The Wrenchies - Farel Dalrymple

I was trying to figure out a good way to describe this graphic novel, but I'm having a hell of a time trying to make sense of the storyline, so here's my best attempt:

The Wrenchies are a group of ruthless children trying to defeat the shadowsmen, a race of demonic monsters who prey on anyone who grows out of childhood. In a parallel world, a young boy named Hollis is being bullied and ostracized, and he feels like couldn't possibly get better. But one day he finds an amulet that transports him to the world of the Wrenchies. There's also weird bugs, comic books, secret codes, a bionic scientist, magic, ghosts, and secret hideouts. Needless to say, it's a bit hard to explain in the end.

The illustrations are as disturbing and gory as they are beautiful (see below). Dalrymple is obviously a talented artist. There is no question that his art will appeal to fans of dystopia, thrillers, and science fiction. Images on various pages change between simplistic faces and still images, to beautifully rendered double-page spreads of battle scenes and underground, sprawling hideouts.

And speaking of sprawling, the plot is just that. It is a massively complex storyline that I found myself having a difficult time following. From philosophical monologues to existential angst, there is much more going on beneath the surface of this gory tale of a dystopian world. There is an underlying fear of adulthood and growing up, along with an interest in trying to change the path of one's life.

All of that being said—and there was much that I really liked about this book!—there was a lot of potential that ended up, in my opinion, flailing out of control in the end. I often found myself getting lost between flashbacks and the present. The "sprawling" nature of this book led to a series of twists and turns that I didn't see as being fully reconciled by the end of the book. After two readings, I'm still scratching my head about the purpose behind the multiple epilogues and the "fotogloctica." While I respect an author/illustrator who refuses to wrap things up with a nice big bow, I found the lack of clarification in this case to be a bit frustrating. 

The combining of three different storylines, coupled with the multiple endings may or may not be a detriment to the book's success. All that being said, however, I still found myself enjoying the novel and the fact that I'm still working at trying to figure things out means that Dalrymple has definitely put together a thought-provoking work for the world to try to digest! Though the illustrations are definitely responsible for most of the book's appeal (at least to me), the meandering and often disjointed narrative does carry a certain amount of appeal for graphic novel enthusiasts.

Recommended for those who like a good mindf*ck now and again


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