I appreciate a wide variety of writing and art styles and even if something doesn’t reach me personally, I try to look at it from the point of view of the intended audience. But no matter how I try to look at this book, it just doesn’t work!
Henni is a graphic novel by Miss Lasko-Cross in which ‘Henni’ is a strange cat/monkey/human hybrid. According to the Goodreads publisher’s description, this story is a “commentary on religion, coming of age and being yourself.” ‘Commentary on religion?’ More like a diatribe.
Henni is a young girl with an abundance of curiosity. The elders in her village remind her, time and again, that her place is to obey and to do what she is told. It is a way of life that her mother would send a bribe to the butcher so that his son might consider Henni for a bride. It is a way of life that it goes against the grain of their religion for her to be so forthright and to question everything.
After being imprisoned and chained, Henni manages to turn the tables just enough at her trial (for sacrilege) in order to be banished rather than killed. Wandering in her banishment, she discovers that she isn’t the only one to question the ‘normal’ way of life. Once she realizes that there are others in the world, she decides that her father, who was taken from their home (in front of Henni), might still be alive. She heads off to look for him. End of story.
This little parable is a little too obvious in its message and definitely treats religion — any and all religion — as dangerous to curious minds.
If this book is geared toward younger readers, it might actually prove to be more dangerous than the religions it proselytizes against, because the book doesn’t offer other options (it’s religion or death). We don’t know if Henni’s father was promoting some other way of life, or simply questioned the way of life just the way Henni does.
The book ends on a cliff-hanger (literally, not figuratively) so there clearly must be another book planned, but this hit-us-over-the-head morality tale is difficult to follow because of the sudden leaps it takes as it moves the story along.
The art is … well, different. The cat/monkey/thing is definitely unique but it never made a strong (favorable) impression on me. Because it wasn’t a human, the story took on the parable tone. But because of this, I wasn’t able to connect with the characters. There was nothing in Henni’s life that I could relate to.
I appreciate the effort, but Henni doesn’t speak to me.
Looking for a good book? Henni is an unusual graphic novel by Miss Lasko-Cross that expresses the dangers of blindly obeying religion and has a ‘teen’ confronting the leaders of her village and paying the price of banishment for doing so.
I received this book in electronic form from the publisher, through Netgalley, for an honest review.
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author: Miss Lasko-Cross
artist: Miss Lasko-Cross
publisher: Z2 Comics
paperback, 168 pages