Blankets

by Craig Thompson

Other authorsCraig Thompson (Artist)
Paperback, 2003

Status

Available

Publication

Top Shelf Productions, (2003)

Description

Loosely based on the author's life, chronicling his journey from childhood to adulthood, exploring the people, experiences, and beliefs that he encountered along the way.

Media reviews

Blankets is an attempt to rejuvenate such well-trod themes as social isolation, religious guilt, and first love; the vitality of which has become too frequently obscured by countless hackneyed dramas and endless clichés. Toward the very end of this “illustrated novel,” Craig notes, while walking in snow, how “satisfying it is to leave a mark on a blank surface.” In Blankets, Thompson does just this: through daring leaps of visual storytelling, he makes wonderfully fresh marks upon a surface long worn blank.
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In telling his story, which includes beautifully rendered memories of the small brutalities that parents inflict upon their children and siblings upon each other, Thompson describes the ecstasy and ache of obsession (with a lover, with God) and is unafraid to suggest the ways that obsession can consume itself and evaporate.
...credit writer-artist Craig Thompson, 27, for infusing his bittersweet tale of childhood psyche bruising, junior Christian angst, and adolescent first love with a lyricism so engaging, the pages fly right by.
I would be unlikely to share Blankets with someone who told me they wanted to understand comix. Instead, I would give it to anyone who told me they wanted to read a book that made them feel transcendent, sad, generous, hopeful — but above all, to truly feel something.
Part teen romance novel, part coming-of-age novel, part faith-in-crisis novel and all comix, "Blankets" is a great American novel.

User reviews

LibraryThing member -Cee-
Graphic novel (autobiographical) of growing up, young love and questioning the faith of parents/adults. This is the kind of book that might remind you of your own childhood and teen years. Great artwork. Thompson gives us a thoughtful look at the young perspective of adult problems. He remembers being a kid can be tough, lonely and painful. He learns adulthood adds responsibility for yourself and others and begins to realize that being a Christian is more than being judgemental. You don't just follow blindly... you question, doubt and make your own mark.

I think what I like about graphic novels is you don't get bogged down in the author's ramblings which can sometimes be a pleasure or many times be boring in lengthy, wordy novels. The pictures and space between words - especially in this book - give the reader the freedom to indulge in his own interpretations. It's a refreshing occasional change of pace.
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LibraryThing member DeltaQueen50
Blankets by Craig Thompson was one of those books that I couldn’t leave alone. I kept picking it up and absorbing another few pages until I had gone though the whole 582 pages. A wonderful depiction of the intensity of first love, but also his poignant description of his relationship with his brother, along with his curiosity and questioning of fundamentalist religion have all been blended together to make a very readable story.

His honest portrayal of growing up in rural Wisconsin, from playground bullying, being a social outcast, and his reference to a molesting babysitter all touched the heartstrings. But this wasn’t just a dark story of teen angst, there were many light hearted moments, and one scene in particular that had me laughing out loud.

With beautiful and atmospheric drawings and a wonderful story, Blankets is truly an expressive piece of art that evokes in the reader a strong feeling of time and place. A memorable read.
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LibraryThing member amandacb
Blankets is a black-and-white graphic novel by Craig Thompson; at 582 pages, it at first may seem daunting, but within the first 10 pages I was instantly drawn in to the unique manner in which Thompson draws and narrates. The protagonist, Craig, grapples with the “regular” teenage problems—-the plotline is nothing unique, as Craig is considered an outcast due to his hippie flair, long hair, and artistic bent. He is teased and seeks comfort in his drawings, which translate stunningly through the graphic novel medium. Craig and his brother Lucas lean on each other through a tense childhood, using their bed as a creative outlet to weather real and faux storms, only to grow apart in their teenage years.

When Craig goes away to church camp, he meets Raina, who is a bit of a rebel. Raina smokes, drinks, and teases Craig with her fire-and-ice relationship with him. Most of the book is centered around their relationship and also Craig’s struggles with religion. And let it be known: this book does have a lot of religion in it. I wasn't prepared for that, and while I wasn't necessarily bothered by it, I did find the ending of the book to be a bit vague in terms of Craig's religious resolve.

The book does take risks—there are some graphic images of Craig masturbating, some graphic allusions to Craig and Lucas’s father sexually abusing them, and images of Craig and Raina engaging in foreplay. For that reason, the book is definitely more appropriate for older high school students. However, that does not mean the book ought to be censored, especially since these are topics relevant to many teens.

