Aisha Franz’s Shit is Real reads like a Hitchcockian version of Sex and the City. And I mean that in the best possible way.
It stars Selma, a young woman living in a huge urban community whose life is dream-like. Or are her dreams life-like?
Franz’s brilliance is that she takes a tale that could easily be off-putting, but somehow manages to keep the reader engaged. Shit is Real is a thoughtful statement on technology, identity and the perils of dating in the social-media age.
Fresh off a failed romance, Selma finds an apartment of her own. She becomes fixated on her new neighbour. She also has dreams about being isolated in her own city.
This book will appeal to anyone who has ever felt frustrated because they don’t understand the unwritten rules of dating in 2018, a process made even more complicated in an age when people communicate chiefly through their cellphones.
It’s the kind of thing that could be done only in a graphic novel. Franz’s loose style is perfect for portraying Selma’s world. Why is her ex-boyfriend depicted as a lizard man? Has she gone mad somewhere along the way, forever confusing dreams with reality? Will she ever feel comfortable in the big city?
The key here is how Franz maintains sympathy for Selma. The reader could very quickly get frustrated, because there are several points in the narrative when it’s not clear whether what Selma is experiencing is real. But the command Franz exercises over her panels is total.
Franz is going places. I can’t wait to see where the illustrator-writer’s career takes her.