Hot Best Seller

Swallow Me Whole

Availability: Ready to download

Swallow Me Whole is a love story carried by rolling fog, terminal illness, hallucination, apophenia, insect armies, secrets held, unshakeable faith, and the search for a master pattern to make sense of one's unraveling. Two adolescent stepsiblings hold together amidst schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, family breakdown, animal telepathy, misguided love, and the Swallow Me Whole is a love story carried by rolling fog, terminal illness, hallucination, apophenia, insect armies, secrets held, unshakeable faith, and the search for a master pattern to make sense of one's unraveling. Two adolescent stepsiblings hold together amidst schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, family breakdown, animal telepathy, misguided love, and the tiniest nugget of hope that the heart, that sanity, that order itself will take shape again.


Compare

Swallow Me Whole is a love story carried by rolling fog, terminal illness, hallucination, apophenia, insect armies, secrets held, unshakeable faith, and the search for a master pattern to make sense of one's unraveling. Two adolescent stepsiblings hold together amidst schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, family breakdown, animal telepathy, misguided love, and the Swallow Me Whole is a love story carried by rolling fog, terminal illness, hallucination, apophenia, insect armies, secrets held, unshakeable faith, and the search for a master pattern to make sense of one's unraveling. Two adolescent stepsiblings hold together amidst schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, family breakdown, animal telepathy, misguided love, and the tiniest nugget of hope that the heart, that sanity, that order itself will take shape again.

30 review for Swallow Me Whole

  1. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    Revision of review 4/9/17 Powell worked for several years with young people with developmental disabilities, something I also did for a shorter time. He also ran a punk record label and performed in several bands. . . and oh, yeah, does these amazing, detailed graphic novels and stories, including the series that took him and his co-authors to The National Book Award in 2016, March, the graphic memoir from Sen. John Lewis of the Civil Rights movement in the US, which Powell illustrated. But Revision of review 4/9/17 Powell worked for several years with young people with developmental disabilities, something I also did for a shorter time. He also ran a punk record label and performed in several bands. . . and oh, yeah, does these amazing, detailed graphic novels and stories, including the series that took him and his co-authors to The National Book Award in 2016, March, the graphic memoir from Sen. John Lewis of the Civil Rights movement in the US, which Powell illustrated. But Swallow was my very first encounter with him, a story about a family dealing with a dying grandmother who is losing it, and a brother and sister dealing with early onset schizophrenia, something that statistics tell me is something much more common than I had imagined. The focus in Whole is on the two kids, with primary focus on the girl's more serious, less able to hide, experiences, her visual hallucinations and obsessions. I read this initially and again as a parent whose son has been hospitalized for related issues, so it was scary for me, in the sense that it felt a little more real to me than just any graphic story, of course. In my late teens and twenties, too, I worked in a psych ward with teens who were, among other things, schizophrenic, hallucinating, paranoid, what they then called manic-depressive, so I have had some powerful experiences with this stuff. Powell wants us to experience what it may feel like to live in two worlds, the "real" world and this hallucinatory one that is unfortunately just as real, and with some folks, this secondary world takes over your “other” life. Sad, and frightening, though Powell also captures the anguish (and some attractions/fascinations associated with it beautifully, I think. Reminds me a bit of David B's attempt to depict what he imagines his brother's epilepsy to be, which is of course another sad and anguished story, and also Craig Thompson's Blankets, where he tries to mostly visually capture the swirling, romantic falling of first love. What I’m pointing to here is the way comics can attempt to “capture” the emotional aspects of experience, through metaphor. I've now taught/read this book several times. I had the occasion to meet Powell, who said it this was his favorite, his most personal book. Some students don't like it for the very reason I do like it: his almost indecipherable hand lettering, which I think helps you understand auditory hallucinations in a way as happening sometimes just on the edge of “normal” hearing, and also helps you recall the mumbling of quiet, alienated young people, their sometimes disjointed, fanatical and unexplained experiences, which are told here to help us understand the experience of hallucinations. Some of the images are very scary, the stuff of horror, which is what schizophrenics must regularly wrestle with. It's not fun to read, but there's a kind tenderness to the relationship between the brother and sister, who both suffer from the disorder in different ways. The fear, and the coming to terms (in part) with themselves as humans possessing these unwanted perceptions, that's heart wrenching. Powerful, I thought. Not for everyone, maybe. But as I said, I connect with it in part for family and work reasons. As a teacher, you know you have kids in your classrooms that hear voices and have hallucinations, and are medicated, but you don't always know this. Oliver Sacks in Hallucinations makes it clear that what we think of as misperception (think: mirages, and so on) is much more common than most people think. This last reading, completed April 9, 2017, feels like the grimmest time I have read this book, because in part the future seems scary for my now 17 year old son. It's like looking deeply into the heart of darkness, into madness itself. It’s terrifying, really, though. I’m also reading Ron Powers’s book No One Cares About Crazy People, and sometimes ride the trains to work here in Chicago with plenty of homeless people, some of whom I see are having psychotic episodes, who used to be better protected in and by institutions. The world seems like a meaner, less supportive place to me for people that Powell writes about, for people like my son, than when I worked in the psych hospital in the seventies.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Seth T.

