Blankets is a 2003 graphic novel by Craig Thompson. It’s one of the most important and influential graphic novels of the last twenty years. It’s an autobiographical story about questioning faith, childhood, and first love. The story begins with Craig’s experiences with his younger brother and family in Wisconsin. His parents were devoutly religious and brought up Craig to be the same. He reads the Bible nightly and begins considering a career in the ministry as he gets older.
Craig was a bit of a loner and an outcast, misunderstood and bullied by his peers at school and at Bible camp. He eventually joins a small group of outcasts, including a free-spirited girl named Raina. Craig and Raina begin to develop feelings for each other, but their relationship is hindered by the fact that they live in different states. They keep in touch through letters, phone calls, and care packages. Raina invites Craig to come stay with her for a couple of weeks and he does.
Craig meets Raina’s family, which is a little more complicated than his to say the least. Raina’s parent’s are in the midst of a nasty divorce. She has an older sister named Julie. Julie is married and has a baby, but Raina seems to take more care of the baby than Julie does. Raina also has two adopted siblings named Ben and Laura. Ben and Laura are both mentally challenged and Raina feels responsible for them as well. Raina’s social life is also very different than Craig’s. She is actually popular and has lots of friends. She’s the life of the party while Craig feels awkward and left out.
A good portion of the story is about those two weeks he spends with Raina. He discovers more about himself. He finds love and happiness, and also learns that love and happiness don’t always last. Thompson’s story is simple and complex simultaneously. He uses flashbacks and metaphors and weaves in and out of the main narrative but tells the story chronologically. It’s like life; you’re always going forward but you can still look back and remember the things that brought you to this point.
Comic books are not always about superheroes. Real life can be a lot more interesting. Thompson’s story is deeply personal to him and it resonates onto the reader. You feel the joy of his victories and the pain of his losses. It’s easy to see why Blankets is one of the best graphic novels of all time, up there with Watchmen and Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. It’s not just one of the best graphic novels, it’s one of the best novels period. Read it for yourself and see why.
Critically Rated at 16/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young