LOUIS UNDERCOVER by House of Anansi Press follows a young boy as he struggles with his parents’ separation and all the other problems that come with adolescence. Writer Fanny Britt and illustrator Isabelle Arsenault’s work will definitely pull at your heartstrings. Not only does LOUIS UNDERCOVER show the complexities of love and family, but it also explores how it feels to be a kid and unable to do much about the problems in your life. With his father’s alcoholism and the constant shuffle between each parent’s home, Louis has a lot on his plate. And falling love with a girl in his class only makes things more complicated.

The Pain of Fond Memories

Every once in a while, you’ll stumble across a graphic novel or comic that captures visceral feelings like a mosquito in amber. Though I’ve never experienced the events in LOUIS UNDERCOVER, I can feel Louis’ uncertainty and sadness. When we look back on memories, we get a melancholy feeling. We’re sad that those days are gone, but happy that they ever happened at all. Louis’ father in particular struggles to get back to the way things once were. Because of this, his nostalgia often clouds his view of reality.

louis undercover
Image courtesy of House of Anansi Press.

LOUIS UNDERCOVER also asks the honest question “can you love somebody that you’re not happy with?” As the story unfolds, we see that Louis’ parents aren’t cruel to each other. The reason they can’t be around each other is much more complex than dislike. Addiction plays a big role in the story, as the father’s alcoholism drives a wedge between him and his family throughout the graphic novel.

CLICK: See more adolescent experiences in AS THE CROW FLIES!

Simple and Wistful Illustrations

Arsenault’s illustrations evoke an acutely sad feeling. The lines are sketchy yet faint, colors are spare, and only the most important details are shown. In the following panel, even without context, you can guess that something bad just happened. You don’t need to see Louis’ facial expression. His slumped posture mixed with the neutral gray background says enough.

Image courtesy of House of Anansi Press.

The simplistic style also makes the story seem more child-like, but not in a fantastical sense. Rather, it’s like we’re looking into Louis’ diary. Although he’s extremely aware of his situation, he’s still not old enough to properly process his feelings. Therefore, the style melds his childhood memories and current emotional turmoil into one.

Representing Adolescence in LOUIS UNDERCOVER

LOUIS UNDERCOVER juxtaposes Louis and his brother, showing the gap between their personalities due to age. Truffle is younger than Louis and is still happily ignorant of the larger problems in his family. He’s a kid who acts like a kid, singing and making up wild scenarios. On the other hand, Louis is at a time in life where everything seems like the end of the world. We’ve all been there, and this graphic novel captures the struggles that come with realizing there’s more to life than make believe. Louis is constantly ashamed that he can’t do much to help his parents. But even less significant problems feel too overwhelming to handle.

READ: Check out J.T. Krul’s hard-hitting graphic novel SAND+BONE!

Image courtesy of House of Anansi Press.

One of the biggest themes in LOUIS UNDERCOVER is young love. Louis’ crush Billie is perfect in every way: she reads, stands up to bullies, looks “effortlessly” beautiful, and is generally cool. Since the story is filtered through Louis, we know that she isn’t actually that perfect — Billie surely has her own problems as an adolescent girl. However, Louis has never actually spoken to her. He fills in the gaps and idolizes somebody he doesn’t actually know. Still, Louis’ infatuation is very telling of his mindset. Yet, after seeing his parents’ marriage fall apart, he isn’t sure that love is for him.

Image courtesy of House of Anansi Press.

The Perfect Fall Read

Some comics are just not meant for the heat of summer. LOUIS UNDERCOVER won’t be available until October, which is perfect — it is a heart-wrenching book best served with autumn’s chill and a cup of tea. This melancholy graphic novel is definitely worth the wait though. With its compelling story and lovely illustrations, the story is sure to hit home for readers of all ages. It’s also one of those stories that doesn’t necessarily have a “happy” ending, but it is hopeful. And hope is a perfectly realistic ending for an honest graphic novel.

LOUIS UNDERCOVER will be available October 3, 2017. You can preorder it now!

LOUIS UNDERCOVER by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault
LOUIS UNDERCOVER is perfect for a rainy day. Not only are the illustrations wistful and lovely, the writing touches on some deep emotions. You might need a few tissues for this one.
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One Comment

  1. annelogan17

    February 1, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    I loved your review of this book-I enjoyed Louis Undercover too, and your description of the images being ‘wistful’ is bang on!


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