    It's almost cliche at this point to praise Nate Powell's Swallow Me Whole, but it's not like there's any honest alternative. The book is just too good for anything else. Talented illustrator? Check. Talented storyteller? Check. Imaginative? Funny? Insightful? Worthwhile? All systems are go. Powell's art reminds me of some delicate hybrid between Craig Thompson and David Lapham—and amusingly, Swallow Me Whole is like some strange cross-pollination between Blankets and Silverfish. Okay, well not It's almost cliche at this point to praise Nate Powell's Swallow Me Whole, but it's not like there's any honest alternative. The book is just too good for anything else. Talented illustrator? Check. Talented storyteller? Check. Imaginative? Funny? Insightful? Worthwhile? All systems are go. Powell's art reminds me of some delicate hybrid between Craig Thompson and David Lapham—and amusingly, Swallow Me Whole is like some strange cross-pollination between Blankets and Silverfish. Okay, well not really. But kinda. By the evidence of prior works (Epileptic and It's a Bird come to mind), the comics medium seems uniquely suitable to the exploration of mental deviation-slash-illness. Swallow Me Whole, far from dispelling this sense of things, works to cement the place of comics as a vessel through which the well might come to better understand the unwell. My experience with those suffering under the fist of schizophrenia is limited to a relative I'll never know, so I can't speak very well to the accuracies of Powell's depiction but to say that it isn't so far from the stories I've been told by my relatives who survived the terror and oppression this one errant family member brought into the family by her delusions. Often these illnesses are portrayed from the outside, from the viewpoint of a quote-unquote neutral observer. Powell gets to the heart of things by giving us two protagonists, Ruth and Perry (one medicated and one not), who labour under the grip of delusions they recognize to be delusions but have no recourse but to answer to their illusions. What's better is that we are allowed to experience their hallucinations somewhat as they experience them. Ruth's delusions are more intrusive and she embraces them with less hesitation, but Perry's can be no less intrusive and no less compulsive. Where Swallow Me Whole's real strength lies is in the fact that Ruth and Perry talk openly between themselves about the trials of their own branded delusions. Powell goes to pains to give breadth of soul to other family members despite offering them strictly limited screentime but the real focus is Ruth and Perry. Even though neither has any more experience of each other's hallucinations (Ruth's feature ambassador's from the insect kingdom and require a shrine of physical corpses while Perry's involve a diminutive wizard who resides primarily on the end of his pencil and forces him on drawing missions), they speak to each other with love and understanding. Even as the difficulties of their lives threaten to destroy them and their family, the have each other to hold onto and it seems only by their bond that they've survived as long as they have. These are two deeply involving and sympathetic characters who carry the book on the shoulders of their interactions with each other. The book's conclusion is going to be the sticking point for most readers, either confusing them into distrusting the book or elevating it to a work of grand accomplishment. I fall into the latter of the two artificially-constructed catchall bins. There are, I think two valid interpretations for the finale—both of which are powerful and amazing. I'm not sure which reading I prefer—each has its merits—but in the final analysis, each shows the horrible power of this kind of disease and how acts of coping on one's part can destroy the lives of others. The climax is amazing and, whether taken literally or figuratively, demonstrates well Powell's grasp of the material. Great stuff!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Troy

    Damnit! I just wrote a long ass review and the goddamn internet ate it up and shit it out in some unknowable aether. Fuckers. Whatever. The review was good, but now you're just going to have to trust me on that because there's no way in fucking hell I'm re-typing it. Anyway, I've been following Nate Powell since I found his punk-inspired minis, and he was and is one of the best draftsmen in comics today. That said, he often spirals off into doodle-y dream-narratives with tons of boring-to-read Damnit! I just wrote a long ass review and the goddamn internet ate it up and shit it out in some unknowable aether. Fuckers. Whatever. The review was good, but now you're just going to have to trust me on that because there's no way in fucking hell I'm re-typing it. Anyway, I've been following Nate Powell since I found his punk-inspired minis, and he was and is one of the best draftsmen in comics today. That said, he often spirals off into doodle-y dream-narratives with tons of boring-to-read experimentations. He was and is great at straight-forward narratives, but seems to be bored by them. In this book, he sublimates his love for experimentation with a solid story about a young girl in a family who seem to be predisposed to schizophrenia. It's powerful stuff, circumventing the tired coming of age bullshit with unreliable narrators, an obsession with death and a sick and dying grandmother, and an inability to distinguish reality from fantasy that is punctuated with frequent flights of fantasy, which are sometimes whimsical, but more often frightening and portent of doom. The narrative proceeds in fits and bursts and often follows an odd logic, which cumulates with a tour-de-force ending, which might be metaphorical, might be from the POV of an unreliable narrator, or might be an intrusion of the unreal upon reality. Whatever it is, it works, and is a hell of a way for Powell to combine his love and his strength as a cartoonist.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Mansfield

