Token graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Minx - 978-1-4012-1538-5
  • Release date: 2008
  • Format: Black and white
  • UPC: 9781401215385
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Drama, Young Adult

DC’s Minx imprint was slightly ahead of its time in presenting pocket sized graphic novels aimed at teenage girls. Almost all were worthwhile, and Token is among the best of the them.

Shira’s mother died when she was four, and for the previous eleven years it’s been her and her father in Miami’s South Beach against the world. It’s now 1987, and that cosy domesticity is about to undergo a volcanic upheaval. Not that all is comfortable in her world anyway. She doesn’t rate in the social pecking order at her Jewish high school, can’t understand why she doesn’t attract any attention from boys and to top everything her father’s just begun dating his secretary. Feeling confused, lost and abandoned, Shira takes a leap into chance and, it would seem, off the rails.

Alisa Kwitney’s characterisation is very strong. She fills the pages with observational bit parts, one being the woman at the Woolworth’s jewellery counter, and anecdotes that feel real in building Shira’s awkward personality. Her first person narrative captions simultaneously convey the fundamentally decent girl on the verge of leaving her problems behind, only unaware this isn’t too far in her future.

Kwitney and Shira are perfectly matched with Joëlle Jones, whose visual characterisation is equally accomplished. She captures Shira’s awkwardness, hopes and anger perfectly and there’s an elegance about her real world cartooning unless it involves cars, where she’s not so great.

Token is repository of sound advice regarding problems that are universal across North America, yet never comes across as preaching or patronising, which is a fine line to straddle. Shira’s so likeable you want to reach through the pages to give a her a comfort hug, yet Kwitney ensures all other viewpoints are equally understandable. She also sets up the dramatic incidents well without ever straying from reality to exaggerate them.

What’s the best that can be said about Token? It should have a permanent place in every high school library.