BOOK REVIEW | Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

4/5 stars

As soon as I saw Sabrina on the 2018 Man Booker long list, I knew I wanted to check it out. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a graphic novel up for a major literary award before (please correct me if I’m wrong!), so I was definitely intrigued. I put in an order right away even though it was on backorder, and then waited nearly two months for it to arrive. It finally showed up at my house a few days ago and I couldn’t help but dig right in. This story is nothing at all like I expected – it’s a grim take on our media consumption and the ways in which we process violent crime.

A young woman, Sabrina, disappears suddenly and her grieving boyfriend, Teddy, goes to live with Calvin, an acquaintance, while he deals with the ambiguity of the situation. Calvin, who is in the Air Force, traverses working his desk job and ensuring Teddy is taken care of, as well as a separation from his wife and daughter. A mysterious videotape emerges and it’s clear that Sabrina has been killed; what follows is overconsumption, conspiracy theories, and an obsession with seeking footage of the crime taking place. The minimalist artistic style accentuates the character’s banal existences, devoid of intimate connection. It works well with the impersonal feel of the book.

My only real criticism of this story is how it ended; it was sudden and introduced a scene that I can’t quite make sense of. If you’ve read this, I’m referring to the man and woman arguing outside of Calvin’s room after he moves. Perhaps it’s a subtle statement about violence against women, or relationships. I haven’t quite pieced it together. I enjoyed this way more than I anticipated, but know it’s quite depressing and a bold commentary on our detached, digital lifestyles. I’m certainly impressed that Man Booker has this on their list, I wouldn’t have heard about it otherwise.

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