The ending of the novel, though, is too rushed—-Thompson quickly fast forwards and all of a sudden, Craig is twenty years old. I felt the plot did not tie up the ends, and I also did not understand the decision behind the demise of Craig and Raina’s relationship. For that reason, I am giving the novel a 3Q VOYA rating. If I could, I would give it a 3.5, since I was taken aback by how engrossed I became and how invested in the story I was. I am also giving is a 3P rating since many students will be intimated by the novel’s girth and put off by the rather dull cover; with some prodding, though, I imagine this novel will be very much appreciated. And naturally, the novel is appropriate for “S.” Overall, though, this was unlike anything I've ever read and seen, despite its common plot--and that's a high compliment, indeed.
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LibraryThing member Djupstrom
Thoroughly amazing! This is wonderful graphic novel that moves beyond a coming-of-age tale, and moved into full-fledged literature. I was pulled in within the first few pages, and I couldn't devour it fast enough. It deals with growing up, failed relationships (with family, with girls, with god), and self-worth! It is a great book that everyone should read. All this and pictures too!… (more)
LibraryThing member jolerie
After reading several positive reviews from other LT members about Blankets, I decided to read my very first graphic novel and boy was I impressed. I was impressed with the calibre of story, of the visual appeal, and the fact that 500 pages was easily devoured within one day. There is something about combining the written word with page after page of visual images that is pure magic. The imagination does not need to exert itself as your eyes can see and interpret all that the author chooses to convey.
Blankets is one man's sojourn in discovering the joys and pains of family, the heartache and the gut wrenching temptations of first loves, but most of all it is a diary of his struggle to find faith, God, and realizing that sometimes all the pieces fit together and other times they are scattered and senseless. This was my very first foray into the world of graphic novels, but it definitely won't be my last.
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LibraryThing member detailmuse
Blankets was a community read at my local library. Though the timing then didn’t fit for me, I took enough of a look to notice it's a highly visual (vs textual) graphic memoir, along the line of the terrific Stitches. (A line that best describes what I most enjoy about highly visual, graphic novels is from a recent non-graphic read, The Incident Report: “There are moments when time dilates like the pupil of an eye, to let everything in.” That’s what I feel happening while viewing some of the images.)

It’s the story of Thompson’s childhood and adolescence in small-town Wisconsin with a younger brother, a harsh father and a fundamentalist-Christian mother. A bullied loner, Thompson meets popular and lovely Raina while at church camp, and a later visit is arranged with her family in the comparatively huge city of Marquette, Michigan. He’s shocked by most everything he experiences during the visit, including that Raina’s charmed persona belies a home life where she shoulders tremendous responsibility amid divorcing parents and disabled siblings. Most of the middle of the book is a powerful exploration of first love -- the effortless conversation that continues deep into the night; the sexual awakening -- and his passion, art. He comes home a changed person.

In one sense the story feels small -- the point of view is definitely YA (at oldest maybe early 20s), very in-the-adolescent-moment, without much wisdom and perspective. (I wonder if it was an adult read at the library as a reminder to parents about what their own teens are experiencing?) But in another sense the story is huge (growing up, falling in love, questioning religion, finding a whole huge world outside your family) -- a nearly universal story and thus resonant. I raised my rating from 3.5 stars to 4 just over the course of writing these notes, and I think a group read is good -- the book develops further upon reflection/discussion.
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LibraryThing member tiamatq
Craig Thompson tells his own story in this graphic novel. As a youth, he grew up with heavily religious parents in a midwestern town. Thompson is a social outcast, with questions and thoughts that don’t fit in with his classmates or fellow worshippers. As he grows up, he separates himself from his artwork and daydreams, until he meets Raina at church camp. Raina inspires Crutcher in both his artwork and to become an adult. Their relationship blossoms on the page as Thompson embraces his artwork again. Gradually he comes to realize that he must move out of his stifling environment and beyond the constraints of his family’s religion and beliefs. Though the story line with Thompson and his brother takes a backseat to the romance with Raina, it is touching and Thompson ends with it.

Thompson’s graphic novel has a plot that is powerful enough to stand on its own. However, the artwork really brings the story to life. The coming of age story is beautifully told and Thompson’s painful transitions are more evident through the medium. Thompson’s relationship with his brother does fade away for the majority of the story and, though he returns to it at the end, the reader misses the presence. We wonder what happened to change the relationship between the two boys. The depiction of the surrounding characters, from the hairy jocks to the devout teens, says more to the reader about Thompson and his life than he could spend an entire novel explaining.
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LibraryThing member fyrefly98
Summary: This graphic memoir tells the story of one winter in our teenage protagonist's life. Raised with his brother in a very strictly Christian and borderline abusive household, Craig's only escape from his home life and the bullies at school is his art - which his fundamentalist faith causes him to question. At a winter-break church camp, things don't seem much better, until he meets Raina. They fall quickly and deeply in love, although since she lives far away, their relationship is bound to have its share of problems. Eventually Craig goes to visit, only to find out that while Raina's family may be very different from its own, it has its share of problems as well. Now they must both learn to navigate the waters of adulthood to deal with their families - and their feelings for each other.

