Nowhere girl by Magali le Huche

cover image

Magali has a loving family, parents who are both psychologists and a clever, confident big sister Ames. The start of middle school was to be an exciting new start but Magali is soon overwhelmed by the expectations, noise and pressure of the new school and develops crippling anxiety, cleverly represented by the oversize school bag she feels she is carrying. Increasingly she develops magical thinking and compulsive habits to compensate for her anxiety at school and she can’t wait to escape into the safety of home. When Magali hears The Beatles’ music for the first time, she is transported to a colourful, happy place and spends the term break immersed. When school starts again her anxiety is worse and she develops some psychosomatic illnesses. Eventually she is diagnosed with school phobia and home schooling is recommended. Staying at home helps Magali with her school anxiety but her obsession with the Beatles grows. She escapes into vibrant imaginary worlds inspired by the music and learns tiny details about their lives, taking every opportunity to regale her friends with Beatle trivia. As she reaches puberty her anxiety transfers to her body changes. Gradually, with the help of her supportive sister, therapy and activities such as dance, art and acting, where she can escape into performance, Magali learns to cope and eventually re-join mainstream life but she never lets go of her passion for the Beatles.

This graphic memoir explores the challenges of leaving childhood behind in the 1990’s and the overwhelming changes that can be experienced at puberty. The largely monochrome daily life scenes are contrasted by the energetic vibrant colours when Magali escapes into her magical imaginary world of the Beatles, including famous album covers and the whimsical lyrics of songs like Yellow Submarine. The text is very small, cursive in often quite crammed space, possibly a result of the translation from French, and makes for difficult reading but the story is engaging and might give those suffering from similar anxieties affirmation that some coping mechanisms can be comforting and there is a path forward with help. There are activity sheets and a blog on the Nobrow publishers' website.

Themes: Anxiety, Mental health, The Beatles.

Sue Speck