The Girl Who Owned a City (Graphic Novel Version)

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As I mentioned when I reread The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson last year, I grew up with fond memories of the plot, characters, setting, and the entire premise of the story. My older brother and I would imagine ourselves conquering the world, pouring over maps and phone books to determine where we’d settle our city and get survival supplies in a world suddenly left without anyone over the age of 12.

When I saw on Netgalley that a graphic novel has been written, to be published in early April 2012 (by Lerner Publishing Group/Graphic Universe), I was more than a little excited. In fact, when I was approved to view the book, I read it immediately, finishing within a few hours of being approved. I’m that kind of a geek when it comes to this book.

Again, because I have fond memories of The Girl Who Owned a City, keep in mind that I cannot approach it, or the graphic novel (by Dan Jolley and illustrated by Joelle Jones and Jenn Manley Lee), with an objective eye. Reading a graphic novel of this favorite kids book was wonderfully fun, the pictures were sufficient for the story, and the story itself was, like the original, a fun ride along with some pretty self-sufficient kids who save the day. (Read my 2010 review of the original for more information about the novel’s plot.)

Suffice it to say that the graphic novel takes away a lot of the awkward gaps that the poorly written original suffered from. There is slight reference to the missing dead bodies of all the adults (they simply turn to dust, which is good, because any illustration of dead bodies would not have been a pretty sight to see portrayed in graphic novel form). There is also less awkward exposition about what people are doing because, let’s face it, in a graphic novel, you literally show those kinds of things. And the story moves quickly, focusing on the action and the agony Lisa, as leader, goes through, without focusing on unimportant explanations.

Further, the original has been termed a child’s introduction to the philosophy of Ayn Rand, but this book seems far removed from that introduction. Sure, Lisa remains the self-centered and self-aware leader that she was in the novel and people may not like her for that. But, because of the illustrated nature of the book, there is far less need to describe the whys behind decisions and actions. The awkward philosophic aspects of the novel melt away in moving action and the illustrations. Thank goodness.

Speaking of the illustrations, I wasn’t crazy about the style: the angles were sharp, adding an unfriendly feel to the people. But, given that this a book about survival of the fittest and smartest in the midst of a world suddenly without any adults, maybe unfriendly is the perfect tone to give to it. The illustrations were in full-color, which I really appreciated. Because I don’t read many graphic novels, I’m simply not sure how to discuss the art style in them. This illustration style works, even though I wasn’t crazy about it.

In short, from my completely biased view, The Girl Who Owned a City works wonderfully as a graphic novel. I get a little bit giddy thinking about this generation of middle-grade readers who will be able to sink their imaginations into the world of no parents. Possibly, just possibly, they might imagine with their siblings or friends just how they would conquer the local high school and come off leader of their own city. What fun they have in store!

I read a digital review copy via

Reviewed on November 22, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

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