Comic Monday, Contemporary, Fiction, Graphic Novel

Giant Days by John Allison

Back in 2015 I was going through a reading slump. Nothing was really holding my attention and I was having difficulty reading without falling asleep (I’m borderline narcoleptic anyway), and a friend suggested I give manga or graphic novels a try. I’d already been recommending them to my students, so I figured, why not give it a go myself! Giant Days quickly became on of my favorites.

Synopsis

From the Back of Volume 1:
Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of hand-wringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery-mold, nu-chauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive. Going off to university is always a time of change and growth, but for Esther, Susan, and Daisy, things are about to get a little weird.

Review

I started my long, and seemingly unending, search, for contemporary books set during college/university shortly before I matriculated to the University of Pittsburgh back in 2007. YA lit was still an emerging thing and most books were set during high school, and most of the adult fiction I found was all about marriage troubles and babies, something I definitely wasn’t interested in reading at the time.

It boggled my mind – why, when so many people, specifically authors, had gone through the traditional four-year college system, were there so few books setting during such a defining time in a person’s life? Did we all go from high school to having babies immediately? Shortly after I started college, I thought I’d found the answer – New Adult was emerging as a genre and seemed particularly geared towards millennials like me in college.

But New Adult turned out to just be soft-core smut. College was the setting, but hooking up was the plot. What about finding yourself? What about the fact that coming-of-age novels are a thing and most of us come-of-age during the college years? I felt like there was so much that could be written that the world needed. So I started to write myself. I’d gotten so much advice from authors and professors at that point that you should write what you’d want to read.

I started my serious writing in middle school and wrote almost exclusively screen and stage plays. I thought my dialogue was just so witty that it should be the star of the show. By my sophomore year of college, I’d written 60% of an entire television series set at a fictional university in Boston and Greek was my favorite television show. I realize now, that I should have been reading graphic novels ages ago – they’re basically stage and screen plays in book form – the focus is all on the dialogue, but you get the added treat of seeing the characters and their reactions as well!

I picked up Giant Days as soon as the first bound volume was available in December 2015. I started reading it around the same time I started getting into Lumberjanes, The Wicked + The Divine, Sex Criminals, Rat Queens, Saga, and many others. Four and a half years later, I’ve only kept up with a few of these series and Giant Days is by far my favorite.

Set at British uni, Sheffield University, it follows the path of new roommates and friends, Esther, Susan, and Daisy, each their own unique and amazing character. Their friends, both new and old, pop up through the pages, the but the main focus is always Susan, Esther, and Daisy – friendship is the heart and focus of the story and it brings such joy to my heart that John Allison never waivers from this theme.

Yes, they date, but they also have issues in classes, they need to find housing, their families make their lives difficult, they have to get jobs. It is the most well-rounded depiction of college life that I have ever seen. It’s so realistic, that I found myself feeling nostalgic for my Pitt years (something I don’t often, if ever, experience), and missing my college friends (something I experience more often). Every time a new volume comes out, I’m inspired to reach out to my own uni friends scattered across the US and check in to see how they’re doing and I hope that Daisy, Susan and Esther will do this with each other more often than I do!

Art style wise, there are a couple of changes throughout the series (we’re now up to twelve bound volumes) and some I like much better than others. Oddly enough, John Allison’s artwork is my least favorite, but none of the changes detract from my overall enjoyment of the series. John Allison comes from a web comic background (he still publishes panels of Bad Machinery), and the influence carries over to the art style as well. As part of the Boom! Box line, it shares artistic similarities to others from that publisher as well, including Lumberjanes and Slam.

As a series, it is nearing the end of it’s natural arc as Susan, Esther, and Daisy are in their final year and starting to discuss plans for after uni. And while I love it dearly and don’t want to see it go, I hope to see a satisfying and concise ending, without the series being drawn out beyond what makes it so wonderful and magical today.

Rating: 9 out of 10 stars

Where to Buy
In the USA, I recommend purchasing through BookShop or your local independent, in the UK, and many other parts of the world, I recommend Blackwell’s, and if neither of those cover where you live, I recommend checking out your local booksellers! Independent bookstores are vital parts of every local community and I wholly endorse supporting your local stores versus Amazon.

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