In Ghost World, Daniel Clowes doesn’t romanticize the teenage experience or show teenage girls as sweet and idealistic. His portrayal is raw, cynical, and honest, often hitting the nail on the head.
Enid and Rebecca are best friends who constantly shout insults at each other, because that’s how they communicate. I’m not used to seeing people talk this way in books, but I also know people who talk this way. It’s not over-the-top or malicious…it’s real.
The girls also don’t know what they want in their future, especially Enid. She’s graduated from high school and her father is pressing for college. She’s not interested in college, but she doesn’t want to disappoint her father, and she doesn’t know what to do instead of school, either. She doesn’t look for a job or try to figure out the next step in her life.
Enid and Rebecca are very cynical and caustic, but they live in a world where they can see no other way to act. Everyone around them is pretentious or clueless…or both. The stuff on television and in magazines strikes them as ridiculous. They can’t stand the people around them. It’s an excellent portrayal of alienation, especially teenage alienation. Even when Enid and Rebecca aren’t being nice, they’re still understandable. This graphic novel is very funny, but it’s also very sad, and sometimes it’s both at the same time. The saddest part is when Enid and Rebecca pull a prank on a man trying to meet a woman, but the girls, especially Enid, don’t realize what they’ve done until it’s too late.
Ghost World is very well known in the comics world, a sort of classic in the field. Others might be familiar with the critically acclaimed movie based on it and starring Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi. While some of what’s in the comic carries directly over into the movie, and the feel of it remains the same, the comic is often quite different. In the movie, Enid falls for Seymour, the character played by Buscemi; in the book, all Enid does is play a prank on the character that would become Seymour in the film. The comic isn’t as plot-strong as the movie, instead feeling more like a series of vignettes. Though it’s only 80 pages long, this graphic novel still manages to leave a deep impression.
Reviewed by Danica Davidson on April 1, 2001