Thoughts on… Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green (Graphic Novel)

This review was sponsored by NetGalley. The eBook was given me for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

My first venture into the world of graphic novels has been unintentionally serious and deep. This graphic novel depicts the heartbreaking account of Katie Green’s struggle with anorexia and binge eating. Reader, I took a nose dive into a heavy, mature storyboard.

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When I say mature, I mean not merely the fact it’s about eating disorders, there were some chapters that contained mature content, had I realised this I don’t think I would have read this novel. That said, I didn’t feel like it was gratuitous because it was an integral part of the plot. Generally speaking, I don’t mind a bit of mild nudity but when it got to some rather intimate images (including some between different characters) I started to feel a little bit uncomfortable, but that’s me. But it cannot be ignored that this is the author’s true story, based on fact, so to omit those parts would be tantamount to altering reality.

Green’s writing is simple, to the point and sometimes remarkably understated. The illustrations are an unusual mix of accurate and disproportionate, I don’t know if this is an intentional parallel to body dysmorphia or just Green’s drawing style. I looked up her artwork and the style is easily recognisable but I haven’t noticed the same oversight with regard to proportion in her other work which suggests it may have been intentional in Lighter Than My Shadow. It is kind of comparable to Hergé in that the faces are all fairly simple and similar, but then the other surroundings are detailed. But of course, Hergé is just a legend and it is not really a fair comparison.

I didn’t notice how the pages gradually changed colour until I was quite a fair way into the novel. It’s as though when the situation becomes more hopeful there are warmer hues and when it becomes hopeless it becomes darker and colder. A clever touch.

The illness is drawn as a scribble, one that grows or shrinks depending on its hold on Katie, and this is such an accurate way of representing disordered thinking, it is insidious and subtle, appearing gradually and then becoming all-consuming. I have never seen a better way of explaining how this sort of thinking takes over.

It’s a bit of a slow starter. We see the depiction
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of a fairly normal childhood with what I feel is typical school bullying, there are also subtle clues of potential for food issues, but when the illness hits it gets such a strong grip on Katie that her parents urgently seek medical treatment for her, this pursuit takes a tragic turn which sadly compounds Katie’s problem and leads to problems with binge eating. Although I was never diagnosed anorexic I can sympathise with much of the disordered thinking, the seeing your body as parts you hate rather than as a whole, the fear of unplanned food, not understanding hunger and fullness, imagining yourself becoming huge just because of eating one “unhealthy” meal… And even the daydreaming about being able to cut out sections of fat from my body – something I remember thinking when I was still in primary school! It would seem people with a perfectionist personality and low self esteem are vulnerable to eating disorders, as is the case with Katie Green. Sadly, the illness nearly drove her to her death.

This is a brilliant insight into the mind of people with eating disorders. It is the sad, personal tale of Katie Green but there are lessons from it that apply to anybody with disordered behaviours toward food/exercise.

This is a sensitive story but one that needs to be told.

 

“A graphic memoir of eating disorders, abuse and recovery”

–  lighterthanmyshadow.com

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