Water Baby (2008) is written and illustrated by Ross Campbell . In it, he tells the story of a young teen-age girl name Brody, who survives a shark attack. My reaction to the story is kind of mix bag of emotions that ranged from bafflement to disinterest. I’m not sure that I “get” what it is the author is trying to say with this story.
Admittedly Brody’s character was a challenge for me. She has tats, she is crude and she listens to heavy metal music. She is also a survivor of a shark attack that resulted in her wearing a prosthetic leg. Her story made the local news in Florida because of the recent spike in shark attacks of late. Anyway, a year has passed since the incident and she’s still having crazy nightmares about sharks and she often times suffers from phantom pain.
Brody’s best friend Louisa moves in with her and helps her with the physical therapy and recovery. She doesn’t want her mother’s help with any of it. Brody’s ex-boyfriend, Jake, who comes across as a complete airhead, shows up looking for someplace to crash. He eats them out of house and home and wears out his welcome after a few days. Fed up, Brody and her friend decide to drive him back home to Rochester, New York and along the way, they pick up a hitchhiker name Chrissie, another airhead. And so the road trip commences forth with some predictable surprises.
No doubt Brody wants things to be normal again but for me, I didn’t see very much change in her character outside of the limitations placed on her due to the loss of her leg. Maybe that’s the point. I don’t know. I’m not sure what the author was trying to convey here or the message he’s trying to convey to his adolescent readers. I reread this graphic novel like twice trying to decipher the message but came away clueless as to the objective of this story. The premise is an interesting one but unfortunately, it just wasn’t executed well.
There wasn’t much in the way of a romance here other than the lesbian relationship that was hinted at between Brody and Louisa, who had supposedly “hooked up” at one time but now they’re just great pals. And the hitchhiker they picked up, Chrissie, hits on Louisa but she declines. After Brody’s break-up with Jake, she swears off men for good. Ok, whatever. Next, you have your usual teen scene of surfing and partying with the accompanying pop culture dialogue. As for characterizations, we see Brody act out defensively about her stump and grapple with the fact that she is a cripple. Then the author goes on to illustrate her vulnerabilities but as far as what is going inside Brody, that part of her remained elusive to me. Sure she contemplates her limitations but I never felt I really got to know her.
Bottom line is that there was a lot in this story that was ambiguous – Brody’s background for one. Characterizations were thin at best which doesn’t work for me. The artwork was fine but I just wish the story had more complexity. I thought this would have been a great story about a teen-age girl recovering after a life changing event but alas, the story falls sadly flat. I remember starting this title when I first received it and had put it down more than once. The story never pulled me in. I could have did without all the “heh’s, hehehe’s and hahaha’s” inserted into every other sentence in the dialogue, other than that, my response to this story was lukewarm. With that said, Water Baby is the weakest title so far from this imprint, IMO, so my grade, C-.
[tags]MINX 2008, Ross Campbell, Water Baby, Teen Literature[/tags]