REVIEW: ‘Slip’ Uses Art to Tell a Heartbreaking Tale of Mental Illness

Slip, from writer Marika McCoola and debut artist Aatmaja Pandya, is a haunting grapic novel that tackles suicide through art.

When I first stumbled upon Slip on NetGalley, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of the book. There’s no denying the cover is stunning, and the descriptive text is rather intriguing, but it also promises a story self-harm and coping through art. Suicide is something that’s hard enough to deal with in reality; using a friend’s attempted suicide to frame a story? It seemed wrong. Yet, in the end, Slip manages to be a powerful story worthy of your time.

Slip hails from writer Marika McCoola and debut artist Aatmaja Pandya. It tells the story of a young girl named Jade who finds herself trying to cope with a friend’s hospital stay following a suicide attempt. Just as things seem to be going up for Jade, she finds herself struggling to make it through everyday as her thoughts immediately turn to Phoebe. For Jade, her best friend was supposed to be by her side during art camp, so the idea of getting through it alone is hard to process. She doesn’t feel good enough, as Phoebe was her biggest cheerleader. She moves through the day like a zombie, oblivious to what’s taking place around her. Until she meets fellow art student, Mary.

Mary helps revive her spirit, helping her figure out what she needs to do to get her work back on track. More importantly, though, she helps Jade find a way to cope with Phoebe. It’s an emotional story that is beautifully told thanks greatly to Pandya‘s artwork. You can feel the grief, you can sense the confusion and by the end, you’ll find yourself in the same boat as Jade. It’s a powerful story that isn’t perfect, as it often loses focus but when it gets back on track? It soars like the phoenix Jade crafts.

The artwork can be choppy, but it only helps to sell the story. It adds to the grief and the uncertainty. It captures Jade’s feelings. The use of the red when Jade is hurting is gorgeous and the way Pandya brings Jade’s pieces to life is wonderful. They’re pieces of clay, that spring to life to help Jade along her way. It can be a bit confusing at times, as the story isn’t the best at transitions, but those moments of uncertainty are some of the biggest moments for Jade’s character.

Ultimately, Slip isn’t a light read. If you’re looking for a fluffy romance? Slip isn’t your book. If you are, however, looking for a graphic novel that successfully tackles real life issues thanks to artwork, then Slip is the perfect book for you.

Reviewer’s note: I generally don’t make it a point of adding my own personal bits into reviews. To be fair, though, in most instances? My reality doesn’t relate to the fiction I consume. Slip, though, hits hard. Very, very hard. Eleven years ago, I lost a dear friend to suicide. They remind me a lot of Phoebe. Loved to talk, was always smiling, and in the end, I never understood why they felt the need to end it. (We never know the full truth to someone else’s story.) To say Slip brought back some emotions for me would be putting it lightly. I never got into ceramics – look, I tried in college and it did not go over well – but I still related to the story. Art is a tool to help with grief in Slip, but there’s so much here that many others will, unfortunately, be able to comprehend.

Slip will go on sale on June 7th from Algonquin Young Readers.

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