Review: I liked a lot of elements about this one, even though it was a fairly standard coming of age story. I felt the anguish and the ecstasy of first love, the way you feel like this is it and this is the only thing that matters in the universe, forever, and nothing can ever go wrong until everything goes wrong. I thought it had some interesting things to say about faith, whether that faith is in God or in other people or in yourself. I like Thompson's artwork a lot - it's simple but it's expressive and really conveys a lot of emotion but doesn't feel heavy. But above everything else, this book made me nostalgic. For my own high-school loves, sure, but mostly for an upper Midwest winter. Thompson renders the feeling of deep winter so perfectly and so clearly that it's practically another character. As a Yankee transplant to the South, I don't miss the reality of winter - chapped lips and dry skin and constantly cold toes - but the starkness of a snowy woods at night, or looking up into the snowfall and feeling like you're falling upwards, or just the simple pleasure of being warm and cozy inside when it's miserable outside… that I miss. But the rest of the story is well done and interesting and genuinely touching, too, and I like that I didn't get the happy ending that I thought I wanted. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: While I don't know that I would say something like "this is a graphic novel everyone should read", I can see how it ends up on those sorts of lists, and it would certainly be one that I think would be a good starting point for someone unfamiliar with the genre.
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LibraryThing member MarcusH
Most people think graphic novel means comic book. Blankets by Craig Thompson is literally a novel with pictures. The graphic memoir not only has a touching plot, but the images add an emotional context to the events that are beautiful and relatable. If you like coming of age tales, Thompson's journey to find himself is a must read.… (more)
LibraryThing member neilchristie
Nice graphic novel about lonely, unhappy boy's experiences of first love, parental neglect and loss of faith. Seems to be autobiographical. Uses the comic form cleverly to convey feelings and emotions.
LibraryThing member bookworm12
This brick of a graphic novel explores first love, the changing dynamics of sibling relationships, religion, and more with startling honesty. The writing and illustrations made me feel like I knew the author and could easily relate to his Midwestern upbringing. He is open about what he believes, what he struggles with and what he’s going through. Thompson’s art is gorgeous and captures the angst and insecurity of teenage years with a quiet simplicity. Even the most heartbreaking moments of his childhood are not shouted from the rooftops, but instead they are mentioned as a part of life, but not the only part that defines him.

The tender way he describes falling in love for the first time immediately made me remember those first relationships in my own life. The blind devotion we show our early paramours is so relatable. The innocence and earnestness that pair so perfectly in our hearts when we fall for someone is at times hard to look away from, but beautiful to see.

As someone who also grew up in a Christian household and attended Christian camps, I could identify with some of the religious questions he brings up. For me, my faith boils down to believing in God vs. believing in religion. Man screws up. Man is selfish and petty and hypocritical. If you base your faith on the actions of the people around you, whether it’s your own family or the pastor of your church, you will inevitably be disappointed. Thompson comes to a different conclusion, but it's his journey along the path and his sincerity in searching that makes the book so enjoyable.

The way that Thompson writes the story allows him to float through his memories. He tells us about his first moments of infatuation, and then he takes us back to childhood memories of school bullies, and forward again to his observations of a man who is watching his family slip through his fingertips. He's at once observant and mature and touchingly naive. He talks about his vulnerability and the things he regrets with no hesitation. Though I'm sure parts of the book were painful to write, he never lets the reader feel as though they are intruding in his life.