    This book is deep and difficult for me to write about as I'm not sure I "got" the whole thing. I'll make an attempt at my impressions. Two siblings both have psychological problems. The girl, Ruth, is the main character and suffers from delusions, paranoia, schizophrenia and OCD while her brother seems to suffer on a lesser degree from delusions. They also have their grandmother living at home with them as she is dying and also delusional. The book follows the girl's descent into madness while This book is deep and difficult for me to write about as I'm not sure I "got" the whole thing. I'll make an attempt at my impressions. Two siblings both have psychological problems. The girl, Ruth, is the main character and suffers from delusions, paranoia, schizophrenia and OCD while her brother seems to suffer on a lesser degree from delusions. They also have their grandmother living at home with them as she is dying and also delusional. The book follows the girl's descent into madness while those around her stand by and do nothing. She recognizes her mind is different and so does her brother, together they can talk to each other about it. We watch as Ruth starts out trying to make her way through each day until in the end her illnesses smother and bury who she once was. The book is done is black and white, with a lot of the pages having a black background. Many scenes have word bubbles with writing so tiny or scribbled it is unreadable, these are the background voices that Ruth doesn't hear in her world. The story is intense and yet, there is no real plot. The book tries to capture a feeling in words and pictures. I sort of enjoyed the book. Probably up to the mid-point I was enjoying it but honestly, I didn't see the point of the story. I have mental health issues myself (some of which were mirrored in the book) and the book seemed to just be saying to me, "Look, this is what it feels like to go crazy". Perhaps others will get more out of it. I recommend the book for higher aged teens because of the swearing (which includes the f-word) and a small amount of teenage sex.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Beaudoin

    I expected Swallow Me Whole to be a sweet, melancholy story of adolescence. I was unprepared for how disturbing and sad it is. I was also disturbed to get partway into the book and realize that the awesomely cute character Powell had drawn in my signed copy was actually an anthropomorphic pill. There are a lot of pills in Swallow Me Whole. The story centers around siblings Ruth and Perry, who each have their hidden adolescent demons which manifest in different ways. Perry draws and Ruth obsesses I expected Swallow Me Whole to be a sweet, melancholy story of adolescence. I was unprepared for how disturbing and sad it is. I was also disturbed to get partway into the book and realize that the awesomely cute character Powell had drawn in my signed copy was actually an anthropomorphic pill. There are a lot of pills in Swallow Me Whole. The story centers around siblings Ruth and Perry, who each have their hidden adolescent demons which manifest in different ways. Perry draws and Ruth obsesses over insects. They live with their parents and fading grandmother. Powell draws an incredibly sympathetic portrait of the grandmother, switching between the elderly woman others perceive and the young woman she sees herself as. I don't know that I have ever seen a kinder treatment of the elderly in fiction, despite her physical and mental infirmities. Powell should be commended for how artfully he handles such difficult topics. This is a heavy book and while I expected the graphical nature to lessen the impact, it does not. I think this could easily be a great short story but as a graphic novel, it is immensely powerful. It is amazing how much loneliness, fright, and sadness Powell is able to capture with just ink and paper.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mark Porton

    I stumbled across this, my first graphic novel the other night. This book is about two siblings, both suffering from mental illness - hallucinations, obsessive behaviour, schizophrenia perhaps. There is a touch of young love thrown in and a family struggling with these health issues and the normal pressures of family life - not least of which involves a grandmother with a terminal illness. The drawings were powerfully grim, this book is dark. I will need to re-read and think more about this story I stumbled across this, my first graphic novel the other night. This book is about two siblings, both suffering from mental illness - hallucinations, obsessive behaviour, schizophrenia perhaps. There is a touch of young love thrown in and a family struggling with these health issues and the normal pressures of family life - not least of which involves a grandmother with a terminal illness. The drawings were powerfully grim, this book is dark. I will need to re-read and think more about this story as I believe there is a lot more in it than I have gleaned from my first read. I did find this worthwhile, as it has given me something to think about and the artwork as such, presented a different world which was quite immersive. 3.5 stars

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lobeck

    I had such high hopes for a longer comic by Nate Powell, but this book really fell short of my expectations. A lot of the story was hard to follow, which may have been somewhat intentional since the story deals with schizophrenia, but unfortunately that doesn't make it any less difficult to understand. If he had done a better job moving between external narrator and character experience, I would have had more tolerance for some of the confusion. For example, I discovered that the main characters I had such high hopes for a longer comic by Nate Powell, but this book really fell short of my expectations. A lot of the story was hard to follow, which may have been somewhat intentional since the story deals with schizophrenia, but unfortunately that doesn't make it any less difficult to understand. If he had done a better job moving between external narrator and character experience, I would have had more tolerance for some of the confusion. For example, I discovered that the main characters were step-siblings, a fairly basic fact of the story, only when I read the back cover in hopes that it would shed some light on what was happening. I also didn't find the story particularly interesting, but it's hard to say how much of that had to do with the difficult-to-follow narrative style.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I didn't like this book. It was really confusing and hard to follow - partially because the characters were not introduced in a clear way in the beginning and partially because the drawings were so muddled it was often hard to tell what you were looking at. Some of that was stylistic choices - I guess this is what it feels to be schizophrenic? - but really it just made the book confusing to the point where it was hard to care about any of the characters because you never really knew what was I didn't like this book. It was really confusing and hard to follow - partially because the characters were not introduced in a clear way in the beginning and partially because the drawings were so muddled it was often hard to tell what you were looking at. Some of that was stylistic choices - I guess this is what it feels to be schizophrenic? - but really it just made the book confusing to the point where it was hard to care about any of the characters because you never really knew what was going on. At some point it just feels pretentious and pomo, and I'm not really into the whole 'weird for the sake of being weird' thing. I don't recommend.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Derek Royal

    This is another work of Powell's I've had for awhile, but I've just been lax in getting to it. And shame on me for waiting, as this is truly an engaging story. I'm more familiar with Powell's historically based comics more than I have been the fiction, but here is a shining example of what the creator is capable of pulled purely from his experiences and imagination. I read this as a result of our recent review of Powell's latest book, You Don't Say, part of one of our review episodes of the This is another work of Powell's I've had for awhile, but I've just been lax in getting to it. And shame on me for waiting, as this is truly an engaging story. I'm more familiar with Powell's historically based comics more than I have been the fiction, but here is a shining example of what the creator is capable of pulled purely from his experiences and imagination. I read this as a result of our recent review of Powell's latest book, You Don't Say, part of one of our review episodes of the podcast: http://comicsalternative.com/episode-....

