by Martine Leavitt
♦publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux
♦release date: November 17th, 2015
♦hardcover, 192 pages
♦intended audience: Young adult
♦source: from publisher for honest review
Seventeen-year-old Calvin has always known his fate is linked to the comic book character from Calvin & Hobbes. He was born on the day the last strip was published; his grandpa left a stuffed tiger named Hobbes in his crib; and he even has a best friend named Susie. As a child Calvin played with the toy Hobbes, controlling his every word and action, until Hobbes was washed to death. But now Calvin is a teenager who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, Hobbes is back—as a delusion—and Calvin can't control him. Calvin decides that if he can convince Bill Watterson to draw one final comic strip, showing a normal teenaged Calvin, he will be cured. Calvin and Susie (and Hobbes) set out on a dangerous trek across frozen Lake Erie to track him down.
Review: Calvin is a unique tale, there’s no arguing that. Written as a very long letter to Calvin & Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson, it’s the story of a brilliant imaginative boy finding his way back to confidence after being diagnosed with schizophrenia. He doesn’t want to take meds, he wants to heal himself---and he’s got a plan to do just that.
For me, no amount of suspension of disbelief could keep me from being charmed by Calvin’s mind and his determination and his hope. Hope that his plan would work, hope that Susie was real, hope that they made it across the deadly lake Erie. Along their trek, they muse over the history of their friendship and what it means that she is here with him now. They explore their feelings toward his diagnosis, their fears, the lake itself, Hobbes, and the world in general. They come across many things: ice fishing villages, a lot of cars stranded in the middle of the frozen vastness, and a helpful stranger who welcomes them into his home on the ice who seems almost as lost as they are.
I suppose it helped that I’m a long-time fan of Calvin & Hobbes. The writing and the feel of this story really did a great job paying homage to some of the profound ideas that snuck out between the playful and raucous antics of a small boy and his imaginary tiger. If you’re not familiar with the comic strip, a few things might not strike a cord, such as the interjected reports from Spaceman Spiff. At the very beginning, it was hard to get a handle on the way the dialogue is written, more like a script than a novel. But I came to really enjoy it; the casual writing style really came across as a letter from Calvin to the one man he thought could save him and make him “normal” by creating one more comic strip.
This is a great little tale of hope, friendship, confusion, and bravery. There are moments of brilliance and silliness and sweetness, and one that brought me to tears. If you're looking for something unlike anything else out there, pick up this book!
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