BOTTOM LINE: Just a wonderful graphic novel, one of my favorites I’ve ever read. I wish the author had delved a bit more into his relationship with his brother, but I also understand that between siblings, sometimes the most important things are never said. If you’re a fan of coming-of-age stories and don’t mind a bit of teenage angst, definitely give this one a shot.
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LibraryThing member wendellg
a little cliched in parts, but oh so beautifully done; i found it authentic and it really brought back memories of adolescence & young adulthood in a wintery clime..
LibraryThing member Crowyhead
An absolutely AMAZING graphic novel about growing up and coming of age -- especially about coming of age in a small, fundamentalist community. The artwork is beautiful and suits the subject wonderfully, and the story is touching and well told.
LibraryThing member eduscapes
I've started messing around with Comic Life software and thought it would be fun to read the recent award-winning graphic novels. Blankets appeared on many "top graphic novels" lists. It was also recently banned from a public library in Missouri which put it at the top of my "must read" list. This engaging, "coming of age" story maintained my interest from start to finish. I was particularly interested in his varied experiences with religion. This is a great example of how graphics novels are maturing as a form of literature. I'd highly recommend this book for mature teens and adults.… (more)
LibraryThing member TPLThing
This graphic novel by artist Craig Thompson was recently pulled from the shelves of a library in Missouri for objectionable content. Yes, there are some drawings of naked people, but they’re tastefully done. Probably what had readers more up in arms was the writer’s recollections of his devoutly Christian background, and the doubts that drew him away from that world. It should be said, however, that this is no polemic. Religion serves primarily as a backdrop before which the character experiences the trials adolescence and the giddiness of first love. It’s a good book that deserves to be taken on its own terms.… (more)
LibraryThing member Jim_Miles
Blankets is an autobiographical story by Craig Thompson about his childhood, brought up in a poor, strict Christian family in America. The book is mainly about Craig's relationship with Raina, a girl he met at a Christian summer camp. They keep in touch by post and spend a few days with each other at Raina's home, which is covered in real-time detail over the middle ~300 pages of the book. The last section is about how this relationship changes as they are apart and how Craig's outlook on life develops as he comes of age.

Blankets is rich in personal detail such as Craig and his younger brother's antics as siblings growing up not only sharing the same room but the same bed. One of the most heartwarming scenes is when the bed becomes a boat in their imagination and they must steer it through the sea during a storm.

Although almost 600 pages, the book doesn't ever feel like a slog as you always want to know what happens next and find out if Craig's Christian faith stays with him to adulthood. Although it is indulgent and over sentimental in places as well as giving you the feeling that events are being remembered somewhat subjectively (particularly in a way that makes the author look good), by the end this indulgence and one-sidedness is turned on its head with touching honesty and the implication that what has gone before is merely the precarious half-reality of remembrance. In this way, Blankets is able to comment on the psychology of belief, the ignorance of young love and the restrictiveness that can often be placed on children growing up.

The first 450 pages are compulsive, almost soap opera-esque in their hooking of the reader. The last 150 really provide something to think about and take away from the book.

A unique must-read of graphic storytelling.
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LibraryThing member melissarecords
Beautiful, lyrical quality to the drawing and narrative. Perfectly captures that small-town, midwest feeling. Lots of things going on in this book -- growing up, first love, questions about your religious upbringing. One of the best graphic novels ever written.
LibraryThing member luvdancr
I was so enamored with this book after reading 200 pages of it in a bookstore that i bought it online (for a better price!) ...and was so glad i did. I read it in about one day ...and it just spoke to something in my soul...reminded me of my life...
LibraryThing member KevlarRelic
A heart achingly beautiful and bittersweet tale of young love and religion.
LibraryThing member mattsya
This graphic novel about teen love is thematically similar to Forever, with the same depth of character and feeling. Here a devout Christian teen struggles with his faith and what it means. The Wisconsin and Michigan settings are wonderfully rendered. Thompson beautifully uses the comic medium to create expressionistic images that express so much more than words could.… (more)
LibraryThing member tyler.rousseau
Craig Thomson creates a semi-autographical account of a strict religious upbringing and his first love. Together, both mold him into the person he becomes.

Maus will always have the Nobel award, but Blankets is the standard to which all other graphic novels will be held to.
LibraryThing member sara_k
This is a graphic novel about the struggle of life. In this case the struggle between brothers, between child and parents, outcast and society, self and self, and intellectual and spiritual curiosity in a restrictive religious community. The main character tries to sort out his place in the world, his beliefs, his feelings all while trying on the definitions of his parents, school, girlfriend, etc. until he finds him own way. Sure, we all do this in our lives (right?) but Craig Thompson does it within a graphic novel in a beautifully articulated manner.… (more)
LibraryThing member arsmith
this is a really great graphic novel. funny, engaging. i laughed out loud at the pee fight scene. but in the end, he didn't quite get me to where i wanted him to. fell just a little short.
LibraryThing member twatson79
A wonderful graphic novel full of the exhilaration and ache associated with all sorts of love -- familial, religious, and romantic. Beautifully drawn, exquisitely told. I gasped out loud at points and gave the book a kiss when I finished.
LibraryThing member mich_yms
Before reading it, the sheer volume of this graphic novel scared me a little. But once I got started, it was difficult to put down. I almost did not feel time pass by as I was reading it, it was that easy to get immersed into the story.

The graphics were absolutely breathtaking, while the story was just as beautiful. There were moments in the book where the artist chose to give us just the images with no words, and that silence worked fantastically well.

The simpleness of the story is what is most compelling about this piece of art, which fully deserves all the awards that it has gotten.
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Language

Original language

English

Barcode

10495
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