Review by David Karp
Jessica Abel’s graphic novel, La Perdida, follows the adventure of Carla, a Mexican American, and her move to Mexico City to learn more about herself and her identity. She crashes with her ex-boyfriend, Harry, who is following the steps of the likes of William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac and crashing in the city, struggling to find inspiration for his writing. Disenchanted by each other, they come to an inevitable clash and Carla goes to join her new friends, natives Memo, Oscar, and others. Carla eventually finds herself “in too deep” in the Mexican underworld and her good intentions of trying to be a part of the culture and no longer an “outsider” gets her into trouble.
Ok, I loved this graphic novel for many reasons. One of the reasons is the cultural aspect of the novel the story and the artwork brings. We are brought with Carla on her journey through the good and the bad Mexico City, and it is done with careful detail and enriched language. The use of Spanish is very cleaver, and it’s brought to any non-Spanish speaking readers in a very helpful, easy to grasp, and even information and educational way (parts of the novel also having subtitles which is fun!). Any words or phrases that one would need help defining are in a convenient glossary in the back of the novel.
The story is very compelling, and the characters are certainly very outspoken. I honestly don’t think there was a character I didn’t get frustrated with at one time or another in the novel because of their words or not-so-wise decisions, but you end up getting to know the character’s views and dreams very intimately.
That’s the other thing about this novel; it’s very conversational (which I love to read in any type of novel). Yes, it’s a graphic novel, so yeah it’s going to be, but this was in a very unique, almost (at least in the beginning) in a Woody Allen like way in its philosophy and its political/cultural undertones. The characters very much express their views (especially the character Memo, who seems to always get into arguments with everyone) and have very thoughtful conversations about the differences of Mexico and America as well as the culture of Mexico and what it is to live as a real Mexican, which is, of course, one of the big themes of the novel, as well as Carla’s goal.
Admittedly, I have not read that many graphic novels in my life, and being introduced to La Perdida has made me want to explore more, and more specifically ones that fuse different cultures into it. Yes, the fusion of culture in Abel’s novel is very good and the story makes us think about our own views towards other countries and the differences of being a tourist and being an “insider”. The form of a graphic novel was a very cool way to see this kind of cultural story play out, as I like the idea of introducing culture through both words and pictures.
Of course, the artwork of the novel is really good. It captures the story, characters, and culture of Mexico City really well as the pictures guide us through the stories and the emotions. The artwork is black and white, which brings another unique feel to it; a rawer storytelling feel which I like. It also brings an urban air to it, which fits well into the setting of Mexico City and its darker side as you progress in the novel.
So, all and all, I really suggest checking out this graphic novel, as you will not only be introduced to some Mexican culture, but also thrown into a unique journey and a different viewpoint of Mexico City that makes you think, all through the awesome art of graphic novel.