Review: Tina’s Mouth

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Tina’s MouthTina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on January 2, 2012
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 248
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley

In the tradition of Persepolis and American Born Chinese, a wise and funny high school heroine comes of age.

Tina M., sophomore, is a wry observer of the cliques and mores of Yarborough Academy, and of the foibles of her Southern California intellectual Indian family. She's on a first-name basis with Jean-Paul Sartre, the result of an English honors class assignment to keep an “existential diary.”

Keshni Kashyap’s compulsively readable graphic novel packs in existential high school drama—from Tina getting dumped by her smart-girl ally to a kiss on the mouth (Tina’s mouth, but not technically her first kiss) from a cute skateboarder, Neil Strumminger. And it memorably answers the pressing question: Can an English honors assignment be one fifteen-year-old girl’s path to enlightenment?

First of all, I feel the need to emphasize how much I wish I could have gone to a high school with classes specifically on existentialism and Russian literature. I went to a good high school, but not that good. Also, I am super envious of her project being to write a journal that the teacher has promised not to open and read. He must, though, right? Otherwise, I bet about half of the students who had chosen that project wrote nothing.

Anyway, I loved this. Tina was a really believable heroine, suffering through such angsty teen problems as friend breakups, boy drama and family crises. The bits on friendship were really hard-hitting and realistic, as I should know having had many such issues of my own.

Another main theme of the book is diversity and not making assumptions based on race. For example, Tina is Indian. Everyone keeps asking her stupid questions about things, particularly religion. Her crush throughout the book is even laboring under the delusion that she is a Buddhist (she’s not; she’s a atheist).

What really made this book pop, though, were the illustrations. I just loved them. They really do make the journal look like something a teen (a much more artistic one than I ever was or could have hoped to have been) would make. So much of her personality shines through the illustrations. I bet they look stellar in the actual book (as opposed to the e-galley).

Even though the story does not actually involve prom or prom night, I couldn’t pass up the only song currently in my music library about existentialism. There may not be singing in the book, but, hey, you sing with a mouth right?


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