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Summer 1999. Long Island, New York. Bored, restless, and lonely, Ali never expected her life would change as dramatically as it did the day she walked into the local Stop & Shop. But she’s never met anyone like Justine, the store’s cashier. Justine is so tall and thin she looks almost two-dimensional, and there’s a dazzling mischief in her wide smile. “Her smile lit me up Summer 1999. Long Island, New York. Bored, restless, and lonely, Ali never expected her life would change as dramatically as it did the day she walked into the local Stop & Shop. But she’s never met anyone like Justine, the store’s cashier. Justine is so tall and thin she looks almost two-dimensional, and there’s a dazzling mischief in her wide smile. “Her smile lit me up and exposed me all at once,” Ali admits. “Justine was the light shining on me and the dark shadow it cast, and I wanted to stand there forever in the relief of that contrast.” Ali applies for a job on the spot, securing a place for herself in Justine’s glittering vicinity. As Justine takes Ali under her wing, Ali learns how best to bag groceries, what foods to eat (and not to eat), how to shoplift, who to admire, and who she can become outside of her cold home, where her inattentive grandmother hardly notices the changes in her. Ali becomes more and more fixated on Justine, reshaping herself in her new idol’s image, leading to a series of events that spiral from superficial to seismic. Justine, Forsyth Harmon’s illustrated debut, is an intimate and unflinching portrait of American girlhood at the edge of adulthood—one in which obsession hastens heartbreak.


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Summer 1999. Long Island, New York. Bored, restless, and lonely, Ali never expected her life would change as dramatically as it did the day she walked into the local Stop & Shop. But she’s never met anyone like Justine, the store’s cashier. Justine is so tall and thin she looks almost two-dimensional, and there’s a dazzling mischief in her wide smile. “Her smile lit me up Summer 1999. Long Island, New York. Bored, restless, and lonely, Ali never expected her life would change as dramatically as it did the day she walked into the local Stop & Shop. But she’s never met anyone like Justine, the store’s cashier. Justine is so tall and thin she looks almost two-dimensional, and there’s a dazzling mischief in her wide smile. “Her smile lit me up and exposed me all at once,” Ali admits. “Justine was the light shining on me and the dark shadow it cast, and I wanted to stand there forever in the relief of that contrast.” Ali applies for a job on the spot, securing a place for herself in Justine’s glittering vicinity. As Justine takes Ali under her wing, Ali learns how best to bag groceries, what foods to eat (and not to eat), how to shoplift, who to admire, and who she can become outside of her cold home, where her inattentive grandmother hardly notices the changes in her. Ali becomes more and more fixated on Justine, reshaping herself in her new idol’s image, leading to a series of events that spiral from superficial to seismic. Justine, Forsyth Harmon’s illustrated debut, is an intimate and unflinching portrait of American girlhood at the edge of adulthood—one in which obsession hastens heartbreak.

30 review for Justine

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paris (parisperusing)

    Tiny book, big boom. A salty-sweet story about the angst of making friends in an unfriendly town rife with lonely people, places and things; or rather, a cautionary tale about two very different girls — one light, the other dark — willing to pay the price of perfection. Merciless, bittersweet and tragically transparent, Justine is a razor-sharp depiction of the ways this world can bend a body to its breaking point. TW: This book contains descriptions of self-harm, bulimia and borderline sexual as Tiny book, big boom. A salty-sweet story about the angst of making friends in an unfriendly town rife with lonely people, places and things; or rather, a cautionary tale about two very different girls — one light, the other dark — willing to pay the price of perfection. Merciless, bittersweet and tragically transparent, Justine is a razor-sharp depiction of the ways this world can bend a body to its breaking point. TW: This book contains descriptions of self-harm, bulimia and borderline sexual assault.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This is more a character study. It's a coming of age story set in the 1990s New Jersey between two teenaged girls. The novel also feels like it was written then. There are illustrations throughout that accompany the text. Sometimes the art goes beyond with a commentary beyond illustrating and those work best. The friendship and relationship with boys and the friendship with sapphic undertones is pretty cliche. The eating disorder, models, and shoplifting are of that time. This novel could have b This is more a character study. It's a coming of age story set in the 1990s New Jersey between two teenaged girls. The novel also feels like it was written then. There are illustrations throughout that accompany the text. Sometimes the art goes beyond with a commentary beyond illustrating and those work best. The friendship and relationship with boys and the friendship with sapphic undertones is pretty cliche. The eating disorder, models, and shoplifting are of that time. This novel could have been written any time before 2011, so it does feel dated.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Carol (Bookaria)

    The novel is short but packs an emotional punch. Filled with imagery that will transport you to the experience of a chaotic, and at times, a confused-young girl living in the late 90s. I found the story engaging.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Julie Montgomery

    Harmon does something with images and text that I haven't seen before. Rather than following a standard, cell-based graphic novel format, she intersperses full-page and spot illustrations intermittently. And rather than being repetitive, the illustrations tell their own story. Namely, they seem to express feelings the teenage narrator is unable to. And so a butterfly spreads its wings, a tape measure unravels, and a Tamagotchi pet dies. Harmon does something with images and text that I haven't seen before. Rather than following a standard, cell-based graphic novel format, she intersperses full-page and spot illustrations intermittently. And rather than being repetitive, the illustrations tell their own story. Namely, they seem to express feelings the teenage narrator is unable to. And so a butterfly spreads its wings, a tape measure unravels, and a Tamagotchi pet dies.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Jantz

