the cover of aisha franz's shit is real, which shows the protagonist's face, as seen through a hole in the wall

Shit Is Real: A Review

Shit is real

Among the many graphic novels that have attempted to capture the distinct feeling of facelessness that our all-digital, social media-minded age presents, Aisha Franz‘s Shit Is Real may come the closest to accurately portraying that experience. Following Selma — recently single, becoming isolated — as she floats through an increasingly weird landscape of strangers, Shit Is Real fully realizes the utter oddity of young-adult life today.

At 288 pages, Shit Is Real neither lingers too long, nor ends too quickly. Although Selma’s story can hardly be marked “resolved” by the end of Franz’s book, the series of absurd and unfortunate events leaves the reader feeling that too add anything more would be to stray too far, to intrude upon the protagonist’s life. Every decision Selma makes, up to her most questionable — occupying a fashionable neighbor’s apartment and assuming bits and pieces of her identity — may be walked back with ease. None of them moves her past the point of no return. Whatever she screws up is fixable, at least insofar as the events that follow will allow her to resume her normal life.

Shit Is Real‘s nail-biting moments come when Selma is in danger of being found out, when the strange, interim life she has crafted for herself appears to be on the verge of collapse. It is at these times, when Selma sidles up to the morally gray areas of her life, that Franz’s graphic novel feels the most real. The reader may cast judgment on the protagonist — for masturbating in another person’s bed, say, or for wearing a stranger’s clothing — but is ultimately forced to admit that nothing she does is harmful to anyone other than herself. Selma is at least minorly self-destructive, to be sure, but she lacks the flamboyance and flair required to take another person down with her. Instead, she founders and bobs in the water, failing no one but herself. Just when we think the waves have overtaken her, she reappears, and we are reminded of our own, depressing resilience.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

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