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jana

    This was strange, very strange, but captivating.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Karl

    An Eisner Award winner ! I just discovered Nate Powell this year and after finishing this volume I plan to read March. The main theme of the book is mental illness. I’ve struggled with my own mental health issues for the entirety of my adult life. I’ve never experienced the severe hallucinations that the main character Ruth endured but I know the turmoil that an episode can inflict on family and friends. Powell’s art and inking were amazing. He truly is a gifted artist. Recommended.

  12. 4 out of 5

    George K. Ilsley

    There seemed to be way too much happening in this graphic narrative. So many threads knotted up in a tangled mess. Some speech balloons were in the tiniest script— once I started skipping them I should have just packed it in. This book is probably well done but was just not for me and my struggling eyesight.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Teens with Mental Illness....was okay.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tom Waters

    Hook, Line & Sinker: Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole Once a year (at best), I come across a title so powerful that it compels me to stop back at the comic store and devour everything else that the author has written. From every standpoint imaginable, Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell is an unmitigated masterpiece. You can read four dozen black and white titles this year before you find something that even begins to approach the beauty, scope, originality and genius of this story. I’m not one to Hook, Line & Sinker: Nate Powell’s Swallow Me Whole Once a year (at best), I come across a title so powerful that it compels me to stop back at the comic store and devour everything else that the author has written. From every standpoint imaginable, Swallow Me Whole by Nate Powell is an unmitigated masterpiece. You can read four dozen black and white titles this year before you find something that even begins to approach the beauty, scope, originality and genius of this story. I’m not one to heap praise when it’s not warranted, but I can’t say enough about this book. My eyes have been opened. The book follows the growth of two teenaged siblings with deep developmental and psychological issues. The brother hallucinates a small gnome that appears on every writing utensil he uses who orders him to draw until he’s exhausted. The girl comes to terms with obsessive compulsive disorder while stealing and compiling a bug and amphibian collection out of a personal obligation to represent each species. This is not your everyday material. I urge you to read it anyway. From an artistic standpoint, Powell soars off the page by playing with (and ignoring) the classic use of panels to tell a comic story. In the beginning chapters of the book, many pages don’t use panels at all to border each moment. While it may not seem like such a quantum leap, the impact for the reader is potent as well as palpable. I’ve never seen anything like it, and it’s going to change the way I read comics from here on out. The story also explores the notion that mental illness travels through DNA by looking at the family’s ailing grandmother, who passes her ailment on in more ways than one while dispensing advice to her grandchildren about how to turn a crutch into a creative monsoon. The book spans the siblings’ growth and deterioration through high school and beyond along with their parent’s ability to cope with not one, but two ‘problem children’ who require extra attention while they house a dying matriarch. Disturbing? Yes. Deeply personal? Absolutely. The best serious comic I’ve read since Black Hole? You better believe it. Nate Powell is a creator to be on the lookout for. After talking to industry enthusiasts about his work and sharing the book with others, the general consensus contends that this is his first major effort as an artist. Powell has hit his stride with a sonic boom and then some. Buy this book at once. Beg, borrow or barter and go to your local comic retailer at once. In an industry clogged with ‘me too’ titles, sequels and variations on existing superhero storylines, tales like this (which don’t come down the pike often enough) need to be encouraged. Even though there are two more months left to this calendar year, I can state with full confidence that this is the best title I’ll read. Swallow Me Whole is a masterpiece that fires on all cylinders, artistically, thematically and emotionally. Powell is an artist to look out for from this point on. Consider yourself warned.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Richard Van Camp

