Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things by Ted Naifeh (Oni Press, 2002)
Graphic Novel / Contemporary / Horror
Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things is the first volume in the three volume series that chronicles the not-so-normal everyday life of a loner girl who learns magic from her mysterious uncle and uses it to navigate a world of school bullies and bloodthirsty goblins and adolescent peer pressure. Throughout her adventures, Courtney displays ingenuity and intelligence, qualities that see her through some truly strange things (a good-girl doppelganger, goblins stealing a baby she’s sitting, etc). But though she is independent, strong and loyal, Courtney is far from perfect – she’s sarcastic and grumpy too, making her a fantastically real adolescent heroine. The world she inhabits is, by turns, normal to the point of banality, as well as gothic and creepy. Thanks to Neifeh’s clean, expressive illustrations (everyone but Courtney, Uncle Aloysius and select Night Things have vacant, empty eyes – a nice commentary on how Courtney feels about “normal”, suburban life), it’s a world that the reader can’t help but want to enter.
Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things is excellent on several levels – the stories are fast-paced, engrossing and easy to read, making it a great selection for reluctant readers; and the subject matter veers elegantly between the fantastic (spells gone wrong) to the very real (bullying and isolation). It’s simply too good not to have in a library’s tween collection. Excellent recommendation for reluctant readers or tweens with an alternative vibe, great addition to any graphic novel display, particularly with other, darker / alternative stories like Gloomcookie and any of Neil Gaiman’s work.