The Isobel Journal – review

The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop
The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop

This is a cute book. It feels great (this is why I can’t love the Kindle, despite its usefulness): the paper is thick and good quality, and it’s full colour throughout (which is why it’s £9.99 RRP). The author is 18-year-old Isobel Harrop, who loves drawing and making general observations on life.

The blurb says: THE ISOBEL JOURNAL is no ordinary snapshot of a contemporary teenage life. A charming and vivid narrative scrapbook of the eighteen-year-old author’s sketches, mini-graphic novels, photographs and captions, it captures her wit, her observations and her creative talent as she takes us through the three central themes in her life: ‘Love’, ‘Friends, Art and Otters’ and ‘Me’.  Resonant of Laura Dockrill’s MISTAKES IN THE BACKGROUND and with the powerful naïve illustrative style of cult Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, this is a collector’s gift for teenagers and all who have the teenage experience still in their hearts. Readers will emphasise with this witty and honest journal of a girl getting to grips with impending adulthood. A must-have for all hipster teenagers and anyone who appreciates the raw creativity of youth. Enchanting and poignant.

The book has been beautifully put together, and Isobel certainly has an eye for quirky angles, faces and expressions. Some of her drawings are really thoughtful and many make clever or profound points. I can imagine that many teenagers would love to flick through this and come back to it, dipping in and out. For me, I appreciated the original voice and the layouts, which give plenty of space to each illustration. BUT I would really have liked stronger links between the separate pieces. For example, Isobel starts the book with pictures of her family – her dad, stepmum, two younger sisters (five and two) and one older brother. She also mentions she visits her stepdad and mum and baby brother on a regular basis – but that’s pretty much it for them. I’d have loved her observations on the behaviour of her younger siblings, or maybe family arguments or funny family occasions. Given her rich surrounding environment of people, there are surprisingly few pictures of her family(ies) or friends. Instead, we have a lot of references to popular culture, cute animals and  Isobel’s own feelings. Now of course, she’s a teenager, so this makes perfect sense, but I feel that adding more about her family and friends (she says ‘I can’t imagine life without my friends’ but then doesn’t mention them again) would have added real depth to this book.

It’s a lovely creation and has the ring of authenticity about it because it was written/drawn by an 18-year-old, but I think it misses an opportunity to increase the emotional and intellectual impact through more interactions with real people in Isobel’s life.

Many thanks to Hot Key for sending me an advance copy in return for an honest review. At times, it reminded me of Falling in Love by Jacky Fleming, which has a similar quirky outlook on life but links the illustrations in a more coherent way.

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