Mona is plagued by depression, anxiety, some lack of self-confidence, and many other mental health issues that so many teenagers suffer from. She calls her depression and doubts her “Matter.” To begin with, Mona's best friend moves away to Hawai'i, and she makes a new friend who has just enrolled in her school. Mona is also a violinist and loves to draw, but her Matter constantly tells her she's not talented enough. Throughout the narrative, Mona learns to cope with her Matter invading her thoughts and sabotaging her social interactions. She uses therapy, art, and writing to understand with and change her self-doubt into positivity.
The book affected my dreams, as I wished for all students to have a safe space and to share in their Artners (partners in Art). As a person who outgrew my shyness and has friends with acute anxiety, I often forget what some of the painful self-doubting narratives are. This book really shed a light on the inner monologue that plays out in the minds of those with depression or anxieties. Mona constantly doubts that she’s worthy of her new friend, as if she isn’t entitled to be loved or accepted. I found myself repeating what I’ve said to countless students and friends - of course you’re worthy. But that line of talk doesn’t always banish the negativity of The Matter. The last third of the narrative is very quick and presents a few different problems that are quickly dealt with, and the creative outlets Mona creates at the end could have used a bit of a smoother transition to get there, but ultimately, the strength of this title is about the positive work that needs to be done to build positive mental health.
The illustrations are mostly black and white with splashes of yellow for emphasis, and the author/illustrator sets up the interior to feel very much like a classic composition notebook. The important subject matter and beautiful illustrations make this a title for every high school library.
Sara's Rating: 8/10
Suitability Level: Grades 9-12
Tags: Rating: 8/10, Suitability: High School, Graphic Novel, Realistic Fiction, Mental Health
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