    A more perceptive Freaks and Geeks but set in 1999 Long Island. A realistic and unsentimental depiction of the late 90s that contrasts with all of its nostalgic goodwill. Justine nails the feeling of small town angst and true edginess in the absolute last moment before social media and cell phones - wandering around, going to the mall, buying CDs, and feeding Tamagotchis in what feels like a much smaller world. The characters in Justine are sketchy and cynical in a way that feels faithful both t A more perceptive Freaks and Geeks but set in 1999 Long Island. A realistic and unsentimental depiction of the late 90s that contrasts with all of its nostalgic goodwill. Justine nails the feeling of small town angst and true edginess in the absolute last moment before social media and cell phones - wandering around, going to the mall, buying CDs, and feeding Tamagotchis in what feels like a much smaller world. The characters in Justine are sketchy and cynical in a way that feels faithful both to the teen apathy of the 90s and to a specific brand of Long Island/Staten Island/New Jersey darkness that maybe you have to have grown up in to fully get. There is a mood and an aesthetic living on these pages that Justine has fully resurrected from the dead. I liked it a lot. A bit predictable though. The titular character Justine is someone you’ve read before - cool, aloof, impulsive, beautiful, mysterious. But I think what was effective was how Harmon nails the our protagonist’s feelings of wanting to be with her and also be her. Nitpick: as much as I appreciate the Black Star, EPMD, and De La Soul references, this all just felt so forced and info-dumpy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michelé

    I’m not really sure where to start. This wasn’t a terrible book, it was actually pretty well written. But it didn’t add anything new to any of the discourses it approached (eating disorders, sexuality, female friendship, coming-of-age, suicide). In fact, it utilized cliches for every single aspect. Justine was a bit manic pixie dream girl. She’s a bitch and Ali still worships her. There’s basically no adult supervision. The ED rep I’ve seen a million time. I think this book might advocate for to I’m not really sure where to start. This wasn’t a terrible book, it was actually pretty well written. But it didn’t add anything new to any of the discourses it approached (eating disorders, sexuality, female friendship, coming-of-age, suicide). In fact, it utilized cliches for every single aspect. Justine was a bit manic pixie dream girl. She’s a bitch and Ali still worships her. There’s basically no adult supervision. The ED rep I’ve seen a million time. I think this book might advocate for toxic behavior. Of course we need issue books that don’t resolve well, but I’m struggling to see the point of the way things played-out. I don’t like the idea of censoring art, but I almost feel the above mentioned issues were glorified? A young person could read this book and think acting like Ali and Justine is a good idea even though their behavior is sublimely unhealthy and self-destructive. Maybe this ties in with the fact that I don’t think anything was fully explored. How many hot button issues can you expect to fit into a 130 page and do them well? The back says “Justine explores the sinister side of image-obsessed American girlhood” which shows a great misunderstanding of EDs. EDs are not about physical appearance, though they present as such. They’re about control. The real issue is always something else. What is Ali’s underlying condition? Justine’s? Why does Justine take Ali under her wing? (Besides convenience for the story) I don’t know what anyone’s motivations are. BIG SPOILERS: why did Justine kill herself? It was so gimmicky to throw it in at the end, for... the sake of plot? Just so we could title it Justine? which I don’t think was apt. It wasn’t centered on her enough for that. The obsession with her was secondary for large chunks of the book. And then Ali’s cat dies? For whyyy. To signify the old her is dead? And her grandma throws away the cat’s belongings and lies about it and Ali doesn’t confront her? HUH. I hate to say a book needs a point, but what was the point?? There was no character development, no moral lesson, everything sucked just to suck. I’m the first person to love me some characters in pain, but this felt so needless. If I’d just read this book and not thought about it when it was over, I’d have a lot less angry stuff to say. If you don’t think too hard, this feels like a good book. The problems almost feel undercover. But the more I think about it, the less I like what it did. Stray thoughts: Justine sucked. Immediately on page one she sucked. Ali’s exact copying of J was sort of pathetic. OH. That part where she and Ryan have sex and consent is super not a thing? But then afterward she is like that’s the best sex I ever had and I loved it... why don’t we just go ahead and tell young girls its okay for boys to say they’re gonna give you a mixed tape and then just undress and fuck you instead. (Oop, guess I’m kinda mad) I was initially excited about the drawings, but they only added value in a few places. Sometimes a drawing came before the narrative part that explained its relevance so that was weird. Otherwise they were mostly generic, beer bottles to signify drinking, makeup mirror to signify beauty. Thank you to Tin House for the ARC!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sanaë Lemoine

