Rummanah Aasi
 Sometimes, the world is too much for Mona Starr. She’s sweet, geeky, and creative, but it’s hard for her to make friends and connect with other people. She’s like a lot of sensitive teenagers. Mona’s struggle with depression takes on a vivid, concrete form. Mona calls it her Matter. The Matter gets everywhere, telling Mona she’s not good enough, and that everyone around her wishes she would go away. But through therapy, art, writing, and the persistence of a few good friends, Mona starts to understand her Matter, and how she—and readers—can turn their fears into strengths.

Review: Mental health, often called as an invisible disability, is visualized and discussed in the graphic novel The Dark Matter of Mona StarrMona lives with crippling depression and anxiety. She envisions her dark emotions to be elemental and expansive and names them as "matter" which can manifest as a black hole, fog, or take on a ghost-like form that hovers over her. Matter prevents Mona from truly living her life and engaging with the world. She is privileged to have a very supporting family and the means to seek therapy.  Therapy helps and, through various techniques like meditation, recognizing behavior patterns, and drawing, Mona slowly begins to reconnect with her friends, family, and the art she loves so much. She even breaks out of her shell and tentatively expands her social circle. While Mona is able to manage her depression and anxiety, her journey is hard and takes time. I appreciated how the graphic novel takes a realistic yet hopeful look at mental illness. Mona's inner monologue is introspective and it made me think. The illustrations pay close attention to Mona’s range of emotions, which are heightened by different visual metaphors—walls, trees, outer space, and black shadowy forms all give a literal shape to her Matter. Since there is a lot of interior monologue in the book the overlapping panels and dreamlike sequences keep the images flowing smoothly in the graphic novel. The Dark Matter of Mona Starr can be a hopeful and honest mirror to those who deal with mental health issues and provide a window to others on how some people experience it.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 7 and up.

If you like this book try: Guts by Raina Telgemeier
1 Response
  1. This sounds like a book that will speak to many young adults who are struggling withe mental health issues right now.

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