Brian Lee O’Malley may be best known for the Scott Pilgrim series, but Lost at Sea (published in 2003) was his first original work. I recently stumbled upon a 2008 second edition which turned up in the library where I work. I love the Scott Pilgrim film but wasn’t overly impressed by the graphic novel series, as I thought it was far too drawn out and featured (like life, I know) too many inconsequential elements. Lost at Sea is a smaller, self-contained story with an intriguing premise, so I thought I should give it a go.
Our protagonist is a 18-year old girl called Rayleigh who claims to have no soul. You see, it was stolen by a cat. She doesn’t talk to people much and finds almost everything about life hard to deal with. Raleigh finds herself in a car with some of her classmates on a cross country road trip. She barely knows them and doesn’t even remember why she’s in the car with them. What’s worse, everywhere she looks, she sees cats.
I therefore present the aforementioned intriguing premise.
The plot develops slowly as we learn that Rayleigh has been visiting her father and boyfriend (not the same person I hasten to add) in California and missed her train back home to Vancouver. She met her boyfriend over the internet and she believes she has no real friends. She thinks that this is because her mother sold her soul to Satan when she was 14, when her last best friend moved away, and that Satan placed it in a cat. The road trip allows her to express her thoughts and feelings on dealing with growing up, her relationships and her loneliness. You know, the kinds of things all teenagers need to deal with. Most of the back story is told in flashback as she informs her fellow passengers and the reader of her lot in life. It is only when the car breaks down that life must come to a head and Rayleigh must take responsibility for who she is.
O’Malley was clearly a shy and misunderstood teenager. He nails the navel gazing introspection and he cleverly shows emotions in his drawing, which might be described as simplistic or even naive (which I’m sure is his intention). Starry skies and cats are drawn is if described by a child, rather than through the eyes of an adult or even an 18-year old. What frustrated me while reading it, however, is that I couldn’t decide if the musings and moanings where an astute and well-observed treatise on teenage life, or the actual real, almost nihilistic thoughts of O’Malley and he’d never been able to grow up. He was, after all, only 24 when this was published.
If you like the artwork of the Scott Pilgrim series, then you will like this. However, while the characters are not as iconic, the story is much more satisfying. It starts somewhere most people can relate to, travels a short distance and arrives at a decent conclusion.
- Interesting story
- Lovely artwork
- Is clever or just naive?
- Navel gazing