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The Dark Matter of Mona Starr

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  648 ratings  ·  146 reviews
A bold and original YA graphic novel about battling your inner doubts and fears—and finding your genius
Sometimes, the world is too much for Mona Starr. She’s sweet, geeky, and creative, but it’s hard for her to make friends and connect with other people. She’s like a lot of sensitive teenagers—but in the hands of graphic novelist Laura Lee Gulledge, Mona’s struggle with
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published April 7th 2020 by Amulet Books
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Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  648 ratings  ·  146 reviews

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Rod Brown
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was ok
A well-intentioned book about a teenager dealing with depression and anxiety that just fell flat for me. It's good to share these types of stories with young readers and the author includes a lot of good information and strategies for self-care. Unfortunately, it suffers in comparison to the more engaging Guts by Raina Telgemeier which I read recently and covers much of the same ground.

Also, there were several negative aspects that threw me out of the story. First, there is some queerbaiting. Se
Dave Schaafsma
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
A timely self-help-oriented novel about depression for middle grades/YA. When Mona's friend oves away, Mona spirals into some emotional struggles that have physical manifestations. She's depressed and this has lots of different aspects; Mona calls it her "dark matter." Gulledge takes us through Mona's process to health, in part thorugh "artners" or art partners. She can't isolate too much, and since she is an artist she needs to express herself and create connections with others.

The story not on
Aug 15, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
When Mona's best friend moves to Hawaii, her depression and social anxiety hit hyperdrive. She feels alone and insecure, and her mental illnesses -- dubbed her Dark Matter -- are crushing her. She internalizes the shame and fear, worrying deeply when she befriends a new girl at her school. Will that friend be able to handle all of her?

Gulledge's comic is beautiful and heart-wrenching and will resonate with artsy kids struggling with their mental health especially. The metaphor of dark matter wor
Ms. B
Graphic novel about a teen with depression and anxiety. This is a hopeful story that gives readers who may have similar diagnoses some ideas for self-care. This book's content can be heavy at times (nothing graphic). Honestly, I am not sure young readers with depression anxiety would appreciate this or not.
Along with those who know someone or have a loved one with depression and/or anxiety, those who work with teens will want to give this a read. Readers will grow in compassion for their loved o
Jun 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful illustrations! I felt like it did a good job of showing how some people experience mental illness, depression and anxiety in particular. I liked Mona, the main character, and thought she was relatable.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I received an ARC from the publisher at the NCTE conference. Thank you!

3.5 stars

This graphic novel was very interesting -- a bit like a counseling session in a book. I could see it being a valuable resource for teens struggling with depression (especially arty teens). I really loved the way Mona uses galaxy knowledge to explore her own "matter." It felt like an interesting use of language and a different way to explore the topic. The last third of the story I found to be a bit too tidy, even a b
It's so frustrating to heavily relate to someone's experience, but dislike them/their story so much.

Just like a lot of people, I've struggled with my mental health and high school definitely wasn't conducive to improving that. Here, I really hated how Mona treated everyone around her: she was awful and even though her actions were explained by her mental health, it doesn't excuse them. I have felt the way she has but she was such an unlikeable character for the majority of the book. There are al
Sarah B
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book to read for anyone who deals with anxiety and self doubt or depression. It's like an illustrated guide to help show you how you can deal with it.

The main character, Mona, feels like an outcast and believes she is worthless. Not only are her thoughts dark but she has physical pain as well...yet doctors keep telling her that she's healthy. Put her pain won't go away. Situations at school make her anxiety worse and she starts avoiding people, chewing on her nails...

This gr
Jessica Haider
Sep 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A graphic novel about a high school girl who starts being swallowed by the "dark matter" of her depression after her best friend moves to Hawaii. Mona is sad when Nash moves away and feels alone at school. She feels surrounded by her dark matter telling her that she isn't good enough and that no one likes her. Slowly, she starts making connections with other students and learning to push away her dark matter.

This was a heartfelt novel that definitely attempts to offer some guidance on working t
Leigh Collazo
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous illustrations and a great introduction to depression for teens. Full review to come.
Lake Villa District Library
Aug 28, 2020 added it
Recommended to Lake Villa District Library by: Wendy
Find this book in our catalog! ...more
Jun 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
a great introduction to depression and social anxiety and how to deal with it, for teens. I wish I had this book when I was younger. Can feel a little textbooky or preachy at times but still a great resource. Bonus points for Better Off Dead reference.
Oct 07, 2020 rated it liked it
This one hit home for me. I struggle with my depression a lot but I don't think of it in a physical way as Mona does. But I resonated with her feelings a lot. I do wish they discussed medication as a form of treatment more than they did. Supplements are mentioned but didn't seem to help and while we see Mona take some sort of pills towards the end, it's skimmed over.

