Brenna Thummler's world in Sheets is familiar to anyone who's been a child, or who has tried to slog through loss. Loss means change — and what's more bewildering to a child than the "real" world that changes from moment to moment?
In Sheets, everyone encounters rules, and situations, that make no sense, like the Laws of Ghosts and clean sheets, relationships and adolescence. Everything is new.
Add to that a devastating loss.
Add to that an unreliable guide, whether involves someone who is intentionally unreliable for their own benefit, is unsuitable for the situation, or just broken.
Add to that responsibilities beyond your capabilities, and no apparent options.
What you have is a poignant, touching, and revealing graphic novel that captures the confusion and angst of growing up without those who you most trust to guide you through this ever-shifting landscape of youth.
Marjorie is the teenage adult of the family. Her father, still reeling from the death of his wife, spends most of his time sleeping or hiding in his bedroom. Owen has just started kindergarten and can't remember a time when things were different — so he understands, but doesn't.
It's up to Marjorie to keep Glatt's Laundry running and keep the family together. But how can she do that when she can barely keep herself together? Adolescence is hard enough when you have everything together, and Marjorie's loss has left a chasm out of which she has no map to navigate.
Enter Nigel Saubertuck, a charlatan who wants to build a resort in his hometown — and needs the Glatt's property to do so. He's in a tight spot, and needs things to move fast. How far will he go to close down Glatt's Laundry?
Wendell is a lonely little ghost in a town full of forgotten ghosts, who finds himself drawn to Marjorie (whose business is the perfect cover for a ghost among linens). He knows the rules of Ghost Town, and he really wants to follow them — but even the best intentions of a youthful, immature ghost can go awry.
With a few deft strokes, Thummler shows us Marjorie's pain with her memories and current-life troubles. She captures Marjorie's desperation to not reveal her troubles, no matter how reliable the adult appears, and her natural protectiveness of her privacy and her crumbling family. Readers see Marjorie having to grow up way too soon and taking on burdens she wouldn't have had to face without the loss of the person who made her feel loved and safe and precious.
Thummler shows us the dark sides of small towns, the pain of adolescence, the cruelty of loss, and how children try to protect themselves from anything that will chip away at the tiny ledge they cling to in their whirling, confused world. The book cover captures the isolation, fragility, and abject loneliness loss brings to old and young alike. Thummler show us how children try to keep pain and confusion secret, whether it's their own or someone else's, in a world that makes no sense on the best of days.
Thummler wrote A Sheets Story, which was given away on Free Comic Book Day 2019, and announced a Sheets sequel to be published in 2020.
This touching novel deserves a close read, and a slow and leisurely re-read. I would strongly recommend it to readers of all ages. Reading it right around Samhain feels about right, but any time of year is perfect for this tome.
Have you read it? What did you think? Leave your comments below, or send me an email with your thoughts.