Tina M is a fifteen year old Indian-American living in California. She attends a somewhat Hippie-ish private school where classes include Existentialism, Tina’s favorite class. This diary is a class project. In it she speaks to Sartre. She tells him of her problems, her crushes, and her family. All the while she’s trying to answer the question: Who am I?
Oh Lord, I am so glad not to be a fifteen year old girl anymore! Tina’s Mouth just brings up all those memories of teenaged angst and all the things that seemed like to end of the world to me at the time. Tina is dumped by her best-friend Alex, after she discovers fashion and gets a boyfriend. Tina sits all by herself at lunch after that, until her teacher suggests she try out for the school play. She does, reluctantly, and this opens her up to new friendships and possibly her first kiss.
At home, Tina is dragged to weekend parties at her parents’ friends’ house. She actually likes these parties, all the heel dragging is for show. Her Mom and Auntie are trying to set up her pot smoking artist sister with a suitable boy, while her brother is planning a wedding with a girl he met online. Events soon to cause various disasters.
I’m picky about my graphic novel choice. I don’t like anything too cartoonish or off-the-wall. I was attracted to this one right away. The cover is delightful. I did find the title, Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary a little off putting. What was I going to be in for? Was this going to be too woo-woo for me? But what I found was a story of a very smart young woman just trying to figure herself out. This is the kind of story relatable to any girl who ever felt a little bit lost in high school, especially one who was smart and on the quiet side. (Who? Me?) The title, Tina’s Mouth, refers to an Indian story of baby Krishna, whose mom looks inside his mouth and sees the whole universe. Once I found this out, I relaxed about the title.
As for the graphic part of this novel, I enjoyed the illustrations by Mari Aarki. Dare I say that they’re girly? They remind me of the doodling I did at fifteen, all the hearts and stars and words that wander across the page. Much better than my own, of course, especially the drawings of people (I can only manage stick people). The illustrations have no colour and look like they could have been drawn with a pen. I liked the simplicity. Here’s the book trailer, so you can see what I mean:
I’m glad I took a chance on Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap. It turned out to be just what I needed.