Overall, a beautiful graphic novel that really tackles depression head-on with some helpful ways of coping, but there's nothing wro
Mar 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: high-school, high-low
A graphic novel with a powerful message that will resonate with teens or anyone impacted by depression/anxiety. Great recommendation for readers who like this format and the genre realistic fiction.
Laura Lee Gulledge just keeps growing as an author. I've been a fan of hers since Page by Paige. 'Mona Starr' clearly draws from her own personal struggles with depression and self-doubt and how she used art to work through it all. ...more
Jaclyn Brett Lewis
This remarkably genuine graphic novel follows a shy, sensitive, introverted girl dealing with her “Matter” after her best friend moves away. The story meaningfully addresses art, community, and mental health and the simple-yet-difficult act of making it through every day and shows the many facets of her personality and mental state, neither condemning nor romanticizing her struggle. The visuals are even more stunning, managing to somehow be deeply symbolic but also grounded, expressing things li ...more
Julia Arruda
Nov 12, 2020 rated it it was ok
The intention of this book is good, as a teenager battling with depression and anxiety can be very pedagogic.

However, when she stars to feel pains, as someone who also struggles with depression and anxiety I can safely say that not ALL my pains are “real” and “medical” pains, and this GN gives a very simples explanation for hypochondriacs who for sure believe their pains are as real as Mona.

And although is very nice to read about overcoming depression (not all of us can without medication) and
Michigan City Public Library
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A story about a teenager struggling with depression and negative thoughts. She takes on a project of observing and documenting her "dark matter".

I loved the art in this: compassionate faces, beautiful star scapes. Mostly black and white with dashes of gold.

I thought this was going in a gay direction, but then it didn't; Mona being struck by cupid's arrow was apparently an "art crush". There is also some ableism in that Mona thinks her benign tumor is a manifestation of her depression, and no on
Dakota Morgan
Jan 29, 2021 rated it liked it
The Dark Matter of Mona Starr feels like an important book for its pre-teen audience. Mona is distressed by her deep, uncontrollable feelings, a "matter" that seems to control her life. The book is her story of overcoming this "matter," coming to terms with it and minimizing it's impact.

So, it's essentially a clinical depression primer for a younger audience. Great! But Dark Matter doesn't stray very far outside that boundary. It's a handsome product, with comic-y, sometimes complex art. It look
Amy Pickett
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2020
The Dark Matter of Mona Starr lived up to the very high expectations I had based on Laura Lee Gulledge's fantastic previous graphic novels! It was even one of my Pickett's Picks for Spring 2020 (https://ridleyhighlibrary.wordpress.c...). This is an intimate, moving depiction of Mona's journey to manage her depression (her "Matter"), embrace being the unique person that she is, and accept the loving support of people who care most about her. Some of the artwork is so stunning that I found myself ...more
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this to be a thoughtful and hopefully helpful book on teenage depression! The things Mona faces and fears are things everyone has to learn to deal with in their own way. There are suggestions on finding what works for you! This book would pair well with the graphic novel "Guts." ...more
Nicole Darrow
Feb 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021, graphic-novels, ya
Loved this. Beautiful illustrations capture complex emotions. Great for teens struggling with mental health - I think Mona’s therapist’s suggestions and her processes for dealing with emotions are perfect suggestions. Also emphasizes support systems and reaching out.
Jessica Marsh
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Did I cry in the hour it took me to read this? Yes. Yes, it did.
Samantha Kelley
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
This graphic novel was an excellent representation of depression. The way that the author compares Mona’s depression as “her matter” was deep.
Laura Gardner
Dec 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I know a few students who will love this YA GN about depression.
I needed this right now. Share this widely, because you never know who does. 💙
Hailey Carrell
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
This book is a beautiful exploration of depression and anxiety. It is honest and raw and so relatable. And the illustrations are gorgeous and powerful!
Jenn Gar Cia
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully illustrated metaphors perfectly depicting the truth is that is mental illness AND mental awareness/resilience!!! Beautiful piece all around!
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LAURA LEE GULLEDGE is an Eisner Award nominated author, illustrator, and active teaching artist. She is the creator of the YA graphic novels Page by Paige, Will & Whit, and The Dark Matter of Mona Starr (April 2020, Abrams Books) in addition to her interactive book Sketchbook Dares: 24 Ways to Draw Out Your Inner Artist. 

Laura Lee also enjoys exploring comics journalism, interactive event product

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