Craig, our main character is the oldest brother in the family and we get an early glimpse of his childhood and how creative and innocent he is with his brother when they used to share the same bed. Even though he's about 10-12 years old, he still acts like a 5 year old who believes in the Easter Bunny. He comes from a christian and very religious family and they have been teaching him about Jesus and taking him to Church ever since he was little. As a child he accepts everything that his parents and pastor tells him about God and Jesus without questioning. But as the years ago we get to see the loss of innocence in Craig or rather a passage to adulthood in my opinion.
As a senior in highschool, he is constantly bullied because 1. He is not into sports so the guys make it seem like he's a sissy. 2. He loves to draw and for many that makes him seem like a "Faggot" 3. He's not very social. Every year after christmas, his parents sends him to this bible winter camp where he gets to socialize with other teenagers, participate in concerts singing songs only about Jesus, and practically worship God and Jesus 24/7. Clearly Craig has never liked it as a child because the same mean bullies would attend these events and he would like to get away from it all. But this time things are different, he meets other kids who aren't exactly part of the norm of society, wearing gothic and grunge clothing that makes them look like outsiders.
One girl in particular Raina attracts Craig from the start and from the very beginning a relationship starts to bloom. At the time he didn't have a clue what to do with his life, he believed that his drawings were a sin as a distraction from God and being around Raina, she made him feel special. He found her to be absolutely beautiful and a distraction from the madness of his life. During that same time I feel like Craig had a spiritual awakening when he realized that this type of mass production to Christianity feels like brainwash and while he praises Jesus and Gods teaching, he doesn't like it how these close-minded people behave. When that event happens, it practically becomes the main struggle for Craig as he challenges his faith and decides whether to accept what he has been taught since a child or deviate from the norm and become an intellectual making ones own independent thoughts.
For me this book resonated close to home especially for Craig's struggles. I grew up attending church religiously because my mother is Catholic and my father is Baptist. He played the organ in his church so I would have to wake up extremely early to attend his rehearsals before the service, watch the service, and then attend Sunday School. I loved everything about the service minus Sunday School. For me it wasn't the teachers I had a problem, it was the simple fact that I felt like I was going to school for a few hours and I already hated public school so why does religious school going to make that better?
My mother even though she is Catholic, she doesn't attend church much and after my parents divorce I barely attended church for a few years which I think was the right thing to do because at the end of the day your kid needs to explore life, make friendships, explore and connect with nature instead of being shoved with religious teachings every day of every week. Then my family put me into the Catholic Church to get my communion and confirmation and for the first few years I really enjoyed it. The teachers were very humble and loving individuals, never showing hate only love and what helped also was the nuns and priest who were very kind and available to any religious discussions with an open mind.
As I got older and accepted my sexual identity, the inner conflict that I struggled for a short time was am I going to hell because I'm gay? Will my family abandon me because of these perverted thoughts? It was such a confusing time and it didn't help that there wasn't any gay people in my life to show me that everything will be okay. Then I got an epiphany and realize if God has created everything from the universe to man, then that means he created me just as I am because if he hated gay people then we would all be straight.
After that occurring thought, my mind opened up to the wonders of the universe and as an artist, I decided to be open-minded when it comes to religion, art, culture, and becoming a better human being. Today I believe in God, Jesus, and their teachings but I do not like to subjugated into one domination of religion. I accept everyones belief and do not cause harm to others or try to convert other people. I believe as human beings, we are always striving towards a better life and a better world so if you do not inflict harm to others and live a happier life with or without religion then I bow down to you.
I believe having these similar thoughts as Craig is what made him open up and realize the ignorance of his youth. It was very sad the way things ended but at the end of the day I believe he is living a richer life being open to new experiences and new encounters in life. The illustrations of this book is spot on and absolutely stunning. It captured my attention right away and sucked me into another world and even though it is a long book, you forget about the pages and easily realize you've read 100 pages within 30 minutes. I believe Craig Thompson has the potential to be currently one of greatest graphic novel story tellers of the 21st Century and I will be definitely be checking out his other works.
I highly recommend this book for everyone to read because it is so worth the time and effort of reading about adolescence, romance, heartbreak, growing up, and the journey of self-discovery and adventure. Thank you Craig Thompson for making me live through my childhood again.
P.S. Part of the reason that I read this book is because I was sick and tired of seeing that the longest book I read this year was a book that I hated so I am glad that now this is the longest book I've read in 2015 so far!