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The Savage: 02/19/09
The Savage is a graphic novel written by David Almond and illustrated by Dave McKean. McKean is best known for his collaborations with Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Coraline, The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish and The Wolves in the Walls. David Almond has written Skellig, The Fire-Eaters, and Clay among others. Both Almond and McKean are new to me.
The Savage starts off a bit like any of a number of British boy coming of age novels. I was most reminded of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend, The Crew by Bali Rai, Black Swan Green by David Mitchell and Winter of the Birds by Helen Cresswell. Like Winter of the Birds, events depicted in the story within the the story begin to blend with reality.
What sets The Savage apart from the novels I've mentioned are the graphic novel elements. These chapters are excerpts from Blue's story which he writes in response to the sudden death of his father from a heart attack and the bullying he faces from a bloke named Hopper. Blue writes and illustrates the story first on encouragement from Miss Molloy, his school counselor and later from his mother and sister Jess. The Savage is a wild boy who lives in a cave under the ruins of a chapel in Burgess Woods. He is the personification of Blue's pent up emotions but he becomes more than that over the course of the novel.
Despite being told on the very first page of the Savage's transformation from fiction to fact, when it does happen at the climax of the book, it comes as an emotional shock. For me the shock stemmed from how otherwise happy Blue was becoming. The process of writing the stories was working for him and his mother and sister were reading them too and enjoying them. The coming to life quip in the first chapter seemed metaphorical, as Blue was coming to life by rising above his depression and anger. Except it wasn't. The Savage does cross into Blue's world in an unexpected and wonderful way.