The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry


  The Good Times are Killing Me by Lynda Barry. Drawn & Quarterly, 2017.  9781770462618

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5

Genre:  Realistic fiction

What did you like about the book? I should start with a disclaimer – I am a huge fan of Lynda Barry and her comics. Her art manages to entertain and provoke, on a personal and social level. This book, a reprint of the original published in 1988, is a gem for the ages. Edna Arkins is a white adolescent in a gritty Seattle neighborhood in the 1960s. She becomes friends with a black neighbor, Bonna Willis, and describes the era and her family and relationships with humor and a uniquely rough sensitivity, which is so real and rich. Adolescence is such an entertaining time of life, and Edna is the perfect spokesperson for her kind: she is influenced by the off-hand racism of adults, but is keenly observant of her world and determined to make her own way. That makes this a perfect YA selection and an important read for adults who think they have packed away racism as an inevitable part of life. We cringe with Edna and we see where it all starts. Chapters begin with initial illustrations in black and white, in a rough sketch style. Even though these are spare, Barry makes facial expressions count for a lot. The big artistic treats come at the end.  The “Music Notebook” is 35 pages of color biographical sketches of real life musicians, with full-page mixed media portraits in hammered tin frames. Each portrait has such great personality and eccentricity, echoing the subjects’ mainly seat-of-the-pants life and mostly too-early demise. And the book is a three-fer! The third part is a short section of Barry’s signature notebook style art and musings on her childhood, echoing the life of Edna Arkins, in full color.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Lynda Barry fans will be happy to revisit this book, and enjoy the new hardcover version with a new cover depicting a taped together record player playing an LP. Introduce this to young adults and old adults who like short fiction or graphic novels in a memoir style.

Who should buy this book? High schools and public libraries

Where would you shelve it ? Teen or adult fiction

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Stephanie Tournas, Robbins Library, Arlington, MA

Date of review: November 9, 2017.

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