I received a digital copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review
I’m always a fan of reading graphic novels, especially ones that have a deeply personal storyline that explore profound themes such as grief, loss, and coming of age. In Brenna Thummler’s middle-grade graphic novel Sheets, she explores some of these same themes in such a beautiful and poignant way that I really enjoyed…
Marjorie Glatt feels like a ghost. A practical thirteen year old in charge of the family laundry business, her daily routine features unforgiving customers, unbearable P.E. classes, and the fastidious Mr. Saubertuck who is committed to destroying everything she’s worked for.
Wendell is a ghost. A boy who lost his life much too young, his daily routine features ineffective death therapy, a sheet-dependent identity, and a dangerous need to seek purpose in the forbidden human world.
When their worlds collide, Marjorie is confronted by unexplainable disasters as Wendell transforms Glatt’s Laundry into his midnight playground, appearing as a mere sheet during the day. While Wendell attempts to create a new afterlife for himself, he unknowingly sabotages the life that Marjorie is struggling to maintain.
Sheets illustrates the determination of a young girl to fight, even when all parts of her world seem to be conspiring against her. It proves that second chances are possible whether life feels over or life is over. But above all, it is a story of the forgiveness and unlikely friendship that can only transpire inside a haunted laundromat.
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What immediately strikes me about this graphic novel are the two perspectives that make up this story—Marjorie and Wendell. Both come from two completely different words, both carrying their own burdens and marked by the tragedies from their past, which ultimately brings them together. I really liked how their stories very much complemented each other and it’s also an interesting juxtaposition: Marjorie is living with the ghost of her mother and her passing in a metaphorical way, whereas Wendell is quite literally an actual ghost who feels he doesn’t fit in with other ghosts in the afterlife and instead wants to explore the living world. By the end, it’s very clear that both characters need each other, and it’s really sweet how this pans out over the course of the story.
I especially gravitated toward Marjorie’s story in this novel. Her days are spent busy handling the family laundromat, a place her mother had put her heart and soul into before her passing, and the absence of her mother is absolutely palpable. Along with juggling the laundromat and its array of disgruntled customers, Marjorie is also dealing with a depressed father, having to put on a brave face for her younger brother, and feeling isolated at school. You can feel everything that Marjorie is struggling with as she tries to keep her life from crumbling. It’s so visceral throughout the story, especially in the moments when her mind flashes back to certain memories of her mother before she quickly has to bring herself back to reality. Your heart aches as you hope that everything turns out for Marjorie, and I think this story handled grief and loss in such an honest, compelling way.
The other detail that sets this graphic novel apart is the art style, which is absolutely breathtaking and almost dreamlike, filled with vivid hues of blues, greens, and pinks. These were often my favorite pages, as I would just sit there and marvel over the detail of these illustrations.
What I Didn’t Like As Much…
The main detail in this novel that I wasn’t as big a fan of was Mr. Saubertuck. His character overall just seemed a little too outlandish and cartoonish, so much so that he didn’t seem as real against Marjorie’s true-to-life struggles. He just came across as a ridiculous caricature who popped in every now and then, and to me that only weakened the plot.
This next criticism wasn’t a major drawback for me, but merely something that I noticed: Wendell was clearly the little boy in Marjorie’s flashback who had come to her side when she once got lost in a corn maze… yet this isn’t ever confronted in the story? There’s never any moment of recognition between Marjorie and Wendell, or even a feeling of being reunited. I get that Wendell might not remember because a ghost’s memories often fade after they’ve died, but even Marjorie doesn’t try to help him remember nor does she even seem to acknowledge that she once knew this little boy who is now Wendell’s ghost. It’s just a detail that ends up getting glossed over and never properly confronted.
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All in all, Sheets by Brenna Thummler is a poignant and emotionally affecting middle-grade graphic novel that perfectly illustrates themes of family troubles, grief, loss, isolation, and learning how to move forward. The stunning artwork combined with the dual narratives from our two protagonists help to illuminate these themes and to carry the story forward. It balances both lighthearted and heavy subject matter, making it a very approachable book for young readers, and I ultimately considered it an enjoyable read.
I hope you enjoyed this review! If you’ve read this book too, let me know your thoughts down below!
Until next time!