Hope Larson is fascinated by adolescence: The intense emotions, the crucial identity questions, the desire to grow up while holding on to the last remnants of childhood. With her work on books like Chiggers and Mercury, Larson has shown a deep understanding of adolescent relationships and how they can blossom and die in unexpected ways during this major transitional period. Her new graphic novel, All Summer Long, can be seen as the flip-side of the summer camp-centric Chiggers, detailing what happens back home while a character is away for an extended period of time. Bina’s best friend is spending the summer at soccer camp, but she ends up becoming besties with his older sister, Charlie, who introduces Bina to new music and a new way of looking at life.
This exclusive preview of All Summer Long, on sale May 2, shows the first big interaction between Bina and Charlie, which awkwardly occurs when Bina is breaking into Charlie’s house through the bathroom window. The early pages ease the reader into Bina’s carefree summer routine, making up songs about her groceries and stopping to go down a slide in the playground because she still has those childish impulses. Larson sets up shock of the Charlie reveal very well by ending the previous page on a fart joke, lowering the stakes of Bina’s action with humor. Suddenly all that relaxed, playful energy is gone as Bina realizes that she’s just been caught breaking into a house.
Charlie doesn’t give her too hard a time, and she’s happy for the company given that she’s stuck at home with a broken arm, not making money while all her friends are at their jobs. The constant stream of music flowing from Charlie’s headphones is an especially clever visual element, and there are moments when the music looks like angel wings, while at other times it’s more like devil horns. Music plays an integral part in the development of Bina and Charlie’s relationship, and Larson establishes this early on by making it an immediate presence in the artwork.