Imagery as Narrative: Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony

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By Anjanette Wiggins

As a Young Adult Services Librarian, I spend much of my time reading teen literature. I always enjoy coming across a book that introduces a new reading experience, apart from the typical fare. So, imagine my delight when I discovered Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony.Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony

In Chopsticks, piano prodigy Glory’s life is one of strict routine: school, piano practice, and concert performances. Her father dedicates himself to furthering Glory’s career as a pianist after the death of her mother. It seems that little will change until a boy from Argentina, Frank, moves in next door to Glory and her father. A passionate romance begins between the two teens, and when torn apart, Glory’s world, and sanity, begin to unravel.

While the book’s plot is not unique, Chopsticks offers an interesting, visual experience that feels like reading someone’s personal scrapbook. Instead of written text, the story is told in the style of a scrapbook, with photos, newspaper articles, notes, and cards. The reader uses these visual references to interpret and understand the narrative. This format makes the story and the images seem more personal, as though you are looking at a personal journal. The intimate nature of the narrative helps to evoke an emotional investment in the characters and their stories.

Chopsticks is not the only visual book available, but what sets it apart from others is its narrative style. Other image-based books like Cake Wrecks, or the PostSecret series, feature a collection of images about a related theme, though the images themselves are usually independent of one another. Anthony’s book uses images to tell a story; each image is related to the others, and the reader follows them to see the narrative unfold.

I think visual readers will enjoy this book’s format, and the opportunity it provides for reader-driven interpretation. Chopsticks does two things very effectively: first, it attracts attention with its bold imagery and lack of distracting text, and, secondly, its open-ended narrative forces readers to think about the story that has been presented. This is an excellent read for teens and adults who want something a little different from the typical teen romance fiction.

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