The Isobel Journal: Just a Girl from Where Nothing Really Happens by Isobel Harrop
The titular Isobel – the 18-at-the-time-of-publication author here – knows how to make the eponymous ‘nothing’ into quite the entertaining ‘something.’ Although she grew up “squished somewhere between Manchester and Liverpool,” she’s now living somewhere “down in the South of England … ‘somewhere a bit more interesting.'” She’s studying literature, and “draw[s] whenever she gets a chance.” That combined focus on words and pictures seems proof positive that this, her debut title, will be the first of many more to come …
The table of contents reads not unlike an elliptical coming-of-age poem ready for elaboration: “Me / Friends, Otters, College, & Art / Love / Breaking Up.” Being the self-aware teen, “Me” is the most detailed section, offering both obvious and quirky tidbits about her families (she moves between her two parents’ different homes), the embarrassment of underwear shopping with her father, her love of tea although she doesn’t “want to be one of those people,” drawing felt-tip ink tattoos on her legs, “trying to say something profound,” her various hair cuts (and admiration for Jean Seberg’s ’60s ‘do), and her love of vintage clothes, “black and stompy” shoes, stripes, and ’90s girl bands.
When she’s not examining her rather examined life, she’s her own best friend although she “can’t imagine life without [her many] friends.” She talks boy problems at the “‘boy problems bus stop,'” experiences “very, very painful” reactions while watching adults using the internet (Luddites unite!), and wishes she were “a character in a cartoon.” She saves (and pastes) various ticket stubs, receipts, and errant paper pieces from her past, including a customs shipping label for socks sent from Korea. She confesses that her “spirit animal is any fat, hairy, baby animal,” but (especially) loves otters.
She also loves boys, and thinks “fries are the ultimate romance food.” But when the inevitable break-up happens (she’s just a teenager, by golly!), she maturely declares, “It’s just important to surround yourself with good people.” True that at any age!
Youthful, yes, but Isobel Harrop clearly has a keen awareness of who she is. She’s lucky to have discovered she has multiple mediums of expression: “Sometimes pictures can say more than words ever can,” a note-to-self she inserts exactly in the middle of her musings. She’s funny but thoughtful, questioning but never rude, occasionally envious but mostly hopeful, candid but never the exhibitionist. With imagination and wonder, Harrop alchemizes her everyday ‘ordinary’ into something graphically extraordinary.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Published: 2013, 2015 (United States)