Graphic Novel Review: Blackwater by Jeannette Arroyo & Ren Graham

Tony, high school track star, is secretly crushing on Eli, the "weird" kid who is always missing school because of an autoimmune disorder. But ghosts, werewolves, bullies, stale friendships, disabilities, neglectful parents, and the struggles of being a teen will either bring these two together or pull them apart.

Book Cover - Blackwater by Jeannette Arroyo & Ren Graham


I loved this! Werewolves, ghosts, super cute m/m romance, father-son feels, teens with teen struggles! One main character was trans, one was POC, both were disabled (autoimmune disorder, asthma)! And I wasn’t expecting to feel so much emotion.

I really felt for both main characters right from the start. I felt bad for Eli, dealing with an autoimmune disorder, getting shit from teachers for falling behind on work, getting bullied by other students who thought he was the “weird kid,” and getting nothing but coldness and scolding from his mother who just seemed sort of tired of dealing with him being sick (no mention of a father). I felt bad for Tony, having a mother who wasn’t around and a father who was negligent and not supportive, secretly crushing on Eli, feeling like he had to hide his asthma. They both had their flaws and did shitty, not ok things. Tony didn’t have to be friends with a bully, and he could’ve done more to stand up for Eli. Eli shouldn’t have taken Tony’s inhaler. But characters don’t always have to be perfect people. Sometimes people make mistakes or do shitty things as a teen, especially when they’re struggling themselves and don’t have good examples or support at home. And, mild spoiler, they both knew their actions weren’t ok and apologized to each other eventually. And then, as the book went on and delved deeper into some of their struggles and brought more emotional struggles, I felt for them more and more.

This book actually touched on a lot of important and very realistic topics. It felt really heavy at times, but in a good way. Eli was chronically ill, often in the hospital, without any friends or supportive family. Eli was also being bullied. Tony wanted his father to care and be proud, but his father was sort of neglectful and didn’t seem to pay attention to Tony unless it was to argue or scold him for something. Tony also felt trapped in a friendship he didn’t want anymore because it can be hard to end a friendship you’ve had since you were a child and feel obligated to keep. I also really liked how both characters had shitty parent relationships, but the authors chose to portray one in which the parent realized their mistakes and changed and one in which the parent didn’t, because it’s nice to see an imperfect relationship being worked on, but it’s also nice to have it acknowledged that some parents never change.

But there were also some cute things that balanced out the heaviness! The one parent relationship was really touching when it changed for the better. *SPOILER* Tony and his dad had a really sweet moment, and he was immediately supportive when Tony told he had a crush on a guy. *END SPOILER* And the romance! The romance was adorable. For some reason, I thought this would be a bully/victim romance, but I was glad to be wrong. I loved seeing these two make little blushy faces at each other and tentatively exchange little touches or compliments and eventually realize their mutual feelings. And the fact that Eli was chronically ill and trans was a complete non-issue, Tony was just immediately like, “I’ll visit you every day while you’re in the hospital!” which is sort of standard for romance, but still. As a chronically ill person, it was especially lovely to see that kind of acceptance.

I also liked Marcia. She seemed the most level-headed. Just sorta telling it like it was to the other characters and not letting anything get to her. She also added a nice friendship element to the book.

I also liked that the werewolves were the scary, sort of partly humanoid kind, not wolf shifters.

The supernatural plotline moved a bit fast, and everyone was weirdly chill about *SPOILER* Tony being turned into a werewolf. *END SPOILER* But graphic novels, especially when they’re standalones (which I think this is) often move fast like that. Sometimes it’s a problem for me, but it wasn’t in this one. I felt all the emotion, I got all the info I needed, so I don’t think it really needed to be longer. I feel like it accomplished what it meant to.

It was a bit of a strange choice to have alternating art styles for chapters. But I didn’t have strong feelings about either one, I found both nice and definitely different but similar enough to not be jarring when it switched, so it was fine. It was in black and white, but always clear and easy to tell what I was looking at.

Overall, I loved all the rep, I felt so much while reading this—both bubbly emotions from the adorable romance and heavy emotions from the struggles of the characters—and I was left with a smile, really happy that I decided to give the book a read!

*This can also be read online as a webcomic, though I don’t know if there are any differences.*

*Rating: 4.5 Stars // Read Date: 2022 // Format: Ebook*


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