Lighter Than My Shadow is an exploration of what it is to live with eating disorders and trauma in graphic novel format. In content it’s not all that different from any other memoir on this subject matter, it’s just a different format. But the art both adds and subtracts from the story.
The good is the brutal honesty Katie Green uses to describe her childhood issues with food, her descent into disordered eating, her varied experiences with relapse, and how trauma was woven into so many of her issues. I love how well she described her mental state: I haven’t dealt with an eating disorder myself, but I really felt like I understood it a lot better after reading the book. I HAVE dealt with PTSD, and she describes the dissociation, the denial, and the fear extremely well. I was right there with her as her character butted up against the realization of what she had experienced, and with her as she relived it. Green utilizes her art brilliantly in these sections: she creates understandable artistic metaphors for what she’s going through that feel honest and intuitive.
But I did mention that the art subtracts from the story at times: it can make it a confusing and disorienting read. The main issue is that none of the characters is differentiated enough from the others: they all look so alike that it’s hard to tell major characters apart. This was most egregious when I had trouble figuring out which character was her boyfriend and which was, without too many spoilers, a very bad man. Changes in time are also not clearly delineated, so without being able to tell that a character has aged significantly I couldn’t get a good sense of when and where things were taking place.
That being said, I don’t think those issues detracted too much from the story, which I read all in one take. It’s a valuable read, one I’d recommend for anyone who’d like to increase their understanding of these issues.