I could have used this book twenty-five years ago.
(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley.)
Quiet Girl in a Noisy World is a memoir in graphic novel format. Author/illustrator Debbie Tung explores the growing pains of adulthood … made all the more agonizing and confusing by her introversion. As she struggles to maintain a proper level of sociability – first as a graduate student, then as a member of the workforce – Tung wonders what the heck is wrong with her? When she stumbles upon a personality test online one day, it all clicks: she’s not broken, just different.
I have social anxiety; I’m probably an introvert, too. I wasn’t exactly sure how much I’d relate to Tung’s life but, as it turns out, it’s like looking in a mirror. Whether it’s celebrating the cancellation of a much-dreaded get together, lying awake obsessing over an embarrassing episode that transpired years ago, or spending the remainder of the day napping to recuperate from an hour-long appointment, many of these could be scenes from my own life.
Yet these are pretty common manifestations of social discomfort and malaise, especially in the modern era, where technology often circumvents face-to-face interactions. It’s when Tung’s more specific weird quirks hit home that my mind was well and truly blown.
Humiliating parent-teacher meetings about your shyness? Check.
(My sixth-grade teacher actually set me up with another girl, on account of we were both so quiet and friendless. Like can you imagine?)
Fantasizing about eloping in order to avoid the public spectacle of a wedding? Check.
(My husband and I did elope, in Las Vegas. The only witness? The secular priest. My mom tried to send some family along and was super-pissed when I begged off.)
Not being able to make a phone call around other people? Yup, I’m afraid so.
Honestly, it just got freaky deaky after a while. It’s like she cracked my skull open and was crawling around inside my mess of a brain.
The artwork is sweet and complements the story nicely; the color scheme is a muted grey, which suits the story’s melancholy feeling. Topics like this can get real dark, real fast (seriously, just read my journal. Or don’t!), and there are some rather depressing panels, but overall it’s pretty gentle and forgiving. It’s clear that Tung has found a place of acceptance and self-love (or at least understanding), which lends the Book a hopeful vibe.
Along with Hyperbole and a Half and the Sarah’s Scribbles collections, this is a book that I’ll keep on my bedside table and return to in the future, whenever life feels like it’s just too much. A must read for introverts, the terminally shy, those with social anxiety – and the people who love them.
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