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La Perdida

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About the Author

Jessica Abel is the author of Soundtrack and Mirror, Window, two collections that gather stories and drawings from her comic book Artbabe, which she published between 1992 and 1999. She also collaborated with Ira Glass on Radio: An Illustrated Guide, a nonfiction comic about how the public radio program This American Life is made. Abel won both the Harvey and Lulu awards for Best New Talent in 1997; La Perdida won the 2002 Harvey Award for Best New Series. Abel's young adult novel, Carmina, is forthcoming in 2007, and she is currently collaborating on another graphic novel, Life Sucks, and a textbook about making comics. From the Hardcover edition.


The apt title means "the lost one." Mexican American Carla travels to Mexico to get in touch with her absent father's roots. At first, she stays with ex-boyfriend Harry, an expatriate with only other expatriates for friends. But with misguided notions of fitting in, she learns the language, moves out, gets a job teaching English-and overstays her visa. She falls in with Memo, a Communist and ladies man who criticizes her capitalist upbringing, and Oscar, a wannabe turntablist and small-time drug dealer who becomes her lover, moves in with her, and fails to pay his rent. A local crime boss takes a liking to her and gives her free cocaine. It's clear this isn't going to end happily, and sure enough, Carla willfully lets her life deteriorate until disaster strikes. Abel tells the tale well and creates remarkably well-rounded characters. Her black-and-white artwork has a rough-edged style, with dot-eyed characters like those in Craig Thompson's Blankets. During serialization by Fantagraphics this story won a Harvey Award for Best New Series. With minor nudity and obscenities; for older teens and adults, and recommended for all libraries.-S.R. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"Jessica Abel's La Perdida is rich, engrossing, and memorable--a true graphic novel." --Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics "Put down your dog-eared Love and Rockets and read this. Fans of Los Bros will recognize a kindred spirit, but Abel is every inch her own artist. Her tale of Carla's catastrophic folly is fierce and unforgettable." --Susan Choi, author of American Woman and The Foreign Student "Jessica Abel is brilliant. She's created amazing work for years, and La Perdida is her classic. It's funny, politically astute, and heartbreaking. It's graphic novel poetry." --Sherman Alexie, author of The Toughest Indian in the World From the Hardcover edition.

Carla Olivares, a young Mexican-American woman, goes to Mexico City to try to get in touch with her Mexican side. She's got her own, distorted ideas about what that means, and her annoyance with an old boyfriend who's leading his idea of the romantic expatriate life (by hanging out exclusively with other expats) makes her even more nervous about coming off like an outsider. She starts hanging out with a bunch of local lowlifes and blowhards who feed her guilt about being a privileged "conquistadora." They talk big (about stardom and revolution), but barely scrape by on petty crime-which eventually becomes not so petty, and sucks Carla into a vortex of fear and violence. Abel's published several books of her shorter comics stories, but for her first long-form graphic novel she's developed a new, impressively assured style, built around bold, rough brushstrokes. She's got a telegraphic command of body language-her characters' faces are simplified to the point where their eyes are usually just dots-and the backgrounds nicely evoke the architecture and heat of Mexico City. What really makes the story compelling, though, is Abel's sensitivity to character and dialogue-Carla is the narrator, but she's hardly a heroine, and the way crucial meanings are lost in translation ratchets up the dramatic tension. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Gr 10 Up-Twenty-something American slacker Carla moves to Mexico, land of her long-lost father. She crashes at the apartment of her ex-boyfriend, a wealthy, WASPy American who socializes mostly with people like himself. Carla soon meets some locals, wannabe revolutionary Memo and wannabe DJ Oscar. After moving in with Oscar, she becomes less engaged in society, rarely interacting outside of this limited group. As she becomes even less involved, her na?vet? allows some horrible events to occur. While readers see the writing on the wall long before Carla catches on, she is still a sympathetic heroine. This is Abel's first full-length graphic novel after her Artbabe comic and collections (Fantagraphics), and it's both simple and ambitious. The black-and-white artwork is sketchy, but evocative. The story is intricately plotted and suspenseful. The decision to write the first chapter's dialogue in Spanish, translated at the bottom of the panels, is interesting. Later, when Spanish is spoken predominantly, all of the dialogue is in English, putting words that were actually spoken in English in brackets. This not only reflects Carla's move into Spanish, but also allows readers to feel more strongly her lack of knowledge upon arriving in Mexico. The lengthy glossary defines Spanish words, phrases, vulgarities, and characters and places referenced in the text. Abel has successfully portrayed characters both on the fringes of society, and those who wish that they were.-Jamie Watson, Harford County Public Library, MD Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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