Improve : How I Discovered Improv and Conquered Social Anxiety, by Alex Graudins, (Sept. 2022, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781250208231
Graphic novelist Alex Graudins – you may recognize the name from Science Comics and History Comics – uses her pencils to tell her story in this autobiographical graphic novel. Graudins illustrates her history of social anxiety, often at odds with her desire to be part of the “theatre kids” groups. Intrigued by improv, she signs up for improv classes as a way to work through her anxiety and negative self-talk. As she works with others in the group, she learns to work with the ebb and flow of her anxiety spikes. Part autobiographical study and part improv guide, Graudins explains different routines, made more helpful through illustration, letting readers see skits that explain different improv games, including “One Word at a Time”, where partners create a story through alternating words and “Advance & Expand”, where partners direct each other to move the story along (advance) or provide more detail (expand). Graudins is frank about her struggles with depression as well as the camaraderie and support that her improv groups provide. Graudins’s realistic artwork has a cartoon softness – think Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson – that puts readers at ease. Back matter includes an author’s note, further reading, and additional improv games make up the back matter.
An excellent addition to YA biography collections. Teens will connect with the graphic delivery and appreciate the honest and creative discussions on anxiety. Visit Alex Graudins’s webpage for more of her artwork and webcomics.