Published by Simon and Schuster on May 17th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, LGBT
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After a hate crime occurs in his small Texas town, Adrian Piper must discover his own power, decide how to use it, and know where to draw the line in this stunning debut novel exquisitely illustrated by the author.
Adrian Piper is used to blending into the background. He may be a talented artist, a sci-fi geek, and gay, but at his Texas high school those traits would only bring him the worst kind of attention.
In fact, the only place he feels free to express himself is at his drawing table, crafting a secret world through his own Renaissance-art-inspired superhero, Graphite.
But in real life, when a shocking hate crime flips his world upside down, Adrian must decide what kind of person he wants to be. Maybe it’s time to not be so invisible after all—no matter how dangerous the risk.
Unlike Michelangelo, I may not have church ceilings and museum walls to hang art on, to show what I need the world to see. But I do have lockers.
And I have the Internet.
Draw the Line is my definition of great Contemporary YA: a serious look at hard-hitting social issues, with a warm fuzzy tingle of hope to wrap it up.
Overall, I’ve had a bit of a disappointing 2016 when it comes to LGBT fiction. Compared to 2015, which brought the hilarious Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, the dark and sad More Happy Than Not, and the quietly powerful middle-grade trans novel – George, this year just hasn’t brought anything that exciting or memorable. Well, until now, that is.
For the first approx. 100 pages (which sounds like a lot but includes many illustrations), Draw the Line was just a good book. I enjoyed Adrian Piper’s voice and I loved how the author got creative, weaving story with artwork to tell a tale about a teen who lives a secret life as a comic artist. He escapes reality by drawing a gay superhero called “Graphite”, evidently based on himself.
It’s also funny, nerdy, and diverse in a way that feels natural and unforced. Anyone can work through a diversity checklist of token characters, but the black, white, Jewish, gay, straight, asexual, plus-size and skinny characters in this book all feel created with love and sensitivity.
But it’s after the first 20%-ish when this book becomes really great.
That’s when shit goes down and the issues at the centre of this book are tackled head on. When Adrian Piper intervenes to stop a hate crime against a fellow gay student, the spotlight is turned on him. My fury rose with his as he discovered how few people in his small Texas town – even the adults and teachers he should have been able to turn to – were willing to speak up in defense of a gay kid.
Everywhere he turns, people don’t want to rock the boat and make the bullies angry. But what about his anger? The anger he feels at watching others commit a hate crime and simply get away with it?
Blaming some deity for your own hate seems pretty messed up to me.
So Adrian fashions his own kind of weapon: art.
His subversionary tactics have consequences, of course. And they bring to light many issues affecting those around Adrian – especially issues of masculinity and the pressure teenage boys feel to behave in a “manly” way or face the wrath of their peers.
It’s a powerful book about superheroes, and the quietly subversive heroes that live among us. And yet, despite the serious issues, it is far from dark. It brings light, creativity, geeky references and gay romance to the table. Most likely, it will make you angry. But it will make you happy too.