Guest Post by Kevin Brown
I’ll start by saying that IN. by Will McPhail is not just one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in a long time; it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
The plot is simple: readers follow Nick, an illustrator, as he tries to truly connect with people. We see montages of his daily life, moving from one wonderfully-parodied coffee shop to another, and his superficial interactions with neighbors and strangers, as well as his mother and sister. His internal monologue shows his desire to have a meaningful conversation with them, but he is unable to bring himself to do so.
When he finally breaks through and has a brief, but real, conversation with a plumber repairing a toilet, he begins to find the ability to connect with more and more people. In those moments, the art dramatically changes, moving from basic black and white sketches to larger, full-color, imagistic scenes that represent the joy and responsibility he feels in those moments.
He also meets and begins dating Wren. While he becomes able to connect with more people in his life, he is unable to have an honest conversation with her. Their relationship falters because of a tragedy occurring in Nick’s life, one that ultimately enables him to find a true and meaningful connection that could last the rest of his life.
After two years of a pandemic that has separated people and forced us to find creative ways to build and sustain relationships, this graphic novel feels like exactly what we need. McPhail reminds us that our lives are too brief to spend on the surface, and we should dive deep into our relationships while we have the time.
IN. by Will McPhail. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 2021.
Reviewer bio: Kevin Brown has published three books of poetry: Liturgical Calendar: Poems (Wipf and Stock); A Lexicon of Lost Words (winner of the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry, Snake Nation Press); and Exit Lines (Plain View Press). He also has a memoir, Another Way: Finding Faith, Then Finding It Again, and a book of scholarship, They Love to Tell the Stories: Five Contemporary Novelists Take on the Gospels. You can find out more about him and his work on Twitter at @kevinbrownwrite or at http://kevinbrownwrites.weebly.com/.