Author: Kelly Thompson (writer) & Meredith McClaren (art)
Publish Date: September 2015
Publisher: Dark Horse Books
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-1616556945
Additional info: heartbroken, grief, suicidality, mental health, finding oneself
by Gary Skirka, MSN, RN, CPC
Heartbreak is a universal experience that can affect anyone, leaving them feeling lost and empty. In the graphic novel Heart in a Box by Kelly Thompson and Meredith McClaren, we witness a poignant journey of healing, self-discovery, and the power of vulnerability through the eyes of the main character, Emma Elliot. When her heart is broken by her now ex-boyfriend, she finds herself consumed by grief and unable to move forward. The weight of her emotions eventually becomes unbearable, leading her to make a pivotal decision in wishing her heart away, in hopes of escaping the pain. She discovers her decision to rid herself of her heart may have provided temporary relief, but at great cost of becoming empty and devoid of the ability to experience love, joy, and all the emotions that make life meaningful. She takes off on a quest to retrieve the pieces of her heart that have been scattered across the country: and visits characters along the way who hold a piece of her fragmented heart. Through her travels, Emma’s quest becomes a journey of healing and self-discovery. As she begins to regain her strength and resilience, she slowly begins piecing herself back together, developing personal growth. Through her struggles along the way she learns to embrace her vulnerabilities, confront her fears, and find strength, providing a symbolic exploration of grief and the process of healing.
Kelly Thompson’s writing beautifully captures the complexities of human nature, delving into Emma’s emotions with authenticity. The story unfolds in a way that feels organic, with moments of heartbreak interconnecting with glimmers of hope and resilience. Thompson skillfully employs metaphors and themes to deepen the narrative and evoke emotions in the reader. The fragments of Emma’s heart symbolize her shattered sense of self and the journey of piecing herself back together, producing a metaphor for the process of healing and rediscovering one’s identity. Concepts explored along the way are themes of love, loss, resilience, and the transformative power of self-acceptance, inviting readers to reflect on their own experiences with the complexities of mental health. Through her storytelling, Thompson fosters a sense of understanding and compassion.
McClaren’s artwork complements Thompson’s storytelling beautifully. The illustrations are not only visually captivating but also serve as a powerful tool for storytelling. Each panel is carefully crafted to evoke specific emotions, allowing readers to connect deeply with the characters’ struggles and triumphs. From the somber shades of grey during Emma’s heartless journey to the vibrant hues that accompany moments of healing, McClaren’s artistry adds depth and resonance to the narrative.
Heart in a Box will resonate with anyone who has experienced the pain of a broken heart. Its relatable themes and emotion-invoking storytelling make it accessible to readers of all backgrounds, whether they are seeking solace, inspiration, or deeper understanding. While the graphic novel’s content is for a mature audience and does have some depictions of violence, its themes and messages can also provide valuable insights and support to educators, therapists, and individuals studying mental health.
Gary Skirka, a part-time nursing professor residing on the serene Eastern Shore of Maryland, brings a rich tapestry of healthcare experience spanning more than two decades. His journey in the healthcare realm encompasses a diverse range of roles, from his service in the US Army to his work in medical review and nursing education. Beyond his professional accomplishments, Gary Skirka is a passionate advocate for quality care within both healthcare and community settings.