    Justine is a stunning illustrated novel that takes place over one hot summer in 1999 on Long Island. High-schooler Ali lives with her grandmother and their cat Marlena. The first time she sees Justine, a cashier at the nearby Stop & Shop, Ali is immediately drawn to her and decides to apply for a job. As the two girls grow close, Ali is pulled into a strange, intense friendship that borders on obsession. There is so much I loved about Forsyth Harmon’s novel—the precise, gorgeous sentences that p Justine is a stunning illustrated novel that takes place over one hot summer in 1999 on Long Island. High-schooler Ali lives with her grandmother and their cat Marlena. The first time she sees Justine, a cashier at the nearby Stop & Shop, Ali is immediately drawn to her and decides to apply for a job. As the two girls grow close, Ali is pulled into a strange, intense friendship that borders on obsession. There is so much I loved about Forsyth Harmon’s novel—the precise, gorgeous sentences that perfectly capture the ache of being a teenager; the surprising interplay between prose and illustrations; a female friendship that feels familiar and true in its messiness as Ali searches for meaning and selfhood. In other words, this is a brilliant re-imagining of the coming-of-age novel. I read Justine in one sitting, almost holding my breath.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    A quick, heavy hitting little story. It feels far more like a diary than a novel. Luckily, I am super nosey and adore the idea of being allowed to read through a stranger’s diary. And what makes this read all the more enjoyable is how much this could have been the diary of a few of my high school friends... or even my own had I kept a diary. The illustrations make it all feel even more like a private journal. The two page illustration of traffic lights, telephone poles, and wires caused me to pa A quick, heavy hitting little story. It feels far more like a diary than a novel. Luckily, I am super nosey and adore the idea of being allowed to read through a stranger’s diary. And what makes this read all the more enjoyable is how much this could have been the diary of a few of my high school friends... or even my own had I kept a diary. The illustrations make it all feel even more like a private journal. The two page illustration of traffic lights, telephone poles, and wires caused me to pause for quite some time. Thanks @tin_house for the advance copy! This novel is released March 2nd.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alisha

    A stunning debut by Forsyth Harmon that is a heartbreaking, relatable exploration of girlhood on the verge of womanhood. Lines of friendship are blurred, boundaries are crossed and innocence lost. The plethora of late 90’s references is icing on the cake. Pick this up if you want to fall in love with reading all over again. Spoiler alert: I cried.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Meredith Ann

    More of an illustrated novella than anything else, Justine is a quick trip into teen girlhood of the late 90s that still feels timeless. It's the perfect length for the story being told. Harmon does a great job navigating those emotions that you're not sure about at that gate, wondering if it's love, friendship obsession, envy, or some combination of those and more. More of an illustrated novella than anything else, Justine is a quick trip into teen girlhood of the late 90s that still feels timeless. It's the perfect length for the story being told. Harmon does a great job navigating those emotions that you're not sure about at that gate, wondering if it's love, friendship obsession, envy, or some combination of those and more.

  11. 5 out of 5

    E.B.

    Forsyth you brilliant genius!!!! 🖤🖤🖤

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Spotts

    This is a slim but powerful coming-of-age novel. While it exercises some of the conventions of the genre, it's very unique in both its illustrated format as well as its dedication to minimalism. You can see the writer-artist is trying to use as few words and strokes as possible to tell this story. It's all about reading between the lines, and it leaves you wanting more. This is a slim but powerful coming-of-age novel. While it exercises some of the conventions of the genre, it's very unique in both its illustrated format as well as its dedication to minimalism. You can see the writer-artist is trying to use as few words and strokes as possible to tell this story. It's all about reading between the lines, and it leaves you wanting more.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Caloyeras

    Justine is a unique coming of age novel. In this story, Ali lives with her Days-of-our-Lives obsessed grandmother. When Ali gets a job working at the Stop & Shop she is drawn to her fellow coworker, Justine, who is a free-spirited enigma. The late nineties references were pitch perfect and Ali’s voice is so fresh Harmon’s writing is so sharp and her descriptions so creative, I was in awe of her writing down to the word level. In addition to this story about a young woman so wanting to be like so Justine is a unique coming of age novel. In this story, Ali lives with her Days-of-our-Lives obsessed grandmother. When Ali gets a job working at the Stop & Shop she is drawn to her fellow coworker, Justine, who is a free-spirited enigma. The late nineties references were pitch perfect and Ali’s voice is so fresh Harmon’s writing is so sharp and her descriptions so creative, I was in awe of her writing down to the word level. In addition to this story about a young woman so wanting to be like someone she idolizes, Justine also includes delightful drawings that breakup the narrative. Seemingly mundane objects such as tweezers, powerlines and pizza slices take on import as the meaningful things that fill Ali’s life. Thank you to Tin House and NetGalley for the advanced review copy.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Shelby Lynne

