Miss Lasko-Gross’s graphic-novel debut, Escape from “Special,” was one of the nominations for YALSA’s 2008 Great Graphic Novels list. Her semiautobiographical follow-up, A Mess of Everything, picks up where Escape left off: nonconformist Melissa is now in high school. But this time, the stakes are higher for the well-intentioned Melissa as she copes with an anxiety-induced drug habit and an anorexic best friend.
Even when the situation is not life-and-death, Melissa must negotiate the everyday problems that face young adults, such as alienating her friends with her uncomfortable honesty and accidentally breaking her best guy friend’s heart. Eventually, her troubles cause her to nearly flunk out of school, and she finds herself back in “special” classes.
By the end of the book, Melissa faces the choice that we all do at some point: whether to pursue her dreams or settle for a safer, more secure routine. As Melissa has grown, so has Miss Lasko-Gross’ craftsmanship: A Mess of Everything retains the moodiness of Escape from “Special,” but there’s a new clarity to the art and characters’ expressions and body language are more nuanced.
Coupled with the unsentimental truthfulness that is the hallmark of Lasko-Gross’ work, this intense book has appeal for anyone who is now navigating, or whose life has ever been touched by, these issues.
Fantagraphics, paperback, 192 pages, published April 2009