Review: In Limbo: A Graphic Memoir

In Limbo cover

Title: In Limbo: A Graphic Memoir
Creator: Deb JJ Lee
Genres: Contemporary, graphic novel
Pages: 348
Publisher: First Second
Review Copy: Library
Availability: Out now!

Summary: A debut YA graphic memoir about a Korean-American girl’s coming-of-age story—and a coming home story—set between a New Jersey suburb and Seoul, South Korea.

Deborah (Jung-Jin) Lee knows she’s different. Ever since her family emigrated from South Korea to the United States, she’s felt her Otherness. For a while, her English isn’t perfect. None of her teachers can pronounce her Korean name. Her face and her eyes—especially her eyes—stand out. As the pressures of high school ramp up, friendships change and end, and everything gets harder. Even home isn’t a safe place, as fights with her mom escalate. Deb is caught in a limbo, with nowhere to go, and her mental health plummets. But Deb is resilient. She discovers art and self-care, and gradually begins to start recovering. And during a return trip to South Korea, she realizes something that changes her perspective on her family, her heritage, and herself.

This stunning debut graphic memoir features page after page of gorgeous, evocative art, perfect for Tillie Walden fans. It’s a cross section of the Korean-American diaspora and mental health, a moving and powerful read in the vein of Hey, Kiddo and The Best We Could Do.

Review: I’ve been on a whole journey when it comes to reading graphic novels. I try my best to read a wide variety of them, particularly in the MG and YA categories. But I’ve found, time and time again, that my favorite graphic novels are typically memoirs, particularly memoirs that touch on topics close to my heart — identity, race, family, and immigration. In Limbo grabbed me from the moment I laid eyes on the gorgeous cover, but it’s Deb JJ Lee’s heartfelt and poignant life story that really touched me.

In Limbo follow Deb through her childhood and high school years as she struggles with being othered and bullied by her peers, while experiencing a difficult home life and a fraught relationship with her mother. As someone with my own fraught relationship with my immigrant parents, this really resonated with me. In Limbo doesn’t shy away from tough topics and emotionally raw depictions of Deb’s life growing up. I appreciated the thoughtful, nuanced narrative that Deb has managed to weave from her own life.

The art, as you can tell from the cover, is absolutely gorgeous and does a fantastic job of working with the text to portray a story both beautiful and heartbreaking. This graphic memoir made me a fan of Deb’s art, and I am so looking forward to whatever Deb chooses to illustrate or work on next.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful, evocative graphic memoir that covers themes of family, race, and identity, I would definitely recommend checking out In Limbo — In Limbo is an absolute must-read.

Recommendation: Get it now!