    Teenage protagonist Ali becomes enamored with her local teen grocery clerk Justine and gets a job bagging groceries to spend more time with her. What follows is a brief, wandering exploration of teen girlhood, sexuality, desire, and loneliness in a small town. Publishers' Weekly reviewed this book as one that "traces the nuances of a teenage female friendship’s fraught dynamics with clinical precision." "Clinical" is the operative word here for me. Everything felt restrained and at a distance -- Teenage protagonist Ali becomes enamored with her local teen grocery clerk Justine and gets a job bagging groceries to spend more time with her. What follows is a brief, wandering exploration of teen girlhood, sexuality, desire, and loneliness in a small town. Publishers' Weekly reviewed this book as one that "traces the nuances of a teenage female friendship’s fraught dynamics with clinical precision." "Clinical" is the operative word here for me. Everything felt restrained and at a distance -- I did not feel connected to Ali, nor did I get a real sense of who she was or why she did what she was doing. Short as the novel was, I felt like I was skimming the surface of everything that happened, with no real access to the characters' lives or emotions. At times I felt like I was watching one of those indie movies comprised of stark, disjointed scenes strung together to collage some sort of portrait or whole. This is a tricky feat to pull off, and unfortunately, this time the form did not resonate with me. I found myself wishing the novel were actually a short story -- perhaps then it would have packed the punch I craved. (ARC provided by Tin House via NetGalley. Out March 2021.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Being a teenager is messy. Was for me, certainly, and yet upon further reflection I had it pretty easy. Sure, I dealt with the heartbreak and the mood swings and the superficiality synonymous with one’s teen years just as much as the next person. But that was mostly due to having others experiencing the heartbreak and the mood swings and the superficiality alongside me. Coincidentally enough, a fairly well-known song from that time by a fairly well-band captured myself and my friends’ collective Being a teenager is messy. Was for me, certainly, and yet upon further reflection I had it pretty easy. Sure, I dealt with the heartbreak and the mood swings and the superficiality synonymous with one’s teen years just as much as the next person. But that was mostly due to having others experiencing the heartbreak and the mood swings and the superficiality alongside me. Coincidentally enough, a fairly well-known song from that time by a fairly well-band captured myself and my friends’ collective ennui with its opening lyric: They say misery loves company/We could start a company and make misery And heaven knows we were miserable then, but miserable for mostly silly reasons. Either way, so long as we had one another it felt much easier to navigate the choppy waters of post-pubescence. We took for granted our connection(s), for they’d been established so long before we’d hardly considered their significance, much less their staying power. What we didn’t take for granted, however, was our reliance upon these connections. So often these connections felt stronger than any familial bonds, regardless of how well we did – or did not – get along with our parents and/or siblings. I got along swimmingly with my family, but that didn’t make our relationship infallible. There was a period where I’d choose my friends over family which seems unfathomable now, but it’s a choice that I know was made with youthful ignorance and arrogance: I was too dumb then to realize the err in my ways, and wholly assured that regardless of how much of a shit I could be, my family would never turn its back. But that’s beside the point. Because I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t have to put much effort into obtaining friends. That said, I did have to compete for attention amongst them. There was jealousy, favoritism; cliques would form, pairs would break off from the pack. As interests evolved through time, so too did certain friendships. With age we came into ourselves, began the long, arduous process of self-identification; naturally we gravitated to our own. Looking back, one could say I had two distinctly different groups of friends as a teen: the guys I’d known since 6th grade (or before), and the friends I made in high school when I recognized I wasn’t quite like the guys I’d known since 6th grade (or before). There would be some overlap between these groups, but it was pretty clear their differences, not to mention my appeal in either/or. This was at a time when personalities weren’t distilled by social media, when our personal attributes and interests weren’t readily accessible through a profile and accompanying avatar. What you saw was what you got, and oftentimes we had to rely on our instincts to sniff out other like-minded individuals to share our trivialities and tribulations with, to express ourselves with, to be ourselves with. Provided we knew who we were. What can be said then of Ali, the lead in Forsyth Harmon’s slim yet impactful diary of youth, Justine? Does she know who she is? Is she looking for someone to help her find this out? Or is she looking for someone just as lost to be lost with? Set on – not in – Long Island in 1999, Justine begins with our protagonist discovering and becoming immediately infatuated with the novel’s titular character, a striking, angular teenage girl radiating mischief from behind the cash register at the local convenience store. In Justine, Ali sees much of herself, certainly on the surface at the first, but later, as they grow close and begin to spend more time together, internally, forming a sisterly bond founded upon envy and obsession. Harmon’s novel begins with Ali’s discovery of her soon-to-be-friend while purchasing Diet Coke and sugar-free Trident (these details prove to be notable) at her neighborhood Stop & Shop. Allured by this figure ringing up her items, Ali impulsively applies for an open position at the store and is soon being trained by the object of her infatuation on the art of bagging groceries. Their connection is instant; soon they’re giving each other lifts home, each letting the other into their life. They – and we – learn they share some significant commonalities, most especially their bodies and how they treat them. The late 90s were an era rife with supermodel-led spreads advertising unobtainable perfection, and Ali and Justine worship at their altar. Harmon mixes not-so-subtle hints at the girls’ fixation with perfectly placed pop culture references to help capture this moment in time to a tee. I could practically see the episodes of Daria playing in the background over Mariah Carey’s “Butterfly.” But Justine isn’t a novel that would’ve only worked during a particular time period, for disorder can occur at any moment to anyone. This is why I liked the fact Forsyth placed her characters on opposite ends of the proverbial tracks of society. Wealth disparity is often mentioned or referenced, with Ali falling closer to the bottom, Justine the opposite. For reasons only vaguely alluded to, Ali lives with her Norwegian-speaking, Days Of Our Lives-watching grandmother in a modest home. Justine’s background is even more vague, details offered like errant brushstrokes. It isn’t until the story’s end do we learn which side of the tracks she hails from. For such a small novel, Justine packs a rather heavy punch, an unassuming pugilist disguised in a slim-cut frame. Its detractors will say it runs the gamut of teen clichés and they wouldn’t necessarily be incorrect. Harmon explores everything from isolation to identity, sexuality to self-mutilation, depression to dysmorphia. And while these are hardly topics never before spoken of, it’s the writer’s execution which makes Justine feel fresh and exciting. It’s also Justine’s presentation which adds to this excitement, interspersing beautifully-executed illustrations throughout. Oftentimes these graphics interact with the prose, while others provide texture, an additional coat, a touch of gloss. It makes for a rather stunning read, albeit one that’s as fleeting as a teenage friendship. And yet I couldn’t imagine there being more to Forsyth Harmon’s story. Justine felt just as much like some lonely soul’s private journal as it did a minimalist encapsulation of all of the messiness tantamount to the teenage experience. It’s a beautiful work, one that will stick with readers despite its ephemerality, for it is a tribute to those lost finding themselves and in turn finding their own and attempting to answer all of life’s riddles together. I have a feeling that’s something many, if not most, of us can relate to. I sure as hell can, and did.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Cait McKay

