Wintertown by Stephen Emond take place over a winter break as high school seniors and childhood friends Evan and Lucy try to become reacquainted. Lucy moved away when her parents divorced, and comes back to visit her father once a year. But this time is different because Lucy has changed. She now dresses Goth, and she seems distant and angry. From this premise, Wintertown grows more interesting with each chapter as Evan and Lucy try to decide what their relationship means, and how they can come to terms with changes in themselves and each other.
At the heart of this book is a situation many high school students face: What do I do when my friend changes? Do I move on, trying to find other friends? Do I hang on to the friend by changing myself, or do I try to maintain both my own identity and the friendship?
Evan and Lucy are into comics, books, and quirky music. Evan adores The Beatles, but Lucy sees The Beach Boys as more artistic. Chapter titles come from some of the more introspective and metaphorical songs by each group: “Fixing a Hole” and “Hang On to Your Ego,” for example. Evan likes Tolkien; Lucy steers him toward Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. Their conversations about differing tastes in music and books are some of my favorite passages. Stephen Emond writes dialogue with fresh, funny twists that bring out nuances in the characters’ moods and perspectives.
Parents, friends, and Evan’s grandma provide an entertaining and believable supporting cast.
Part of Wintertown’s appeal is its format that mixes graphics and text. The graphics are snippets of comics drawn by Evan and Lucy, as well as representations of Evan’s surroundings and how he views Lucy. But the graphics are not just illustrations of the text. They help us know the characters in ways that are separate from the text. For example, in an early chapter Evan and Lucy sit at a café, drinking coffee, having a conversation and drawing a comic jam, quickly taking turns completing panels of a comic while talking about something completely different. The comic they create illuminates the conversation and the characters as it reveals things about them that they don’t say.
Wintertown was a compelling reading experience throughout, but the ending seemed rushed and off a little bit. But as I thought about it more, it made sense for Evan and Lucy. No spoilers here, but I hope other readers will say what they think about the ending.