The talented Elloise Hopkins, an author, book reviewer and freelance graphic designer is back as a guest reviewer. She takes a look at Going To The Moon By Lavie Tidhar and Paul McCaffrey. Elloise can be found at www.elloisehopkins.biz.
GOING TO THE MOON.
By Lavie Tidhar and Paul McCaffrey.
The House of Murky Depths.
Going to the Moon is a collaboration of words and artwork that explores Tourette’s syndrome as it manifests in the young schoolboy protagonist Jimmy. The front cover depicts Jimmy in his spacesuit conquering the moon, or more accurately as the flag suggests, conquering Tourette’s. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of this graphic novel, which I think ordinarily I would have passed over simply due to the child astronaut hero visible on first glance – possibly every young boy’s dream, but not every girl’s.
I’m glad I got one though, because by page one I was hooked. We meet Jimmy as he prepares to walk through the school gates, and the text tells us “Jimmy goes to the f**king school”. And there we have it; the clash between the innocent image of the schoolboy in his pristine uniform, bag on back, and the reality of the terrible disorder Jimmy suffers from.
We learn about how the condition affects Jimmy. He has ticks that make his face and arms move outside of his control. He also uses bad words and has no way of stopping himself from swearing even when he doesn’t want to. Apart from his Tourette’s though, he is just like the other kids. Perhaps that is what really helps to deliver the message in this book; he is just a boy. Jimmy has a dream. He wants to be an astronaut and land on the moon. Just like countless other boys his age.
The story follows Jimmy from his dream to the reality he has to face everyday: bullying because of his Tourette’s. The other kids just don’t understand why Jimmy says the things he says. His words are not intended to hurt but theirs are, and they do. But this does not dissuade Jimmy from his dream and the reader can only admire him for that as he continues with school and deals with his bullying as best he can.
Going to the Moon is alive with themes, and even for people who have no real world experience with Tourette’s syndrome there are elements of loneliness, unjustness, suffering and sadness in here that everyone can relate to. Bullying, friendship, growing up, family life, ambition, and restriction by circumstance are all things that affect Jimmy as the story progresses, and by the end I found myself very connected to the hero and thus moved by the tale.
McCaffrey’s artwork is arresting throughout this story. Facial expressions and body poses have been used to full advantage to contort Jimmy and depict visually just how little control he has over himself and how unnatural he can appear to the ignorant. Aside from that the full-page illustrations are beautifully coloured and stylised perfectly to reflect the prose. Indeed the prose itself has been displayed in a very visual manner with the use of font, emphasis and colour really helping to drive home just how much Jimmy is restricted and hindered in life by his condition.
In a similar vein, Tidhar’s words are just as important here in helping the reader to understand Tourette’s syndrome, and thus to understand Jimmy and empathise with his situation. There are some fantastic lines in this novel, which I would just be spoiling to quote them here without their visual counterpart. The essence of this book is that the words are in the art and the art is in the words; together they are more powerful than any other method I have seen before to both educate a reader and provoke an emotional response at the same time.
I highly recommend Going to the Moon, as I think there is something in here that every reader will take away with them. Perhaps the only drawback is that with Jimmy being such a young protagonist this would be the perfect material to introduce children to Tourette’s syndrome in a way they would understand and be able to relate to, except the problem of course is the adult language, and it is not held back here in the prose of in Jimmy’s world.
Tourette’s manifests itself in different ways with each individual, and not all use swear words. Most adults I think would be reluctant to let a child see this novel though, and understandably so because of the coarse language, which is a shame because it really helps to convey what the condition does to its sufferers. I wonder whether a child friendly version could be a logical step here for another graphic novel exploring Tourette’s, with a young protagonist that is afflicted by a different uncontrollable vocabulary.
Nonetheless this is worth a read for anyone who is prepared to look past the swearing, and I suspect what you will come away with at the end is an emotional reaction to Jimmy’s story and a reminder of how important dreams are to all of us.