May 14, 2009

Lost at Sea by Bryan Lee O'Malley

I have a lot of my mind and not a lot to do so it’s going to come out, all of it, and then, then, it may begin to make a sort of sense.
Raleigh is eighteen, confused, and convinced that a cat stole her soul. At the beginning of this story opens, she’s in a car with three of her classmates, travelling back to Toronto from California. Bit by bit, we discover what motivated her trip in the first place, and why she feels so lost and disconnected from everyone else. And that’s all I’m going to tell you about the plot. Lost at Sea is a short book, so to say much more would half ruin the fun.

Lost at Sea is such a lovely book. It’s tender, sad in a quiet sort of way, and occasionally very funny. This is Bryan Lee O'Malley’s first book: he’s better known for his Scott Pilgrim series, which I haven’t read yet (but after this, I really want to). What I liked the most about Lost at Sea was how honest and intimate it felt. It brought me back to my days as an awkward eighteen-year-old. (And just how different that feels from being an awkward twenty-something is perhaps a subject for another time.) There’s a bit in particular I really want to share with you. Unfortunately I couldn’t find these two panels online, and since my attempts to take a picture of the page were disastrous, the text alone will have to do:
I get thoughts like: I look in the mirror and I don’t belong here. I see myself and I look all wrong. Stephanie looks bold and bouncy and fresh and normal, and I look like something else. Too long, too stringy, too pasty, too squarish. Kind of inhuman.

What is that makes me not fit in, and is it in the world, or in my head? Why do I look like a mutant in photographs, anyway?
Ah, I remember that feeling very well. And of course, Raleigh's discomfort is not just physical. It also has to do with feeling isolated, with trying to figure out who she is, with being afraid to open up, to trust others, to connect, to speak at all. I could relate to that very well, but when she does speak, when she tells Stephanie why she was in California and what has been happening in her life, I felt closer to her than ever. Her pain and vulnerability made more sense than ever. It made me want to go back to the first page and read the book all over again, and that doesn’t happen very often.

The blurb on the back cover of Lost at Sea says, “If you’ve ever been eighteen, or confused, or both, maybe you should read this book.” Perfectly put. Bryan Lee O’Malley really captured what being on the verge of adulthood feels like.

Other Opinions:
A Book a Week (Thank you so much for recommending this book, Kiirstin!)
Small Victories
Read About Comics
The Book Zombie
Books & Other Thoughts

(Let me know if I missed yours.)


  1. Oh, I so remember feeling that way when I see a photo- like I mutated into something else when the camera went 'click'.
    I like road trip books and movies, this sounds interesting.

  2. Nymeth, seriously about 99% of my graphic novel recommendations come from you. If you weren't posting these I wouldn't know where to look! Thanks.

    PS - I see you're currently reading another Sarah Waters book? I'm so looking forward to reading something by her and just haven't gotten to it yet.

  3. Yet ANOTHER incredible sounding book I've never heard of! And want. Now.

  4. I remember those feelings too. Sounds like a great book - I love the drawings too.

  5. Oh yeah...this sounds like another one that I'll really like. And I just love the art!

  6. Sounds wonderful. I may pick it up myself! :-)

  7. Oh I so remember feeling like that. I think it took me a long time to realise I just had to be me and it didn't matter if I didn't fit in. I like to think I am unique as everyone else is.

  8. A Hazra: Me too. I'm still not completely comfortable with having my picture taken, but when I was younger I hated it with a passion.

    Amanda: Hearing that makes me happy :D And yes, I'm almost done with it. It's not as amazing as Fingersmith, but still very good. So atmospheric, and the writing is just stunning.

    Debi, you'd enjoy it!

    Bermudaonion: I really loved the art. Simple but very expressive.

    Chris, I definitely think you would.

    Marie, I hope you enjoy it!

    Scrap Girl: It can still be hard for me to feel 100% comfortable in my own skin, but it did get easier over the years. I think this is a problem common to many, many girls and women. And as unique as everyone else - I like that!

  9. Nymeth, you are so, so welcome! When I first read it, I almost couldn't wait to recommend it to the world. I'm really glad you liked it, too. I hope you do have the chance to read the Scott Pilgrim books, too; I think they're weirder and funnier. Not nearly as intimate but they still have that wonderful emotional honesty that Lost at Sea does, just from a different angle. But, nothing I've read yet this year has deposed this book of it's "as favourite as The Wee Free Men" status!