    You know this is a great graphic novel if you’ve done your best to read it twice and then Google the title so you can read what this book was actually about! Nate Powell pushes what illustrated literature can achieve in Swallow Me Whole because a movie, a novel, a mobisode, a poem, a short story—any other genre couldn’t accomplish what’s been achieve here. This novel is about two step siblings suffering from mental illness. I was confused exactly about which character was afflicted with You know this is a great graphic novel if you’ve done your best to read it twice and then Google the title so you can read what this book was actually about! Nate Powell pushes what illustrated literature can achieve in Swallow Me Whole because a movie, a novel, a mobisode, a poem, a short story—any other genre couldn’t accomplish what’s been achieve here. This novel is about two step siblings suffering from mental illness. I was confused exactly about which character was afflicted with schizophrenia and paranoia and OCD and hallucinations, but I felt like I was drowning the whole time I read this graphic novel. For those who do not understand mental illness, this story conveys it so darkly that you become it for a while. I’ve never read anything like this before, though The Boy Who Made Silence by Joshua Hagler comes close (though I’m on issue 4 of TBWMS and I’m so lost I don’t know what the story is about anymore. Here’s hoping 5 and 6 set me straight!). If you liked Dave McKean’s bleakness in Cages and Farel Dalrymple’s ability for weightlessness and magic in Pop Gun War and Hagler’s The Boy Who Made Silence, you might just have the mental ammunition to escape Swallow Me Whole’s devastationally all destroying epic but get ready for vertigo, a rolling stomach and a deep sadness for anyone suffering from mental illness. I felt like there was no hope left for any of the characters and I’m sad about this. It's just so sad and dark with no escape or easy answers, and I love it for being so. (Grades 11 and up)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A series of disjointed thoughts seems like a good way to review a rather disjointed book. 1. I have no idea what this story was about, even after finishing it. 2. I did enjoy it. 3. I suspect I will remember this book, and think on it, much longer than other books that I probably enjoyed more. 4. I wish I hadn't seen that this book dealt with "Schizophrenia and Hallucinations" before I read it. It colored my whole perception of the first quarter of the book. 5. This was a comic. 6. I found some A series of disjointed thoughts seems like a good way to review a rather disjointed book. 1. I have no idea what this story was about, even after finishing it. 2. I did enjoy it. 3. I suspect I will remember this book, and think on it, much longer than other books that I probably enjoyed more. 4. I wish I hadn't seen that this book dealt with "Schizophrenia and Hallucinations" before I read it. It colored my whole perception of the first quarter of the book. 5. This was a comic. 6. I found some of the panel-to-panel action hard to follow. 6b. I suspect this was somewhat intentional. 7. I found much of the dialogue script hard to read. 7b. I expect this was also intentional. 8. This was a fascinating look into the mind of a person (people?) who are differently wired in the head. 8b. It was not a cohesive or particularly informative look into their minds. 8bi. Again, I suspect this was intentional, given the subject matter. 9. I'd like to go on the record that I read this book long *after* starting a certain short story which will probably be coming out later this year. 10. I did like it. And would happily pick up other work by the author. He obviously has a solid grip on his craft.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Engaging, mysterious, beautfiully drawn.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Orehling

    (Note: I am writing this review/read this review for a class but, still took the time to think critically about the story. I read it all the way through and want to be transparent about the context around this review) “Swallow Me Whole” gives the reader a deep and complex look into the effects of schizophrenia, while also weaving it into a humbling tale of growing up and the bonds of family. We follow stepsiblings Ruth and Perry (though Ruth is the center focus) as they are faced with frequent (Note: I am writing this review/read this review for a class but, still took the time to think critically about the story. I read it all the way through and want to be transparent about the context around this review) “Swallow Me Whole” gives the reader a deep and complex look into the effects of schizophrenia, while also weaving it into a humbling tale of growing up and the bonds of family. We follow stepsiblings Ruth and Perry (though Ruth is the center focus) as they are faced with frequent hallucinations along with caring for their aging grandmother (who has her own bouts with mental disabilities), trying to reconnect with their parents, and trying to come as close as they can to living a normal life. When demonstrating schizophrenic visions to the viewer, Powell constructs a seemingly separate reality that can pop up at any time. Walks to class or time spent alone in their rooms can quickly be interrupted by visions of insects or wizards. It is largely exomimetic in nature, as Ruth and Perry, in a particular scene on a playground, speculate about what their hallucinations mean and attempt to rationalize them in the context of the “real world.” When diving into this, Powell’s greatest strength are his illustrations. The best way for him to represent schizophrenia is by representing them through pictures of insects crawling from Ruth’s vent or talking frogs represented in vivid detail. Powell also uses his art to support moments in the story that are punctuated by large swaths of silence. A panel of Ruth staring silently out of a window or Perry’s wizard slowly appearing from his drawer say so much without the assistance of word bubbles. These two features come to a head at the end which left me poring over every picture on the page for some hidden detail to string together its meaning. The only critique that jumps out at me is the pacing. There is a slow, natural build to a lot of the stories major themes except for things like relationships and Ruth’s job. Perry and Ruth jump very suddenly into relationships with other people and it was a bit jarring to me concerning time in the story. In addition, Ruth’s job at the museum is a very open-and-closed scene that I feel could have been drawn out a bit longer. Altogether, I was enraptured by the accuracy and attention to detail Powell incorporates into each panel of the graphic novel and found myself becoming very attached to the characters and narrative that helps me truly understand the complicated facets behind Perry and Ruth’s struggle.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I read the book Swallow Me Whole, by Nate Powell. The book is a black and white graphic novel. It tackles the subject of mental illness. The main characters are Ruth and Perry, teenage step siblings, their parents and a dying grandmother. I do not normally read graphic novels, I think the format though, lent itself to providing the reader what it must feel like to be mentally ill. The lack of color and the dominant use of black left me with a sense of isolation and darkness and the sometimes tiny I read the book Swallow Me Whole, by Nate Powell. The book is a black and white graphic novel. It tackles the subject of mental illness. The main characters are Ruth and Perry, teenage step siblings, their parents and a dying grandmother. I do not normally read graphic novels, I think the format though, lent itself to providing the reader what it must feel like to be mentally ill. The lack of color and the dominant use of black left me with a sense of isolation and darkness and the sometimes tiny squiggly words made it difficult to read. There were moments I felt the things that were happening, happened without my total awareness. It felt like what I perceive mental illness to be like. Ruth sees, hears and collects insects, the fact that only she can see and hear them increases her OCD by constantly reorganizing her display. I think she is trying to replicate their patterns of behavior and sound in her movement of the jars, interpreting messages only she can hear. Perry can see and hear a little wizard on the end of a pencil, it tells him what to draw, but we never see the drawings. Ruth eventually see a doctor and ends up taking medications, Perry does not. I like the fact that they have each other to help deal with their mental issues. They openly talk about the things only they can see. The novel also deals with Grandma's cancer and death and funeral. After her last release from the hospital she comes to Ruth and Perry's house to die. She suffers bizarre reactions from her medications and chemo treatments, but her behavior seems to blend in with Ruth and Perry's. The ending was not defined, it was more interpretive, leaving you to decide what happened. I think that in the end, Ruth is doomed to suffer from her mental illness but Grandma appears to Perry and warns him that his mental illness could swallow him whole and he is okay, eventually. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys graphic novels, I liked the drawings, Nate Powell is a talented artist and readers who appreciate the graphic talent will enjoy this book. I would also recommend this book to teens diagnosed with a mental illness or the siblings of a mentally ill teenager, knowing that there are others that are dealing with the same things may help them

