There is a hell of a lot more to Nick Drnaso's Sabrina than it's nearly square, 203-pages let on. It opens quietly-two adult sisters in their childhood home. They discuss a book they both read. Almost unprompted, one shares a story of being harassed while on spring break one year. It's an aside that comes practically out of nowhere to momentarily unsettle not only her sister, but us, as well. And then, like that, it's the next morning. We keep reading, the spiked blip of discomfort already subsiding, as Drnaso's surprising, layered story begins to unfold.
Soon, we're with Teddy and Calvin, two high school friends drawn together by a seemingly spur-of-the-moment visit. Teddy has come to stay with Calvin, and because he doesn't say much at all, we're left waiting on Calvin to lay the pieces on the table. By page 30, when Calvin is at his military desk job where he spends all day scanning the web for intel, he does. Sabrina, Teddy's girlfriend, one of the two sisters from the opening scene, is missing and has been for long enough that the hope of finding her alive and well is on the downward end of the slope.
What follows is a staggeringly impressive, introspective analysis of grief, loss, and heartbreak in the age of "fake news." Calvin, Teddy, Sabrina's sister, even the missing woman herself become the targets of rampant conspiracy theorists, trolls desperate enough for attention and dubious enough of anything mainstream media tells them to digitally attack and question the victims of a tremendous loss. Drnaso beautifully weaves an intricate story-simultaneously a riveting character study and a parable about the dangerous spread of misinformation and doubt-that blooms wider with every subsequent panel. And in an age of untruths, every word in Drnaso's book matters, from the seeming non sequitur that was the spring break story, to every passing comment uttered after. Sabrina is an artful masterwork, easily already one of the top books of the summer and demanding to be read.