Nate Powell’s SWALLOW ME WHOLE is the first graphic novel since MAUS to earn a nomination for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. According to a press release from publisher Chris Staros:
SWALLOW ME WHOLE is one of five official finalists in the category of Young Adult Fiction, making it the first graphic novel to be nominated for this prize, in any category, since Art Spiegelman’s MAUS won the Fiction category in 1992! “I’m honored just to be considered,” says Powell, “and feel dizzy having my book even placed in the same sentence as MAUS.”
Although SWALLOW ME WHOLE was not created exclusively for young adult readers, it is fundamentally a story about the dark, quiet corners of adolescence. The book follows two teenage stepsiblings, Ruth and Perry, through the ups and downs of school, family, and suburban restlessness — all complicated by the insect armies, swirling visions, and haunting voices that no one else can perceive.
“To be a young person is to be surrounded at all times by frightening transition and the terror of losing touch with a safe and familiar world,” says Powell. “Sometimes the only salvation from that terror is in what a teenager can create for themselves.”
The LA Times Book Prize nomination follows months of critical acclaim for SWALLOW ME WHOLE’s rich storytelling and dazzling visuals, which have led some to call it “the best graphic novel since Craig Thompson’s BLANKETS.” Douglas Wolk wrote in the New York Times that “Powell’s flowing, impressionistic artwork, with its ravenous expanses of negative space, swirls the reader’s perspective through his characters’ perceptions and back out again.” The Onion’s AV Club agreed that the book “achieves some stunning effects with the art and the lettering” and admired how “SWALLOW ME WHOLE captures the desperation of the clinically obsessed, and how from the right angle, it can look like genius.” The book also received an Ignatz Award from the 2008 Small Press Expo.
“What makes this book so worthy of acclaim is the way it immerses the reader in the life and mindset of a gifted yet mentally ill teenager,” proclaimed Walter M. Mayes, a middle school librarian and one of the members of the award committee. “To get a glimpse of what it must feel like to be inside such a head can be overpowering and disorienting upon first read, but when reread, the book offers such literary power that it is hard to deny, even if you don’t totally ‘get’ what is happening. Teens will find this book compelling, weird, scary, and ultimately affirming.”
Nate Powell will be attending Seattle’s Emerald City ComiCon (April 4-5) and the SPACE Expo in Columbus, OH (April 18-19) before traveling to Los Angeles for the LA Times Book Prize ceremony on Friday, April 24. The ceremony serves as the kickoff for the LA Times Festival of Books (April 25-26), where Nate will be a special guest hosted by Hi De Ho Comics all weekend.
To celebrate Nate’s achievement, Top Shelf is holding a mini-sale through April 26th: order SWALLOW ME WHOLE and get a free copy of Nate’s autobiographical short story collection, PLEASE RELEASE for free! To order — or to just grab an image for a story — visit http://www.topshelfcomix.com/natepowell. Top Shelf 2.0 is also hosting a new online comic by Nate Powell and Rachel Bormann, entitled “Cakewalk,” at http://www.topshelfcomix.com/ts2.0.