Swallow Me Whole follows the story of two step-siblings as they grow up in a suburban neighborhood. The brother and sister, Perry and Ruth, both have developmental disabilities that radically change the reality that they perceive. Ruth is an obsessive compulsive who is fixated on insects, and she can't walk across a lawn without worrying about what she might accidentally be stepping on. Perry has mild hallucinations about a wizard that lives on the tip of his pencil and forces him to draw compulsively. The reader sees the world as Perry and Ruth see it - hallucinations and all. Both of the siblings try to lead a normal life (seeing psychiatrists, taking prescription pills), but there remains a part of them that's resistant to change. Swallow Me Whole is told in the style of a graphic novel (or comic book), and was influenced by Nate Powell's time working with developmentally disabled adults. His illustrations are terrific, going back and forth between the straight-forward ‘normal' world, and the swirling, dark, and lively world of the sibling's hallucinations. There aren't any easy answers offered as the characters deal with their dying grandmother, overworked parents, and the complicated social life of an American high school, but through their story the reader gets a view into two very unique minds.
Recommended by Tony Pellicone