Author: N.D. Stevenson
Publish Date: March 2020
Publisher: HarperTeen (imprint of HarperCollins)
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-0062278272
Author website: https://www.imfineimfine.com/p/nate
Guest review by Gladys Ochoa
Before we review, please note that this book was published before N.D. Stevenson transitioned. The copy the reviewer used coincidentally has his old name. As such this review will be utilizing N.D. Stevenson’s current name and although the illustrations in this book are from before, the reviewer will be using the current pronouns and name of the author.
The Fire Never Goes Out is a beautiful, illustrated autobiography of N.D Stevenson’s life (author of Nimona, and co-author of Lumberjanes). Originally published online, the book goes through 8 years of his life as a creative and as a person.
N.D. Stevenson (who goes by Nate) begins with a letter addressed to himself describing each year of his growth. The letter serves as an introduction of what is to come in the story. In the first year we are immediately opened to the author’s vulnerability and mental state. (Please take note that this work contains a scene of self-harm that may be triggering to some readers.)
Throughout the book, Nate describes the unknown feeling of realizing something is wrong. This “wrongness” described and illustrated as a gaping hole in his chest. He discusses his time in school and in going through church, reflecting on his mental health to realize that work provides a distraction from the hole inside him.
The book is divided into chapters by the years he journaled and goes into snippets of his daily life, the joys and sorrows that occur while coming to terms that something is wrong but unsure of what it is.
The author, like so many other creatives, admits to believing the stereotype that artists must suffer to create work, that seeking medication and curing one’s suffering will remove their creativity. When Nate does get a burnout, he decides it is time to get help. There is no huge reveal of what the illness is, or what was causing the pain, instead the reader is treated to the healing journey of what one does after falling. The focus is on surviving after burning out.
We follow the journey wondering if the author will find peace, silently rooting for him. There is a sweet conclusion at the end that brings a light of hope. The illustrations are whimsical and charming in design, the stories readable and clear. For those who also suffer silently from mental illness this book brings a familiar solidarity. Or as Nate puts it at the beginning “to everyone harboring their own fire and to everyone lost in the dark. May you see the sun again.”
Gladys Ochoa is the Museum Associate at the Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, CA. She enjoys reading Graphic Novels, Comics, Zines, Manga and Webcomics. Her latest creative endeavor “Ribbons of Thought” (on Tapas and Webtoons) is about a hamster and chihuahua finding healing through stories about anxiety and depression.