by Brenna Thummler
Published by Lion Forge • August 28, 2018
240 Pages • ISBN 978-1941302675 • Paperback
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I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair & honest review.
"For days after reading Brenna Thummler's Sheets I have been wandering my neighborhood, haunted, enchanted, and in need of freshly pressed clothing." - Lemony Snicket
Marjorie Glatt feels like a ghost. A practical thirteen-year-old in charge of the family laundry business, her daily routine features unforgiving customers, unbearable P.E. classes, and the fastidious Mr. Saubertuck who is committed to destroying everything she's worked for.
Wendell is a ghost. A boy who lost his life much too young, his daily routine features ineffective death therapy, a sheet-dependent identity, and a dangerous need to seek purpose in the forbidden human world.
When their worlds collide, Marjorie is confronted by unexplainable disasters as Wendell transforms Glatt's Laundry into his midnight playground, appearing as a mere sheet during the day. While Wendell attempts to create a new afterlife for himself, he unknowingly sabotages the life that Marjorie is struggling to maintain.
Sheets illustrates the determination of a young girl to fight, even when all parts of her world seem to be conspiring against her. It proves that second chances are possible whether life feels over or life is over. But above all, it is a story of the forgiveness and unlikely friendship that can only transpire inside a haunted laundromat.
"Brenna Thummler's first original graphic novel is a reason to celebrate. She announced herself as an artist to reckon with when she illustrated Mariah Marsden's adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. Now she's illustrated her own story of ghosts and family, loneliness and laundromats. I'm sure you'll be captivated, and as eager as I am to see what comes next!"-Brian Selznick, author of Wonderstruck and The Invention of Hugo Cabret
"Sweet, sad, funny, warm, and beautiful. If I can be forgiven for using this word, this is one that will haunt me, in the best way." - Dana Simpson
Brenna Thummler's Sheets attempts to examine many things at once; grief, loss, alienation, forgiveness, and friendship are all addressed in this story, but perhaps not always to the best results.
Marjorie, a young girl who feels out of place in her world, runs the family laundromat after the death of her mother. Her father has more or less abandoned life, lost in his grief. Marjorie tries very hard to hold her family together, but she's realistically too young to carry this responsibility. Wendell, a young ghost, is trying to navigate his afterlife and decide whether his place is there or back among the living. Finding solace among the sheets in the laundromat, Wendell attempts to befriend Marjorie and help her with her job, to more often than not disastrous results. In the end, Marjorie and Wendell find a way to work together to face their fears and save the laundromat.
The first portion of the book, dealing with Marjorie, is a little slow but I feel that it was intentional as it sets her feeling of loneliness and abandonment fairly early in the story. I found this portion of the book moving, how she was dealing with the loss of both of her parents, one by death, the other by grief. However, the abrupt switch to Wendell's introduction left me confused as I actual thought I had missed some pages somehow; one page we're reading about Marjorie, the next we're dropped right in the middle of Wendell's story without the same buildup that Marjorie receives. It's a little jarring. The rest of the book moves along fairly quickly, almost to its detriment in some ways. Marjorie coming to terms with who Wendell is (after the briefest of connections is made earlier in the book; I actually had to flip back to figure out how she made this link), Wendell first accidentally interfering in Marjorie's attempt to save the family business then his coming to the rescue, the final resolution to everyone's problems, it all seemed to happen almost too quickly after such a sparse and spaced beginning to the book. There are solid lessons to be learned here but they seem either heavy handed or too easily glossed over; there is some definite inconsistencies to the storytelling throughout.
Thummler's sparse illustrations and muted pastel palette lend themselves easily to both the tone and seaside setting of the story. There is not much detail per panel, yet her character's emotions are easily read. I feel this is truly where Thummler's strength is, in her art.
I think the problem with Sheets is it tries too hard to be more than it is, ultimately being inconsistent in how it deals with the kid's emotions and how they deal with those emotions. At the end of the day, I enjoyed Sheets for what it is: a book about a lost girl and a ghost boy, and how they help each other find their way.