Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz

This is a delightful graphic novel with a few threads that I enjoy: it takes place in a mysterious museum/library/archives setting; it’s a ghost story; it is concerned with mental illness and social justice; its cast departs from your run-of-the-mill beautiful straight white people; and it ends sweetly with an emphasis on friendship. I’m not sure where I got this recommendation, but it was a solid one.

Like most graphic novels, I found this one a quick read – I sped cover to cover in an evening. Celeste Walden has recently lost her library job after a depressive episode; she’s not doing so well, and her boyfriend Kyle is concerned, and she knows she has to get out of the house, but she really doesn’t want to work anywhere but a library again. That’s when she finds the Logan Museum, located in an old building that has also housed a hospital, an orphanage, and a sanitorium at different times. She’ll be an archivist, working nights, digitizing the museum’s images collection. And she is expected to live on premises, in a furnished apartment. Which of course involves things that go bump in the night. Kyle does not approve of this new job, but Cel is determined. Her new boss is disturbingly aloof, but the librarian who trains her is a lovely, supportive woman. And then the mysteries begin.

Cel’s mental illness is handled differently by different characters, including by herself, in ways that are true to life. The ghost story element is moving and involves some larger issues. Cel’s social circle – boyfriend, boss, librarian Holly, and Holly’s girlfriend – is small but impactful. I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the visual representations, which I felt communicated emotions and personalities nicely. I think this book would make a good choice for YA readers on up, and offers some excellent opportunities to discuss several topics that might appeal in middle school or high school classrooms or book clubs. I also enjoyed Weir’s afterword and Steenz’s “confidential files” at the end, which shed light on their friendship and process; the authors’ lives bear on the book, as is often the case. Definitely do recommend. Also, yay for libraries in literature.


Rating: 7 fruit baskets.

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