Jillian Tamaki, 248 pgs, Drawn & Quarterly, drawnandquarterly.com, $27.95
Times are tough, and when they are, anxiety springs eternal. The pressure and burden to just be a functioning and productive person are greater than they’ve ever been before. Few understand what that does to the minds of the young and confused better than Jillian Tamaki, the Governor General and Eisner award-winning author of This One Summer. Her latest work, Boundless, is a collection of short stories that together explore the anxieties and growing pains of adapting to a changing modern world. Tamaki’s skills as a storyteller and artist are on full display in each story of this collection, as well as her understanding of the human condition.
Each story stands alone, connected to each other by a common theme of personal unease. In “1. Jenny,” a woman obsesses over the life of an alternate version on herself on a mysterious Facebook mirror. Jenny compares her life to her alternate, reflecting our own preoccupation with social media and our tendency to rate our own existences through comparisons to others’. In “Half-Life,” Helen mysteriously shrinks to Thumbelina proportions. As Helen shrinks, we can’t help but feel small with her and literally fear the idea of nothing. Like an episode of Black Mirror, anxieties are highlighted by the mysterious or fantastical. These elements never overpower or consume the story at hand and always complement the real fears at our cores.
A lot of the feelings Tamaki expresses feel bleak, but they’re really just blunt, which can hurt more than reality does. I found comfort and reflection in the stories. The soft images help ease the pain of how stern reality can be, and the careful way Tamaki crafted each of her stories in congruence with her images is art. (Rayna Livingstone-Lang)