Writer: Leila del Duca
Artist: Kit Seaton
A review by Anelise Farris
Afar is a young adult graphic novel, a fantasy set in a postindustrial society in which Boetema, the fifteen-year-old protagonist, is gifted with the ability to astral project to other worlds while she is dreaming. While astral projection might seem like a safe activity without any significant consequences in the real world, Boetema quickly learns that this is not the case. Boetema’s story, like all great coming-of-age narratives, is about making mistakes, learning from them, and understanding how to use her gifts to make the world, or worlds, a better place.
A fifteen-year-old girl with the ability to astral project is interesting enough in itself, but the talented team behind Afar did not stop there. This is an intricate story that gives equal weight to Boetema’s life on her own planet. She and her younger brother Inotu are dependent on each other to survive while their parents are away earning wages as salt shepherds. This lends a surprising emotional depth to the story, and prevents it from—like many YA fantasy works—giving readers a too-familiar, conventional fantasy epic.
Leila del Duca’s writing is careful, affecting, and this matches seamlessly with Kit Seaton’s art: each page is not only gorgeous and dream-like but it also offers an unexpected gravity to this story. From the start, you feel like you know Boetema and you care deeply about where her story goes. There is a strong sense of place, which is achieved through careful detail, smart use of color, and attention to how the language is crafted. There are lots of fantastic full page panels, and each planet Boetema travels to is given the same amount of care in its depiction.
Buy it! Personally, I feel that strong fantasy and sci-fi texts are those that take readers to the most strange and wondrous places, and yet, they remain accessible to the reader; they feel real and familiar, and this is what Afar accomplishes. This is a rich story, and a much needed departure from the ever-growing pile of conventional YA fantasy. Even if fantasy is not your preferred genre, Afar offers a compelling coming-of-age narrative that will be enjoyed by readers of all interests and ages.
Afar will be available in your local comic shops Wednesday, March 29th, and in bookstores Tuesday, April 4th—make sure to grab a copy, or two, you won’t regret it!