    Ali is bored, lonely, and smitten. Justine is bold, aloof, and irresistible. The girls meet in a Long Island Stop & Shop in the summer of 1999. I've been quoting from this song a lot lately, but as John Darnielle said so perfectly in "Old College Try": Things will shortly get completely out of hand There is something visceral about peeking back into the mind of a suburban tri-state-area teen. This book stuck with me like the frequently mentioned feeling of bare thighs sticking to vinyl car seats. Ali is bored, lonely, and smitten. Justine is bold, aloof, and irresistible. The girls meet in a Long Island Stop & Shop in the summer of 1999. I've been quoting from this song a lot lately, but as John Darnielle said so perfectly in "Old College Try": Things will shortly get completely out of hand There is something visceral about peeking back into the mind of a suburban tri-state-area teen. This book stuck with me like the frequently mentioned feeling of bare thighs sticking to vinyl car seats. I was immediately transported back to my own shoreline summers of loitering in parking lots and sneaking about in the modern ruins of empty hospitals. I was pummeled by recognition while Ali assessed the boys who were assessing her. Ryan lifted his chin a little, judging me. His freckles shifted with his expression, and I could tell he disapproved. Yes, hated me, and I hated myself, which created an unexpected point of agreement between us. Ali, like so many teenagers before her and so many others to come, is fascinated. The fascination will grow to obsession. The obsession will flower into compulsion. Be warned: Ali and Justine are spiraling down through patterns of disordered eating, substance abuse, and risky sex. If you find these situations painful, then this is may not the book (or the review) for you. Harmon treats these situations with care. She is sensitive to the perils and pressures of being a teenage girl, and while her details - especially around disordered eating- are precise and unflinching, she gives the characters and the situations an air of respect that keeps Justine from being either a lurid train-wreck or a heavy-handed afterschool special. Ali and Justine are both acolytes at the altar of fashion magazines. They know all of the models. They know exactly what they weigh. They tape their photos to every available surface. Justine is more serious in her worship. Ali can't stop herself from seeing Justine as a model as well. I didn't want look too long. I felt a little sick. I sat down on the bed and the sickness mutated into a kind of nervous arousal. Harmon has crafted a crushing little slice of life in Justine. Her words are few and meticulously chosen. She is the tour guide cursed with visions of the future, carefully spilling out facts while Ali careens into driveways in various states of intoxication. Her prose is accented throughout by her illustrations; Harmon scatters careful drawings throughout the pages, making the novel feel even more like a diary. Hands, cassette tapes, handfuls of potato chips, and crumpled roaches adorn the pages in the same way that the girls decorate themselves with black eyeliner, dark nail polish, and overplucked pencil-thin eyebrows.  It would be impossible to leave this book feeling good; but you will feel something. It may or may not be familiar, but it will be immediate and deep.  I received this ARC from the Tin House in exchange for a fair and honest review

  17. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    I have mixed feelings about this one. "Justine" by Forsyth Harmon is an illustrated novel (more like a novella) about a young, impressionable girl, Ali, who becomes enamored with her troubled co-worker, Justine. I enjoyed all the nostalgic feels while reading this. The story takes place in 1999. Ali's grandma (also her legal guardian) is obsessed with cleaning and watching "Days of our Lives". I remember those silly "Days" storylines VERY WELL. Talk about a trip down memory lane! I liked all the I have mixed feelings about this one. "Justine" by Forsyth Harmon is an illustrated novel (more like a novella) about a young, impressionable girl, Ali, who becomes enamored with her troubled co-worker, Justine. I enjoyed all the nostalgic feels while reading this. The story takes place in 1999. Ali's grandma (also her legal guardian) is obsessed with cleaning and watching "Days of our Lives". I remember those silly "Days" storylines VERY WELL. Talk about a trip down memory lane! I liked all the throwbacks to music, literature, fashion, pop culture. As for the story itself, it was a little lackluster for me. I kept waiting for something big to happen, and it does in the last chapter but I didn't feel any resolution or much character development for Ali. I'm sure it's because the novel only takes place over the course of a summer, but the ending left me feeling unsatisfied and hollow. This book has some dark subject matter, especially when it comes to eating disorders. It was unsettling. The author did a decent job at making the reader uncomfortable, if that was is her intention. It's pretty obvious that Ali was written as a frustrating, immature character. I just wanted to shake her for the dumb choices she makes. Ugh. I was a little confused as to why Ali felt so drawn to Justine. The whole being friends with someone who is a bad influence is such an overdone trope. Nothing felt original, very basic storyline. As for the illustrations, they were pretty average - nothing spectacular. They seem more like doodles than anything else. If you're looking for a quick read, then "Justine" might be for you, just don't expect a fully-fleshed out story. Thank you, Netgalley and Tin House for the digital ARC.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Suzy

