Book Review: Stitches by David Small

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Title: Stitches

Author: David Small

Genre: Autobiographical Graphic Novel

Number of Pages: 329

Rating: B

Recommended?: Yes



Well, I’ve been reading a lot more graphic novels lately, and Stitches seems to be one of those ones everyone who is serious about the genre tells you to read. A lot of popular memoirs seem to be about kids growing up in absolutely terrible families, and this is no exception. The story of what David Small went through as a kid seems almost too weird to be true, and this is another one of those childhood trauma memoirs that makes you wonder what the hell is wrong with people and get a sense of feeling unsafe in this world, regardless of whether you had a stable upbringing or not.


David Small and his brother live with self-absorbed and criminally negligent parents who never should have had kids, his mom is a sexually frustrated closeted lesbian and his dad seems to care about his job and literally nothing else. David retreats into his artwork and his imagination and tries to deal with seeming unable to fit in anywhere as best he can. Then David gets a tumorous lump and when he goes to the doctor, he sends him to get it removed as quickly as possible.


David’s parents tell him it isn’t serious or life-threatening but when he wakes up from two consecutive surgeries he finds out his parents lied about him not having cancer and he’s had one of his vocal cords removed, leaving him with a hideous Frankenstein-like scar and unable to speak. He shuts himself off emotionally from his parents and gradually grows to accept his mother’s total lack of love for her children and the way both she and his father failed him.


First of all, I have to say I haven’t read anything in a long time that made me hate the main character’s parents as much as Stitches did. They were so reprehensible and devoid of redeeming qualities that I wanted to pull them out of the book and beat the shit out of them, then forcibly sterilize them. This graphic novel is unique in that it’s a true story that stylistically seems to have more in common with a nightmare. The kid’s subconscious isn’t even as scary as his real life but the shadowy apparitions that appear in his dreams are among the most striking and harrowing images in the book.


Since David Small’s brother was one of the two people he dedicated this book to, I was kind of surprised that he was given such an insignificant role in the actual story. I wish this author would do a sequel to this book because I know there must be so much information about his upbringing that didn’t get featured here. David Small has an incredibly unique and slightly disturbing art style that gives some of it’s characters some of the grotesquely exaggerated features of characters, and even though many of the backdrops of a minimalist quality the grim imagery is eerily immersive throughout.


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