  10. Yeah, I am definitely getting all my graphic novel recommendations from you too. This looks wonderful and clever and insightful and amazing!

  11. What a poignant quote. It really did bring the high school years and feeling rushing back.

  12. I'm amazed by how many books you've read that I've never heard of...or even seen on other blogs. So while I may never read most of them, it's always fun to see new and different things here!

  13. Ah, sounds familiar. Definitely something that I'm going through at the moment. This looks like one that I have to check out. :]

  14. I am sold at "Raleigh is eighteen, confused, and convinced that a cat stole her soul". I mean really how cool is this book? Thanks for the review.

  15. Sadly, my library doesn't have this one, but I'm going to be keeping my eye out for it. It looks fabulous! I wonder if I can get a graphic novel on inter-library loan? Hmmm....

  16. I wrote this one down so I wouldn't forget.

  17. I sure remember that feeling! It sometimes comes back too! :-o I'll have to get this one, thanks Nymeth!

  18. I have a couple of his books on hold for me at the library. I am glad you enjoyed!

  19. A cat stole her soul? Well, that's certainly new! Love the provided illustrations. Sounds like a neat graphic novel :)

  20. Okay Nymeth, I've decided...I just have to become your neighbor or something! Then I can borrow all of the wonderful books you review and get me interested in. :P

    Seriously, keep them coming.

  21. I've been in the mood for a good YA and graphic novel so this may just fit the bill! I'll have to see if my library has it - I'm so curious about this soul stealing bit :)

  22. Another one that sounds and looks amazing! The last bit where you said = "Bryan Lee O’Malley really captured what being on the verge of adulthood feels like." = it makes me think that it would be a perfect read no matter if you are 18 or 58. That feeling of being just one step from the edge of maturity - I don't think it ever really leaves us. And personally at 30, I still haven't figured out if that's a good or bad thing :)

  23. This does sound like a nice book, great review :O)
    the illustrations are cute.

  24. This one sounds wonderful. Thanks for the recommendation.

  25. Another great book! I really should be more open to graphic novels...

  26. You always find so many great books that I've never even heard of before! I can remember that feeling of not fitting in very well too. And even now, but like you said that's another story. :)

  27. I have to get back to graphic novels. I'll do some searching next time I'm at the library.

  28. I'd love to read this one. I never heard of it but it looks and sounds lovely. Has to go into the wishlist!

  29. Kiirstin: Weird, funny, and emotionally honest...they really sound like something I'd love.

    Jenny: I really thought it was all of that. I hope you enjoy it too!

    Nicole: He captured it so well!

    Softdrink: I actually discovered this one through another blog! But it definitely should be getting more blogging love. There are so many books obscure gems out there!

    Orchidus: I hope you enjoy it!

    Violet: The cat thing isn't really a great part of the's just the way he words her feeling of being out of touch with everyone else. But still, it's a lovely book.

    Ali: Hopefully you can!

    Bybee: I hope you enjoy it when you get to it :)

    Joanna: It does, doesn't it? Stupid feeling >:(

    Kailana: I look forward to your reviews!

    Ladytink: Like I was telling Violet, that ends up being just something she says. But still, there are a few cool scenes that have to do with that.

    Christina: lol! It'd be awesome if we were neighbours.

  30. Iliana: Yes, I think this would fit! I hope your library does have it.

    Joanne: You're absolutely really doesn't. And you know, I think there are advantages to always being able to relate to that feeling.

    Naida: They are, aren't they: I loved the art.

    Kate: You're welcome! I hope you enjoy it.

    Alice: Yes you should :P There's something out there for every taste!

    tanabata: Stupid never ceases do haunt us, does it?

    Beth F: I hope you find it! Btw, I started Bone and it's wonderful so far :D

    Valentina, this is definitely right up your alley :)

  31. Kiirsten already sold me on this one with her review - although I'm going to have to order it through ILL at my library, because we unfortunately don't own it. I was going to wait till I finished the Scott Pilgrim books, but after reading your review, I think I'll order it when I go into work tomorrow. :-)

  32. A very heartwarming story in my opinion. A type of story I seem to have trouble locating.

    I'll try some of your other recommendations.


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