Something New is a graphic memoir from Lucy Knisley. This is the third of Knisley’s books that I’ve read, all of which have been auto-biographical and none of which I’ve read in chronological order. It’s an interesting experience getting different snippets of Knisley’s life a bit out of order. I first read An Age of License (which is good) and then read Relish (which is magnificent). I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books I’d read and was very excited to read Something New.
Each of Knisley’s previous books I’ve read has focused on a different aspect of her life. An Age of License was about a convention trip turned extended European vacation. Relish was a bit more expansive…a biography of Knisley’s childhood and early adulthood told through the lens of her love of food and cooking. Something New takes on another important milestone in Knisley’s life: falling in love, planning a wedding, and marriage. Knisley has a knack for taking the greater theme of each book and expanding to create a richer story and provide more context. You don’t just get the Lucy and John love story, but all the steps that led to their engagement and wedding. It’s an unconventional love story in that it doesn’t go from point A to B to C. Lucy and John have a deep affection for each other, but some very big differences in what they want out of life. To see the two separated without ever really losing their love and eventually drawn back together made the bond seem stronger than if it had just been a love at first sight kind of story.
One of my favorite design elements of Something New is the way that Knisley includes photographs sprinkled throughout. It’s a really nice touch and is fun to compare and contrast against the representation of the people and places in the art. I love the way that Knisley structures her books. She doesn’t stick to a simple panel grid format. About once a chapter, she’ll throw in a splash page with a series of funny bridal hairstyle drawings, her guide to building a bad break-up kit, or weird wedding facts. These pages are almost always very funny and thus end up being some of my favorite in each book. One of my favorite chapters of Something New is where Knisley guides the reader through all of the DIY projects she tackled for her wedding. You get to see a chapter full of project design instructions and anecdotes, free of a panel grid. It’s so visually appealing.
At the core of Something New is Knisley seeking to find the balance between not wanting to contribute or participate in patriarchal societal norms about marriage and motherhood, while acknowledging that the underlying reasons for these traditions are actually important to her. This is something that Knisley is incredibly adept at explaining, through both her writing and artwork. I certainly can’t do it justice, but it’s absolutely one of the most fascinating and endearing themes of Something New. In the end, Knisley manages to find that balance. Being able to walk alongside her as she struggles with how to find that balance is illuminating and heartening.
Anyone who’s taken part in planning a wedding is also sure to relate to Knisley’s anecdotes about the complexities of the endeavor. She does a great job conveying the equal parts stress and enjoyment one can find in trying to bring together one of the most important days of your life. There’s planning stress, money stress, family stress, and everything in-between. But there’s also the underlying love and enjoyment about planning a day that’s so special for yourself and the people you love. I felt like my previous reading of Relish and Age of License helped provide further context for some of the family dynamics at play in Something New. It’s certainly not necessary but I found myself saying “Oh I know that person!” or “I recognize that recipe!” and it helped heighten the reading experience. I’m guessing you’d get a similar experience starting with Something New and then going back through her other works.
This book is good bang for your buck. It’s just under 300 pages and Knisley’s cartooning style is fairly dense. It will keep you entertained for several hours on a weekend afternoon as you escape into Knisley’s memories. I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed Something New. It’s delightful and identifiable. I found myself reliving my own wedding memories as I followed along through each of the steps from Lucy and John’s first meeting to honeymoon. Knisley is quickly becoming one of my favorite cartoonists. I’m embarrassed to have considered myself a fairly well-read member of the comics and cartoonist reading community and having taken so long to discover her work. I can’t wait to dig in to more of her catalog to get more insight on her experiences and world views.