Luisa: Now and Then by Carole Maurel

Anger, frustration, and sadness. The feelings that come along with regret. The compromises made… the paths diverged and not taken. Two Luisas, separated by 17 years, but brought together by some sort of time slip. 15-year-old Luisa gets on the bus to go home out in the sticks in 1996 and gets off in Paris in 2013. She’s lost. Without a way to contact her mother or even buy a phone card with her outdated money, she luckily is aided by a woman named Sasha, who is coincidentally Luisa’s 33-year-old self’s neighbor. Sasha takes her home and in the course of the next few hours meets herself…

When Sasha needs to leave for a weekend getaway, the two Luisas are stuck together. 15YO questioning 33YO’s life choices and 33YO in awe of her teen self. It is a meeting rife with emotion. They meet up with old friends who 15YO knew as young people… they witness Sasha’s open sexuality… they discuss their mother’s restrictive nature and what has become of that relationship.

This graphic novel completely blew me away. It would be ridiculous to pass this one off as another remake of the Freaky Friday trope. Luisa is so much more. At its heart, it is a book of deeply touching realizations about family and repressed sexual feelings that have plagued Luisa her whole life. I read Maurel’s previously illustrated book Waves, and her style shines through in this work as well. The colors and the character’s action are perfectly done to represent the strong emotional content of the plot.

Powerful in its symbolism and artwork, I would recommend Luisa to anyone looking for a stellar coming-of-age story.

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