"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
August 26, 2014
Page by Paige: A Fresh Start
by Erin Cowles

School is already in full swing in most of the U.S., but in these parts, I still have another week of staying in my pajamas until noon. Let me rephrase that. I still have another week of not having the other moms at school pickup giving me weird looks for still being in my pajamas at noon. Hey, don't judge.

In honor of this season of new school years and new beginnings, I'm reviewing Laura Lee Gulledge's graphic novel, Page by Paige. And just a reminder: when I say graphic novel, I mean a thoughtful and complete story told with a combination of words and illustrations, not a dirty book.

The unfortunately named Paige Turner (yes, her parents are writers with a sick sense of humor) has left her beloved Charlottesville, Virginia, and moved to Brooklyn with her parents. As an aspiring artist, she decides to both practice her craft and chronicle her feelings about this transition into her sketchbook.

Over the eight months covered in this sketchbook, we see Paige explore who she is and how she relates to the people in her life. Through her art, she gains courage to become the person she wants to be and to share her talents with others.

There isn't anything terribly original about the plot — new friends, new love, and finding yourself. But I still cared deeply about the characters Gulledge created, and I loved the way Gulledge tells the story.

Gulledge uses her black and white illustrations to capture the range of Paige's feelings. I remember feeling the way Gulledge's illustrations feel — carrying your heart through a field of banana peels, trying to understand how you feel about something by simultaneously looking at two dozen different gauges for different emotions, and clicking with someone like Legos click together.

Gulledge's art captivated my whole family. My husband, who only reads nonfiction, read this in two sittings. My five-year-old has literally spent an hour straight on the couch just looking at the illustrations. My three-year-old likes to ask me questions about the pictures. And, well, the baby tried to chew on it, but I guess that goes for any book in her general vicinity. Or shoe, for that matter.

There are one or two sexual jokes, and a character that is a lesbian, but nothing graphic. It felt rather tame compared to many of the YA books I've picked up recently.

Page by Paige is Gulledge's debut, and if you like her blend of imaginative illustration with low-angst personal growth, you can check out her followup novel, Will & Whit.

Read this book if...

  • You like realistic fiction, but want it light on the angst, please. Real life has enough drama.

  • You love beautiful artwork and interesting visualizations.

  • You're about to be the new kid at school, and you need a reminder that it is a fantastic opportunity to learn new things about yourself and world around you.

Target Audience: Ages 12-18

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About Erin Cowles

Erin Cowles is a mother of two, living in the Washington D.C. suburbs. Before motherhood, she used her masters in library and information science in a law firm library. Now she uses it to find good books for her family at her local public library. She teaches part time for a SAT prep company, where she enjoys the challenge of making rather dull subject matter interesting and making college a reality for her students. During women's history month, she profiles Mormon women that inspire her at ldswomenshistory.blogspot.com.

Erin currently serves as a counselor in her ward's primary presidency.

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