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Tina's Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary Hardcover – January 3, 2012
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*Starred Review* At 15, Tina discovers existentialism and applies it to her own world. The youngest of three children of upper-middle-class, transplanted-to-Southern-California Indian parents, Tina attends a private school where deep thinking, Porsches, and skateboards are all on the list of what’s cool. On weekends she gets roped into visits with her extended family, her parents’ friends, and even a party to celebrate her brother’s soon-to-fail engagement. Her sister avoids meeting with their mother’s consulting matchmaker by getting stoned. And Tina’s longtime best friend dumps her for the popular crowd. Worse, Tina has got a crush on a skater dude whose casual messages are impossible to interpret. Her lone source of satisfaction during this ego-chafing year of school comes from a class project to keep an “existential diary.” Kashyap’s story is clever as well as genuinely felt: Tina’s crush introduces her to the music of Neil Young, saying he is as “super-deep” as the existentialists; Tina lands the lead role in a staging of Rashomon and discovers the pervasive nature of truth as nonsingular; her atheist mom approves her purchase of a plug-in glowing Krishna. Araki’s quirky black-and-white art suits the story well and amplifies the tide of events: the drunken conversations between Tina’s mother and aunt; Tina taking on the challenge of approaching new and potential friends; planning with her sister for their brother’s disengagement party. A complete package that gives both Sartre and Tina their due. Grades 9-12. --Francisca Goldsmith
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Awesome first book - can't wait for the sequel! Well, I hope there's a sequel anyway.
This is the existential comic diary of a girl named Tina, and although she has the usual drama of high school life, Tina’s diary is very thoughtful from this existential point of view. I felt very connected to her goals and desires and rooted for her on every level of my being. I spent a great deal more time going over Camus than Sartre in high school, so it was fun to get a bit of a high schooler’s perspective on Sartre as well.
I again really appreciated the real-life approach to stereotypes and how they affect everyone, including and especially high school age people. Tina’s observations, while not always astute, helped me feel more in tune with the frustration that comes with being racially stereotyped.
I was hooked at the very beginning when Tina labels the various cliques within her school, all the while unwilling to narrowly define herself except as an outsider. If Tina is oblivious to the irony, the reader cannot help but notice that the labels begin to slip the more Tina writes in her journal. Everyone from her former best-friend to her siblings don't live up to Tina's introduction of them and Tina herself changes, all the while trying to answer the question: Who am I?
Araki's illustrations are a perfect complement to Kashyap's text. Just sophisticated enough without being so highly stylized as to be obviously drawn by someone with decades of experience behind them. Instead the drawings look like something a talented but still inexperienced artist would draw. This is an intelligent choice.
This coming-of-age novel also serves as a gentle introduction to Sartre and existentialism and even a quick sample of a story from the Hinduism tradition that serves as a metaphor. That the writer and artist are able to layer so much and handle it all with so light a touch. For this alone, this graphic novel works better and fulfills above and beyond all expectations.
But if you want to read the most touching, edgy, fun, entertaining look at the world through an American-born girl of Indian descent navigating the shoals of high school life in 2011 California, this book is perfect.
Tina's Mouth succeeds on so many levels: it is funny, sad at times, touching, and very smart. Life as a teenage girl in an immigrant Indian family in California is like you might expect- but a lot different too.
This book is indeed in the vein of "American Born Chinese," but that book dwelled completely on the challenges of ethinicity and second generation immigrants. Tina's Mouth tackles some of that ground, but is much more ambitious, dealing with teen angst, and it even sneaks in a pretty good introduction to existentialism. What I love is that the author does it so subtly that even the most cynical teen will not see what is happening.
There has been an onslaught of "Diary of Wimpy Kid" copycat books, and none have captured the charm of the original. This is the first book that goes beyond "Wimpy Kid." This is better than the best of those books, but the audience is not the same. If you want a quick laugh, read one of the early "Wimpy Kid" books. If you want to laugh, cry, and wonder read "Tina's Mouth."
Because some of the discussion is too risqué for tweens, I would not recommend it for them. But for teens, this book is appropriate because they're talking about these topics at school anyway whether you admit it to yourself as a parent or not.
One of the best "graphic novels" of the year.