How I Made It to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story by Tracy White is so moving and so painful that it will inspire readers to track down the author just so that they can talk to her and look deeply into her eyes to see if she's really okay now. But this isn't the story of Tracy White. It's the story of Stacy Black. Sort of.
In the introduction to this book, Tracy explains that she took dramatic license with the story of her life while she was creating this graphic novel. But the key elements correspond between Tracy the person and Stacy the character—the drug use, the poor body image, the nervous breakdown, and the self-imposed stay in a mental hospital. This is an emotional story told with simple words and basic line drawings, but that doesn't make the message any less powerful.
The more we read this book, the more we feel empathy and frustration as Stacy continues to make self-destructive decisions. At the same time, we silently cheer for each small moment of self-revelation, and we hope that each of these moments is another brick that is building her road to recovery. This is a difficult story to read for several reasons, not the least of which is that the ending doesn't come neatly wrapped up in a bow with all of the loose ends resolved. Unfortunately, that's how real life works.
At least we know that Tracy recovered enough from her experiences to be able to survive her teenage years and write this book. But we don't know how much progress she's made, whether or not she ended or changed the more destructive relationships in her life, and whether or not she managed to reconnect with her old friends. If we can't find her and see for ourselves if she's okay, the least we can do is visit her website and see if she can answer some of our questions, or at least help us understand where Tracy ends and Stacy begins.
If you enjoy survivor stories, graphic novels, and autobiographical reality as seen through the prism of fiction, then you might also enjoy:
Tyranny by Lesley Fairfield
Epileptic by David B.
Blankets by Craig Thompson
North Country by Shane White