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La Perdida    by Jessica Abel order for
La Perdida
by Jessica Abel
Order:  USA  Can
Pantheon, 2008 (2006)
Hardcover, Softcover
* * *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Jessica Abel's La Perdida may have graphics, but that does not make it any less of a novel. This is a great literary work - that just happens to be told through pictures and word bubbles rather than paragraphs and dialogue - about a girl who travels to Mexico without much of a plan.

Carla has always wanted to be more like her idol, Frida Kahlo, but even though she is half-Mexican, she still feels too American. When her ex-boyfriend Harry moves down to Mexico City to become a writer like his idol William Burroughs, Carla decides to go visit her father's homeland. Not sure what to do with herself, Carla gets lost in Mexico City and misses her flight home. By that time, she has made some local friends and starts teaching English at a learning center. Soon, she has a boyfriend, Oscar, and a communist guide, Memo.

All of Carla's other friends are a little leery of Memo, but Carla is convinced he is good despite his radical views. Soon, Oscar begins getting caught up in risky drug deals and Carla is having trouble keeping up the rent. Determined to stay in Mexico through all the seasons, she rejects Oscar's proposal of marriage and moving to the US, and will not even consider going home for Christmas. However, when the newspapers are full of stories about Harry's kidnapping, Carla realizes that Mexico City might not be quite the place for finding herself.

La Perdida starts out a little slowly, but then really starts to pick up once Abel has thoroughly introduced the characters. As the feeling of dread around Carla's new life grows, the reader gets sucked in and La Perdida becomes a real page-turner. Abel's art is good, though not spectacular, and really helps to give the feel of what is going on in Carla's life. While La Perdida is a great story in and of itself, the graphic novel format really brings it to life. Jessica Abel has great talent and I hope to see more full-length graphic novels from her in the future.

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