews8 followers
October 22, 2018
I felt like I never quite caught up to what was happening in Shit Is Real. I started out confused. Then some confusing stuff happened, and then the main character had longer hair, and there was a confusing resolution. I wasn't too captured by the art, which is fine, except it distracted me from the story, which also didn't capture me.
Profile Image for Taylor Zartman.
72 reviews3 followers
October 26, 2018
Oof. As someone who has had their own long, depressive episode, this book gets it. Not only the heaviness of it, but the detachment from reality - the dreams that might be life and the life that might be a dream. Are consequences even real?

Franz knows the power of her visuals. Shit is Real is beautifully drawn and thoughtfully composed. And it's painfully real.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 63 reviews

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