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ella Boyd-Wong

    An important thing that I've discussed in multiple different classrooms spanning multiple different topics is the question of how format and content relate tot each other within the context of literature. Does this book need to be written in first-person? Is it important that this is a poem, and not a short story or an essay? Powell's "Swallow Me Whole" is an excellent example of why the format used in presenting the content is an extremely important (if not the most important) aspect in An important thing that I've discussed in multiple different classrooms spanning multiple different topics is the question of how format and content relate tot each other within the context of literature. Does this book need to be written in first-person? Is it important that this is a poem, and not a short story or an essay? Powell's "Swallow Me Whole" is an excellent example of why the format used in presenting the content is an extremely important (if not the most important) aspect in determining the quality of the content as a whole. “Swallow Me Whole” would not be as effective as it currently is, were it a piece of written fiction rather than a graphic novel. The switches between scenes, characters, timelines, and subjects would not work as well, the emotions (especially more intense emotions, like fear, stress, anxiety, confusion, etc.) would not have been as accessible to the reader, particularly given the fact that they get more and more intense, as the novel comes to a close. The art style (the pointed, thick sketchiness, the use of uneven panels, the movement between white and black backgrounds, the use of full-page panels, the quiet recurring pill character, the filled-in darkness of corners and insects, and on and on) makes them more obvious, the coloring (or lack thereof) makes them more obvious, the changes between what can only be called mumbled handwriting and normal handwriting make them more obvious, but what especially makes the format help so much in this vein is seeing the connection between the words on the paper and the actual character. Of course, this is limited in written literature, given that it is not visual, but with something so inherently psychological and human as the characters and plotline presented in this graphic novel, every effort presented to see the characters, both their physical form and their emotional form, is incredibly effective and truly adds to the outstanding quality of this graphic novel.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    This was a bit of an impulse buy, but the fact that it won an Eisner and was primarily about mental illness was enough incentive to get it. And I liked it a bunch--a lot of subtle complexities come from the chaotic use of panel placement, erratic illustrations, and general dissociating mood. It's weird and each page needs to be closely examined in order to gather everything from it, but that's one of its strong points. Using the format of graphic novelization to not just illustrate the story, This was a bit of an impulse buy, but the fact that it won an Eisner and was primarily about mental illness was enough incentive to get it. And I liked it a bunch--a lot of subtle complexities come from the chaotic use of panel placement, erratic illustrations, and general dissociating mood. It's weird and each page needs to be closely examined in order to gather everything from it, but that's one of its strong points. Using the format of graphic novelization to not just illustrate the story, but also immerse us into it and create a fuller understanding of the haphazard and hazardous way the minds of the narrators work. It's interesting that we're given three generations of two separate families conjoined by marriage, so the reader understands that mental illness is not just genetic, but also can manifest outside of genes, as well. I was never as severely ill as to have schizophrenia, but even just having severe depression/bipolar and anxiety, I was enough of an outcast in high school, and frequently got in excessive trouble for behavior I couldn't control or help when I was in elementary and middle school. I'm not completely sure when the book takes place, but I'm guessing somewhere between the late '70s to mid '80s, but I still found it disturbing by how little public education has progressed in handling mentally ill students. Many teachers that I had have later told me that I was their first real experience in handling mentally ill children--and that's not okay. Regardless, this book was a disorienting reading experience in all the right ways and I enjoyed it quite a lot.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ian Carpenter

    Nate Powell is incredible at everything he does. This book is beautiful and moving and elusive in the best way. Dealing with grief, obsession, aging, mental illness - it makes no argument, pleads no case, just tells a story mired in these things and admits how full of ache and beauty lives touched by that can be. Loved it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Romany

