Julian in Purgatory

Iron Circus. Dec. 2020. 228p. pap. $15. ISBN 9781945820748.
Gr 9 Up–Julian is floundering. Though he’s the mayor’s son, he’s addicted to drugs, unwilling to get a job, and full of excuses. But after one binge too many, his sympathetic but codependent girlfriend Dana finally kicks him out. Left on his own with no money and nowhere to go, he decides to rob his dealer. Things go horribly wrong, and Julian has to face some frightening consequences. This straightforward tale is sympathetic yet never glamorizes addiction. Julian can see his issues, but since he doesn’t believe they’re his fault, he refuses to take responsibility. Julian’s friends range from tolerant to completely frustrated, while Dana can’t draw the line between being supportive and enabling. The decision to depict the characters as animals (Julian is catlike, while Dana appears to be a canine, though both are fairly ambiguous) will draw readers in, making it easier for them to see themselves or those they know in the story. Cartoonish, expressive black-and-white art is at its most powerful when showing characters under the influence and when portraying heightened emotions.
VERDICT Though the book would benefit from the inclusion of addiction resources, the accessible story and strong art make it a poignant examination of the toll addiction takes, both on those who are addicted and those in their orbit.

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