When teenager Mona Starr finds herself spiraling into a depression, her best friend persuades her to begin seeing a therapist. Mona does more than see a therapist. She takes an active role in her own healing journey by meditating, journaling about her thoughts and feelings, and analyzing how her mind works with the help of a therapist. Young Mona’s visceral struggles are translated into images so deftly that people who have experienced mental illness will take comfort in the knowledge that they are not alone. Those who have not experienced mental illness will find this book a rare window into the inner world of people who have.
The visual language in The Dark Matter of Mona Starr avails itself of the most common school supplies found in students’ backpacks (i.e., graphite pencil, black pen, graph paper, and yellow highlighter). This palette will be recognizable to high-school-notebook-doodlers past and present. Such pedestrian materials might be overlooked by many artists, but when deployed with the level of imagination and skill possessed by Laura Lee Gulledge, they result in mind-blowing images. Beautiful graphite illustrations, lovingly blended to create soft textures, are meticulously inked in black for sharp detail. Juxtaposed with cover-to-cover depressive grayscale, highlighter-yellow is used sparingly throughout the book to convey the magical healing powers of love, friendship, creativity, and self-compassion.
I especially love how this book is both a moving story and a practical guide! In the back of the book Gulledge’s personal Self-Care Plan is laid out in detail, and beside it, a companion note-catcher in which readers can figure out a self-care plan of their own.