    thank you to Tin House for the ARC! This is a quick 90s coming-of-age novel full of teenage angst and toxic friendship. This slice of life story is very atmospheric, with illustrations that add to the nostalgia. It is also incredibly disconcerting, with an abundance of casual trauma used as plot points. When do portrayals of pain and suffering tip into sensationalism? In this book, we get no backstories, no context of what drives the characters to do what they do. I understood why we lacked that pe thank you to Tin House for the ARC! This is a quick 90s coming-of-age novel full of teenage angst and toxic friendship. This slice of life story is very atmospheric, with illustrations that add to the nostalgia. It is also incredibly disconcerting, with an abundance of casual trauma used as plot points. When do portrayals of pain and suffering tip into sensationalism? In this book, we get no backstories, no context of what drives the characters to do what they do. I understood why we lacked that perspective from Justine: Ali’s obsession means she never gets to know Justine, instead viewing her as a sort of manic pixie dream girl. But, Ali’s own introspection and motivations were absent as well, and many parts of the book seem to happen out of nowhere. I think all of this was meant to put the reader in a moody teenage mindset, but it ended up feeling no different to me than a 1990s young adult “problem novel.” We’re supposed to feel discomfort reading about these characters. They are going through a rough time, and nobody gives them the help they desperately need. This is a reality for many people who are struggling. But, I was unfortunately left feeling like the book didn’t bring anything new to the conversations surrounding these subjects. TW: Eating disorders, self harm, mental illness, sexual assault, suicide, death of an animal, alcoholism, cancer in a minor character

  19. 5 out of 5

    Eleanore

    Finished in one late night sitting. Though I could absolutely see this not working for everyone, it clicked for me, even as there were a few particular details I could never possibly identify with and that made me deeply sad. Thing is, I had a best girl friend when I was around this age (a little younger, but not by much), and I remember how I wanted to be her, or at least be as much like her as possible, without knowing until it was too late just how incredibly fucked up she was, and how much sh Finished in one late night sitting. Though I could absolutely see this not working for everyone, it clicked for me, even as there were a few particular details I could never possibly identify with and that made me deeply sad. Thing is, I had a best girl friend when I was around this age (a little younger, but not by much), and I remember how I wanted to be her, or at least be as much like her as possible, without knowing until it was too late just how incredibly fucked up she was, and how much she didn't want me to be like her at all. I don't know where she is now, or even if she's still alive - I've tried and failed to track her down since I last heard from from her a few years back - but there is potential for infinite different versions of ourselves that we might become if not for the slightest of variants in what happens to us and the choices we make (funnily enough it was this friend who I first watched Sliding Doors with, forever ago, and it's her memory I attach that film to in my mind)... Anyway, there is almost certainly a version of me that followed her more closely and a version of her that died young, and we might have looked something like these girls do, once upon a time. The darkness of that potential is both suffocating and a comfort to me, and this story is the first time I've ever felt like I was looking at it from outside myself.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jocelyn

    “Justine” is a short, fast-paced character study about a small group of teens who cross paths in the late 1990s. You can read this in one sitting as if it were a movie. If it were a film, the atmosphere would be sepia toned with heat visibly radiating from the concrete, and lots of moody indie rock music in the background. Through our main character, Alison/Ali, we see her obsess over her new friend and being to temporarily transform her personality to conform with the group. “Justine” explores “Justine” is a short, fast-paced character study about a small group of teens who cross paths in the late 1990s. You can read this in one sitting as if it were a movie. If it were a film, the atmosphere would be sepia toned with heat visibly radiating from the concrete, and lots of moody indie rock music in the background. Through our main character, Alison/Ali, we see her obsess over her new friend and being to temporarily transform her personality to conform with the group. “Justine” explores those troublesome teenage years where parental supervision is waning, you are trying to rebel and figure yourself whilst being painfully insecure and easily influenced by your peers. The author captures those intense and confusing times so well, and demonstrates how transient those relationships can be. There is so much 90s nostalgia packed into this short novel. With the spread of hip hop music, magazines dominating conversation, thin models like Kate Mosse on everyone’s mind, and the noticeable lack of cell phones. There are also drawings scattered through-out, which help to break-up the narrative like a well-time chapter break. I really enjoyed this! Can’t say I have read anything similar recently, which is a good sign.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily Grace

    Justine was the light shining on me and the dark shadow it cast, and I wanted to stand there forever in the relief of that contrast. Like shoplifting, repressed feelings and sugarless gum, this book oozes girlhood in a way I can feel in my bones. Specifically girlhood before social media which packs the extra punch of nostalgia on top of the melancholy listlessness of being a teenager on a hot summer day.⁣ ⁣ It's the late 90s on Long Island and the day before junior prom Ali meets Justine, the Justine was the light shining on me and the dark shadow it cast, and I wanted to stand there forever in the relief of that contrast. Like shoplifting, repressed feelings and sugarless gum, this book oozes girlhood in a way I can feel in my bones. Specifically girlhood before social media which packs the extra punch of nostalgia on top of the melancholy listlessness of being a teenager on a hot summer day.⁣ ⁣ It's the late 90s on Long Island and the day before junior prom Ali meets Justine, the cashier at the local Stop & Shop and becomes infatuated, applying for a summer job on the spot. She's quickly absorbed into the world of Justine and her friends, emulating their preferences and style; spending hours exploring abandoned buildings, listening to new music and smoking weed in her grandmother's car. This book is so rich in observational detail it's like you can feel it, the humid air, the wet bathing suit under your clothes. If you could bottle a teen summer it would be called Justine. Forsyth has written a story of adolescence that will stick to you like flip flops on hot asphalt.⁣ Thank you to Tin House Books for the review copy! All opinions are my own.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Diana

