Matt's Reviews > Potential

Potential by Ariel Schrag
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's review
Sep 13, 2007

it was amazing
bookshelves: my-graphic-novel-collection
Recommended for: fans of Phoebe Gloeckner, Michelle Tea, Alison Bechdel, or good memior
Read in March, 2000

Sometimes the best way to tell how much I've enjoyed a book is to examine the spine. A quick glance at my bookshelf reveals that my copy of Ariel Schrag's Potential is cracked in about twenty-three different places.

I'm a huge fan of this book. It may be because it's one of the first truly alternative comic books that did anything for me. It may be the fact that I knew Schrag put this book together while she was still in high school. It may be the way that it tackles GLBT issues without stumbling into a series of adolescent storytelling clichés. Whatever it is, I've loved reading it again and again over the years.

I do cringe a bit when I hear people say that the book is, "pretty good for a sixteen year old." In my opinion, Schrag examines her own life with an honest clarity that most adult memoirs wish they could achieve. The art itself is expressive and wonderful. To someone reading alternative comics for the first time, it may appear a bit slapped together. But as the book progresses, it's easy to see that the artist is quite sure of herself and the rudimentary style works to enhance the story. Throughout the novel, Schrag deals with interpersonal relationships and sexually explicit material with the grace of a seasoned storyteller. She convincingly portrays the dual intensity and painful awkwardness of high school romance. A very engaging read.

Also, keep an eye out for Potential's predecessor, Definition. While it does manage to be a quick and entertaining read, it lacks a bit of the emotional depth achieved in the Shrag's later work. Still, it’s worth finding a copy if only to get a glimpse of her sophomore year. I very much look forward to reading Likewise, the chronicle of her senior year, when it is eventually collected and released.
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