Summer can be isolating season if you’re cut off from your friends and stuck at home. Harriet Flores and her parents recently moved to Chicago, ending her summer camp tradition and leaving her desperate to reconnect with camp friends who don’t respond to her postcards. Sarah W. Searle’s new Graphic Universe YA graphic novel, Sincerely, Harriet, is an introspective story about one girl’s struggle to acclimate to new life circumstances that go far beyond a change in setting. This major transitional period in Harriet’s life is complicated by the reason for the family’s move, which Searle gradually reveals throughout the book to incorporate heavier subject matter into this tale of adolescent alienation.
The A.V. Club spoke to Searle about Sincerely, Harriet back in 2016 when it was still called Thimble, and we now have an extended exclusive preview of the final book, on sale May 8. This excerpt introduces Harriet’s downstairs neighbor, Pearl, an elderly woman who becomes Harriet’s confidant as they spend more time together. Harriet has an active imagination that compels her to craft fantasies about the people she knows, and she’s convinced Pearl’s kindness hides a dark secret. Harriet’s parents try to stop her from spreading falsehoods, but Pearl recognizes that this behavior is fueled by a creative spirit that Harriet can harness to tell new stories.
Searle’s smooth linework and coloring give Sincerely, Harriet a soft, welcoming visual aesthetic, and these pages showcase how she draws readers in with evocative environments and expressive characters. She imbues Harriet with a profound sadness, and her guarded body language closes her off from the people around her. There’s a lot of nuance in Searle’s storytelling, like the scene of Harriet getting aroused by the description of the lip balm an actress wears during a kiss. Some close-up panels and a pastel palette are all Searle needs to depict this moment of innocent sexual awakening. Distinct palettes help differentiate scenes while informing the emotional content, and using a gentle pink for the first scene with Pearl foreshadows the warm friendship that develops over the summer.