    JUSTINE is a subtle, indelible portrait of longing and repression, of desire to both move beyond the self and to deny it. With deceptively smooth prose, moving swiftly over reservoirs of empathy, Harmon gives us an unflinchingly close view of adolescent obsession. Ali is a kind of apprentice of desire, testing its waters without formulating the central question: Does she want to be Justine, or does she want to be with her? Harmon carefully attends to the physicality of everyday objects, things li JUSTINE is a subtle, indelible portrait of longing and repression, of desire to both move beyond the self and to deny it. With deceptively smooth prose, moving swiftly over reservoirs of empathy, Harmon gives us an unflinchingly close view of adolescent obsession. Ali is a kind of apprentice of desire, testing its waters without formulating the central question: Does she want to be Justine, or does she want to be with her? Harmon carefully attends to the physicality of everyday objects, things like junk-food wrappers or discarded socks that often slip below the threshold of our attention. It's the mark of a real artist to make the ordinary strange, and that's just what Harmon does, with her lovingly rendered black-and-white line drawings: a crumpled bag of Lay's, a cash register, a six-pack of domestic lager. (Song lyrics, often the Smiths or Morrissey, are woven into the images—there's nothing more evocatively teenage!) The illustrated novel is a perfect form for opening up questions in the reader, and I found myself, as I pored over these images, wondering why there aren't more of its kind. I can't wait to read more from Harmon. Required reading for anyone interested in the possibilities of image and text—or anyone who's experienced an electrifying crush.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    An unsettling story of teenage girlhood through the lens of a summer friendship on Long Island in 1999. Ali lives with her soap-opera-obsessed, Swedish grandmother and spends most of her time with her cat Marlene. So perhaps it's no surprise that she's immediately drawn to Justine, the tall and thin cashier at the local Stop & Shop and immediately applies for a job there. As her fixation grows, Ali begins to model Justine's more troubling behavior—meticulously tracking her weight and limiting he An unsettling story of teenage girlhood through the lens of a summer friendship on Long Island in 1999. Ali lives with her soap-opera-obsessed, Swedish grandmother and spends most of her time with her cat Marlene. So perhaps it's no surprise that she's immediately drawn to Justine, the tall and thin cashier at the local Stop & Shop and immediately applies for a job there. As her fixation grows, Ali begins to model Justine's more troubling behavior—meticulously tracking her weight and limiting her food consumption, ducking no-trespassing signs, and shoplifting. It's only a matter of time before everything all spins out of control.  . A portrait of those formative years of adolescence when everyone wants to be someone else while still figuring out who they are themselves, Justine is a vibrant collage of mixed tapes and Lay's potato chips, Tamagotchis and trident gum. I loved all the illustrations and references to a 90s childhood: Mariah Carey, Christy Turlington, Calvin Klein ads, half-dressed models standing outside Abercrombie & Fitch (I'd forgotten about that!), hanging out at the mall—so many details that you feel the heat, the boredom, and excitement of a teenage summer.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Katie Murray

    This just was NOT it. While the drawings in this book seemed fun, it was not a good enough gimmick to make up for the... lack in this book. I say lack because truly there was just so much missing in this. I can get behind clinical, sparse writing, and I can also enjoy something that is more character study than plot, but when combined like they are in this book, it's like I'm reading... nothing. A few sentences here and there would pack a punch, but usually this book just really showed me why en This just was NOT it. While the drawings in this book seemed fun, it was not a good enough gimmick to make up for the... lack in this book. I say lack because truly there was just so much missing in this. I can get behind clinical, sparse writing, and I can also enjoy something that is more character study than plot, but when combined like they are in this book, it's like I'm reading... nothing. A few sentences here and there would pack a punch, but usually this book just really showed me why english teachers tell you to use different words at the start of sentences, it was so repetitive. Nothing felt important at all; even the big surprises at the end passed over me because there was no build up in the story or writing. All of this to say, there are a million books about coming of age, young women obsessed with each other, slice of life, etc. and, in my opinion, I'd rather pick up a different one.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Oriana

    From Buzzfeed's Spring Book Preview: Celebrated illustrator Forsyth Harmon makes her writing debut with Justine, a compact but powerful illustrated novel. In (pitch-perfect) 1990s Long Island, teenager Ali is enchanted by Justine, the impossibly cool and beautiful cashier at her local Stop & Shop. When Ali gets a job at the same supermarket, Justine warms up to her as something between a friend and a project, and she welcomes Ali into her world of skater boys, awkward sex, pop culture obsession, From Buzzfeed's Spring Book Preview: Celebrated illustrator Forsyth Harmon makes her writing debut with Justine, a compact but powerful illustrated novel. In (pitch-perfect) 1990s Long Island, teenager Ali is enchanted by Justine, the impossibly cool and beautiful cashier at her local Stop & Shop. When Ali gets a job at the same supermarket, Justine warms up to her as something between a friend and a project, and she welcomes Ali into her world of skater boys, awkward sex, pop culture obsession, and bad behavior — shoplifting, smoking, breaking into an abandoned psychiatric center. Justine is larger than life. Ali, at the mercy of her whims, can’t make sense of her attraction to her; it’s at once romantic, sexual, and aspirational. It's a bittersweet, nostalgic coming-of-age story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lynda

