To say the Lucille, the new graphic novel from Ludovic Debeurme, is a coming of age story involving teenagers with problems is a lot like saying the Dead Sea is a body of water with salt in it. Both are accurate statements but fail to capture the true magnitude of the situation.
Lucille is a teenager who suffers from body image and self-esteem issues which manifest themselves as anorexia. She hides from her friends at lunch. She lies to her mother at dinner. She worries that boys don’t like her because she is too fat, but then can’t stand the sight of her own body once the eating disorder reduces her to skin and bones.
Arthur is burdened by a lack of future and a crushing legacy that he feels he cannot escape. No matter what Arthur tries, he ends up screwing it up, and his life seems destined to follow the path of his father and grandfather before him.
During a chance meeting, Lucille and Arthur make the decision to try to escape from their lives.
Debeurme’s art is deceptively simple. There are no panel borders, and most of the scenes have little to no rendered backgrounds. At first it is a bit off-putting, but is also serves to focus the reader on the two main characters and what they are saying. Like all teens, the lives of the two protagonists are in close orbit around each other, and the rest of the word seems to disappear. it is only when they are forced to acknowledge the world around them that Debeurnme’s art fills the remainder of the page.
Lucille is the type of story that, once I finished reading it, I was left with something of an empty space in my heart. I did not realize how engrossed I had become in the story until I put the book down a few hours after beginning it. I felt drained. I had become so immersed in the world of Lucille and Arthur that their thoughts and emotions had mad a genuine impact on me. The depths of sadness and despair, punctuated by the moments of happiness and hope took me on an emotional voyage that was unexpected.
Closing the book made me feel like I was saying goodbye to two friends…two friends in need. I was left wondering if they would be okay. Would they be able to break free from the world that threatened to swallow them forever?
Lucille’s sequel, Renee, will be released in France this year. No word yet as to an English language edition.