    Amazing.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dov Zeller

    I went into this one thinking, "this is gonna be good." Because it gets much praise, and also I just read "Any Empire" which had some great moments and a lot of the reviewers said, "good, but not as great as the amazing 'Swallow Me Whole'"... I found both of the books very uneven. With fascinating and compelling moments, but on the whole, hard to follow in ways that don't for me add to the power of the work, but just to my sense of confusion. In "Swallow Me Whole" I was most interested in the I went into this one thinking, "this is gonna be good." Because it gets much praise, and also I just read "Any Empire" which had some great moments and a lot of the reviewers said, "good, but not as great as the amazing 'Swallow Me Whole'"... I found both of the books very uneven. With fascinating and compelling moments, but on the whole, hard to follow in ways that don't for me add to the power of the work, but just to my sense of confusion. In "Swallow Me Whole" I was most interested in the relationships. Especially between Ruth and Perry. But even that, one of the central motifs, gets pretty hazy. They have a really unique connection because they are siblings (I believe they are siblings by their parents' second marriages, and yet they are so alike they are mistaken for twins.) Ruth has a fantastical relationship with insects and other wildlife. She collects dead insects in jars and obsessively puts the jars in order. She is often seeing insect worlds that other people aren't seeing. She moves between being in the world that the people around her are more or less experiencing, and the one she alone experiences. One with a lot of bugs. Perry, on the other hand, sees one little wizard guy who orders him to draw and go on little missions and such. It's perhaps a little stressful for Perry? But his invisible wizard friend isn't on the same level of out there as Ruth's bugs. I am pretty sure that is the message. Perry has art as a companion and an outlet and it helps him stay grounded and sane. Ruth has bugs as a companion and they aren't helping her stay grounded and sane. Also, Ruth's insects aren't cartoony at all. They are drawn with a fair amount of realism and at times with a kind of lurking beauty and menace, as they lead her deeper and deeper into a dangerously split reality. So, Perry's wizard guy is a cute little cartoon guy. And then there is another weird cartoon magical thing which sort of travels in and out of the grandmother's mouth? I can't remember what it is and the book is back at the library. But there are these weird cartoony registers and then the rest of the book is in a more intense register. I don't know what to call it stylistically speaking. But there are different registers happening and then there are layers I found myself struggling to navigate and separate-- magical realism/fantasy/schizophrenia. They are all sort of mish-mashed together so that the boundaries are blurry. Finally there is the question of how much of Ruth and Perry's struggles are environmental and how much medical. (view spoiler)[I think toward the end of the book, Perry and Ruth grow apart because Perry starts to become less isolated and more social and Ruth's disconnection with common reality deepens. But are there some things that are happening to disturb her? Clearly there are troubles with unfriendly kids, though that seems to get better as they get older. Then, toward the end of the book, there is a moment with a teacher holding a candy bar with a tie and saying it looked like one of the other teachers. I had no idea if that was really happening or happening in Ruth's head. Were her teachers being seriously racist and then punishing her for acting out? Might her throwing a book at her teacher be warranted in that case? Or at least, some kind of intense response? And if a response was warranted, was Powell suggesting her illness might be partly from being in a systemically shitty social environment that she alone has the intelligence and courage to rebel against? This event was just kind of dropped in toward the end of the book in a kind of clumsy way. (hide spoiler)] Perhaps Powell is questioning the boundaries between fantasy, existential/social struggle, and illness. But the lines he draws to distinguish or muddle them were not lines that I could follow. Once in a fiction workshop a professor said, basically, if you are going to create a magical fictional world, your writing needs to be very clear. If you want to write in a way that is ambiguous, it is best to do that in the context of an otherwise familiar setting. She did not recommend writing a magical world using ambiguous language. After reading "Swallow Me Whole" I am reminded of that. The book was powerful enough that I wanted to connect more, but it was bringing up very profound subjects and not exploring them with depth or clarity. The relationships didn't feel fully explored nor the social contexts.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Keegan

    This was one of the first purchases I made at one of my first Comic-Con. Nate Powell himself talked me into,the purchase after we enjoyed a brief conversation about the nature of comic criticism. I offhandedly mentioned thinking about how comics can illustrate (literally) intangible things, like time. He suggested, as all good salesmen do, this book as he renders images of mental illnesses. Mental illness, in this case schizophrenia, can be hard for visual narratives because the disability This was one of the first purchases I made at one of my first Comic-Con. Nate Powell himself talked me into,the purchase after we enjoyed a brief conversation about the nature of comic criticism. I offhandedly mentioned thinking about how comics can illustrate (literally) intangible things, like time. He suggested, as all good salesmen do, this book as he renders images of mental illnesses. Mental illness, in this case schizophrenia, can be hard for visual narratives because the disability itself is not inherently visual. How can an image show the dissociative, hallucinogenic aspects of the condition (pardon my language, if there is a more precise word to use)? David B.'s Epileptic<\i> does this well with his brother's struggles with epilepsy, using jagged monstrous images and tons of visual metaphors. Powell's narrative, fictional instead of autobiographical, is a much slower, softer story and uses a different range of visuals to convey the other-worldliness of the disease. Like David B., he uses stark blacks and whites to create a shadowy, fractured space in which Ruth, the main character not only sees her surrounding but lives her life. He creates a visual rhythm with the bugs, the swirls, and the sounds that the reader is pulled into Ruth's mind to experience the surreality therein. It's a good book, and Powell handles the sensitive topic of mental diseases with a deft hand, neither being too saccharine nor too patronizing. His characters felt real, and I was invested in their well-being. All in all, I would recommend this book to everyone, regardless of your opinions of comics. Like Maus<\i>, this book could turn people into believers. The art is great, the story is great, the whole thing is great.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Skye Kilaen

