All the Places in Between by John Cei Douglas is a quiet, meditative journey that depicts the difficulties of mental illness. As someone who has clinical depression and anxiety (among a few other mental illnesses), I eagerly consume media that attempts to articulate what that experience is like. And, more often than not, it’s comics and graphic novels that do the best job of communicating–generally wordlessly–what it’s like to feel so alienated from the world … and often yourself. And this is precisely the aim of Douglas’s work.
There are no characters with names, no specific settings, no clear story arc, and no dialogue. It is broken down into different parts and subparts–each depicting a different part of a girl’s journey. Sometimes the reader feels very close to her, what is going on in her mind, and, at other times, the character is essentially unreachable. Likewise, the book alternates from being able to be read literally to figuratively, all depending on the reader’s own experiences, and, I assume, their state of mind when reading it. Douglas manages all of this with his careful attention to space and sequence, and it’s a fantastic illustration of how mental illness can operate.
Throughout All the Places in Between the art is consistently moving. The simple, thin linework and quiet emotion hook the reader until the very end. My only critique is that some of the sections are more difficult to decipher than others. They require a generous amount of work from the reader, and there a few that still have me puzzled. That said, it’s a book well worth reading more than once, and, despite the sad content, it’s an oddly comforting read.