    What a peculiar and yet thought provoking little book! Thank you to the publisher (Tin House) and distributor W.W. Norton for gifting it to me for review. It's definitely not as long and in-depth as I had expected from the description online and I of course wish it was longer, as I wanted to know more about ALL the characters, but this writer certainly packed a punch in this slim ... volume? Novella? Worse, novelette? I'm not sure what words to use to describe it, but it's certainly compelling a What a peculiar and yet thought provoking little book! Thank you to the publisher (Tin House) and distributor W.W. Norton for gifting it to me for review. It's definitely not as long and in-depth as I had expected from the description online and I of course wish it was longer, as I wanted to know more about ALL the characters, but this writer certainly packed a punch in this slim ... volume? Novella? Worse, novelette? I'm not sure what words to use to describe it, but it's certainly compelling and made me think a lot about the people in my life, past and present, who I know from a distance and have wondered if they ever thought of me, or what sort of relationship we might have if we knew each other.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Shilo

    "I watched our feet cross the black-and-white-checkered tile, matching my step to hers. It made me feel like I was with her--like I almost was her--" A compulsive read, paired with delicate artwork, that captures the acute sensation that can happen between teenage girls where one acts as a doll, a sort of plaything to the other. Meanwhile the doll, obsessed with being the perfect replica of the other, spirals out of control. When Ali sees the enigmatic Justine working at the local stop and shop "I watched our feet cross the black-and-white-checkered tile, matching my step to hers. It made me feel like I was with her--like I almost was her--" A compulsive read, paired with delicate artwork, that captures the acute sensation that can happen between teenage girls where one acts as a doll, a sort of plaything to the other. Meanwhile the doll, obsessed with being the perfect replica of the other, spirals out of control. When Ali sees the enigmatic Justine working at the local stop and shop she immediately applies for a job to work there. What follows is the haunting story of the insipid nature of a culture that is obsessed with thinness and physical attractiveness over all else.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Isa

    When one is a teenager, it can feel like everything is happening all at once while at the same time nothing at all is happening. Forsyth Harmon eloquently captures the ennui and loneliness of suburban living in the late 90s as well as the adrenaline rush that comes with being chosen by someone decidedly cooler than you. In this slim volume, we are privy to Ali’s brief yet profound relationship with the enigmatic Justine who pulls her into a new world of drugs, partying, and eating disorders. Acc When one is a teenager, it can feel like everything is happening all at once while at the same time nothing at all is happening. Forsyth Harmon eloquently captures the ennui and loneliness of suburban living in the late 90s as well as the adrenaline rush that comes with being chosen by someone decidedly cooler than you. In this slim volume, we are privy to Ali’s brief yet profound relationship with the enigmatic Justine who pulls her into a new world of drugs, partying, and eating disorders. Accompanied by simple line illustrations, Justine takes the reader through the heightened emotions of adolescence and messy intensity of female friendships during such a fragile time in their lives.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Anderson-Pagal

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Thank you Tin House for the ARC. Wow, what a great book! Ali is a typical American teen girl. Obsessed with her body image, weight, etc. She meets Justine and is enamoured by her. How she looks, how she acts. Ali starts acting more like Justine, she wants to be like her. Becoming even more obsessed with weightloss and purging. This story was excellent. I was the same age when the story was set (16 in the Summer of 1999). My teenaged self related to a lot of it. The writing is fantastic and the s Thank you Tin House for the ARC. Wow, what a great book! Ali is a typical American teen girl. Obsessed with her body image, weight, etc. She meets Justine and is enamoured by her. How she looks, how she acts. Ali starts acting more like Justine, she wants to be like her. Becoming even more obsessed with weightloss and purging. This story was excellent. I was the same age when the story was set (16 in the Summer of 1999). My teenaged self related to a lot of it. The writing is fantastic and the story hits on important topics, mental illness, eating disorders, sick parents etc.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Slaven-Davis

    When I was a kid, my mom would say there are two kinds of books: the junk food kind and the good-for-you kind (think Babysitters Club vs. Little House on the Prairie). I wasn't allowed to read the junk food kind, so I would ride my bike to the library and crouch down in the aisle to read what I couldn't bring home, to live momentarily in worlds like the one the girls in "Justine" are swept up in. This novel illustrates the ephemera and angst of a time that I recognize as spot-on (my seventh grad When I was a kid, my mom would say there are two kinds of books: the junk food kind and the good-for-you kind (think Babysitters Club vs. Little House on the Prairie). I wasn't allowed to read the junk food kind, so I would ride my bike to the library and crouch down in the aisle to read what I couldn't bring home, to live momentarily in worlds like the one the girls in "Justine" are swept up in. This novel illustrates the ephemera and angst of a time that I recognize as spot-on (my seventh grade teacher had issues of Seventeen in the back of the classroom that we could read when we were done with our tests), but didn't really experience myself. Forsyth captures so perfectly the full-body sensation of wanting someone / wanting to be someone -- as sheltered as my teen years were, I was connected so hard to THAT. There are drawings of a cute cat and Mary Janes and chewing gum -- drawings so precise and loaded that I kept catching new details each time I revisited a page -- but the feeling I was left with when I got (so quickly!) to the end was like drinking a can of Diet Coke too fast: deep (but important) discomfort. I was so happy to learn that this is just the first book of several that we'll get to spend with the narrator of "Justine."

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