    Ruth and Perry are a sister and brother who both have schizophrenia. (Unlike the popular misconception, schizophrenia is not multiple personality disorder. It's a mental illness that results in becoming cut off from reality, often experiencing hallucinations.) It seems the siblings' illness began manifesting in late elementary or middle school, but the bulk of this story takes place when they're teenagers. Ruth receives some medication, Perry does not. Neither of them is really okay, though Ruth and Perry are a sister and brother who both have schizophrenia. (Unlike the popular misconception, schizophrenia is not multiple personality disorder. It's a mental illness that results in becoming cut off from reality, often experiencing hallucinations.) It seems the siblings' illness began manifesting in late elementary or middle school, but the bulk of this story takes place when they're teenagers. Ruth receives some medication, Perry does not. Neither of them is really okay, though Perry is better able to cope. It's a dark, disturbing book - not because Powell uses the characters to shock the reader, but because of the reality of their lives given that neither receives appropriate treatment. However, I appreciated how Ruth and Perry are not just their disorders. They go to school, have jobs, and date. But as Ruth's illness progresses, it takes over. Not one to read for entertainment, but definitely well-crafted literature.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jacki

    Summary: Two step-siblings struggle with mental disorders, one plagued by imaginary bugs and voices of dead creatures, the other by a tiny wizard on his pencil who tells him what to do. Verdict: A solid but strange piece with a few flaws. Yay!: Graphic novel format is a terrific way to treat the topic of hallucinatory disorders, because the reader can see what the character sees. Occasionally the reader doesn't know if they are looking at reality or delusion, but that's the point. This story is a Summary: Two step-siblings struggle with mental disorders, one plagued by imaginary bugs and voices of dead creatures, the other by a tiny wizard on his pencil who tells him what to do. Verdict: A solid but strange piece with a few flaws. Yay!: Graphic novel format is a terrific way to treat the topic of hallucinatory disorders, because the reader can see what the character sees. Occasionally the reader doesn't know if they are looking at reality or delusion, but that's the point. This story is a sometimes-difficult look at the effects of mental illness on a child's life experiences, family, and future. The art is, for the most part, terrific. Nay!: The words are crammed into their bubbles so tightly that reading the text is often a strain. Having two step-siblings and a grandmother who are all schizophrenic in one family is also a bit of a stretch and clutters the book at times. A little mental illness goes a long way.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Peter N. Trinh

    A very surreal look, and an extremely insane take on sequential art. Of course, that was the goal, so such indeed does the comic justice. Unfortunately, it's not of my typical fare, so I didn't enjoy this work as much as I probably should have. While the setting is very familiar to most, there is no development of characters or setting added to the story; much of it is meant to be understood already, and the comic has an atmosphere that may be alienating to some readers. The visuals are nothing A very surreal look, and an extremely insane take on sequential art. Of course, that was the goal, so such indeed does the comic justice. Unfortunately, it's not of my typical fare, so I didn't enjoy this work as much as I probably should have. While the setting is very familiar to most, there is no development of characters or setting added to the story; much of it is meant to be understood already, and the comic has an atmosphere that may be alienating to some readers. The visuals are nothing short of impressive though. High-contrast black and white values gives an atmosphere of discomfort that describe the setting, and drawn textures give a heap of depth. As I said, this isn't my usual type of read. But while I had troubles enjoying this story, it does push a level of impressiveness and detail that some comic enthusiasts may find hard to argue against.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    My favourite graphic novel to date, Swallow Me Whole in a consuming glimpse into the life of a family with hereditary mental illness. Using dark and dream-like graphics and sparse dialogue, Powell masterfully develops the tone of the novel, and he easily convinces you that mental illness is another dimension into which anyone can easily slip. Right from the start, the book is rich in symbolism - the first page of the book shows a dejected frog being preserved in a specimen jar. Later, we meet a My favourite graphic novel to date, Swallow Me Whole in a consuming glimpse into the life of a family with hereditary mental illness. Using dark and dream-like graphics and sparse dialogue, Powell masterfully develops the tone of the novel, and he easily convinces you that mental illness is another dimension into which anyone can easily slip. Right from the start, the book is rich in symbolism - the first page of the book shows a dejected frog being preserved in a specimen jar. Later, we meet a larger frog, who turns out to be the embodiment of schizophrenia. Symbols such as these are dosed heavily throughout the novel. Nate's graphics are varied, textured, and engaging. There are distinct silences, sweeping wide-angle shots of scenes, and tiny details only to be discovered upon re-reading. And re-reading is what I am about to do.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    I decided to read this book after reading an article in which famous comic book writers were asked to recommend to readers some of their favorite graphic novels. Jeff Lemire, of whose work I am a huge fan, recommended Swallow Me Whole, an Eisner Award winning book by Nate Powell. It's about two step-siblings who are suffering from various mental illnesses and the effects that those illnesses have on their lives and the lives of their family members. The story is deeply affecting on its own, but I decided to read this book after reading an article in which famous comic book writers were asked to recommend to readers some of their favorite graphic novels. Jeff Lemire, of whose work I am a huge fan, recommended Swallow Me Whole, an Eisner Award winning book by Nate Powell. It's about two step-siblings who are suffering from various mental illnesses and the effects that those illnesses have on their lives and the lives of their family members. The story is deeply affecting on its own, but its the ways in which Powell visually portrays the symptoms of mental illness (the overt as well as the subtle) that make this book really remarkable. Swallow Me Whole is a dark, creepy, and very moving portrayal of mental illness and is well worth a read. A+

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.