little fish

Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer

This graphic novel takes real journals, collages, lists and drawings to show the author’s transitional first year of college.  Ramsey grew up in very small Paw Paw, Michigan.  She was an artist from a young age and worked very hard at it, earning a spot in one of the top art schools in the country.  This meant moving to Baltimore and making new friends for the first time since she was a young child.  It also meant that she would no longer be the best artist around, she would be challenged as an artist in her classes, and she would have to find her own way in this new setting.  Beyer’s novel shows the difficulties and triumphs of a freshman year of college, and is sure to encourage other little fish to try their luck in the big city.

Beyer’s use of her own personal real-life work that comes directly from that time in her life makes this entire novel work.  It carries a weight that it would not have without that honest voice of youth at its core.  The mixed media format also makes the entire book compulsively readable.  Since you never know what is on the next page or what format it might be in, there is a constant desire to find out more and read longer.

Beyer’s art is done entirely in black and white in the book.  She plays with light and dark throughout, capturing both the loneliness of the first days at college and also the dynamic friendships and love interests that come later.  Her work is humorous and yet poignant.

This is a very strong, dynamic look at the first year of college.  Teens will enjoy looking into their own future plans with a little laughter and lots of optimism.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from library copy.