Graphic Novel Review: The Golden Hour by Niki Smith

The Golden Hour by Niki Smith. Little, Brown and Company, 2021. 9780316540377. Includes a note from the author about PTSD and derealization, as well as a list of resources plus notes on the famous photos in the book, early sketches, and a page showing Smith’s creative process.

Before spring break, Ms Winstone was shot in her art classroom. She’s still out recovering but Manuel, who was in the class when she was attacked, is back at school. (None of his fellow students knows he was there.) Manuel gets to know his new friends Caysha and Sebastian during a group project. Caysha raises show chickens and Sebastian has a new calf — both encourage Manuel to go to Ag-Club and show his photographs there. But he’s also secretly (with the help of a counselor and his mom) dealing with PTSD and having panic attacks that lead to dissociating. (The way Smith draws these panic attacks, as well as Manuel’s efforts to ground himself during the panic attacks, is really affecting.)

It was great to read a graphic novel about kids becoming close friends without any bullying or drama. These are kids who care about each other, and they all have decent parents! Smith’s art is moving, and the book feels extremely personal. (I’d like to offer a shout out to the diverse range of subjects Smith has been able to cover in her three excellent graphic novels! I highly recommend both The Deep & Dark Blue (YA fantasy) and the very explicit Crossplay (erotic, set at a comic convention), too.)


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