One might think that a story largely shown in a therapist’s office would be dry or clinical. In the case of the honest and enthralling The Third Person, that assumption could not be more wrong. Grove’s words are frequently messy, out of order, and beautiful like so many memories. She so clearly communicates grief, pain, hope, determination, and loneliness through not only words but also the eyes, postures, and silhouettes of her characters. This visual emotion, along with the frank and vulnerable dialogue, hits even harder because the art style is so spare. The focus is on the people, their interactions, and our protagonist’s inner turmoil. The conversational nature of the text and the focused art combine to make the novel a fast read, despite the hefty page count. The conclusion of the book makes Grove’s dedication in the opening pages all the more meaningful in retrospect. Readers who can’t get enough of graphic memoir, particularly the works of Alison Bechdel, are the ideal audience for this moving volume.
... an unflinching exploration of how our identities are formed and maintained ... Grove draws on her background in animation to render pages of conversation dynamically, switching angles to signal a change in point of view, and creating a sense of distance between her characters to convey their failure to understand one another, or else zooming in to create unexpected intimacy as they navigate Emma’s complex experience and examine her determination to live on her own terms ...A masterfully crafted, fearlessly vulnerable memoir stressing the importance of coming to terms with trauma in order to better know oneself.
... remarkable ... an ingenious bit of multi-layered wordplay ... The comics medium is a perfect choice of form to deliver the story Grove is telling. Her drawing style might at first look naïve, but nuances emerge: she proves uncommonly adept at depicting the slight physical changes – in facial expression, in posture, in countless body-language tics – that can give a person’s emotional state away no matter how much they might want to conceal it. Formally, too, she incorporates enough variety to keep things fresh ... Grove has created a stunning artistic testament to the spirit and strength of will it required.
... breezy for 900 pages; readable twice in an afternoon. But while a quick read, it shouldn’t be mistaken for an easy one. Like many transgender narratives, it’s about untangling trauma toward a certain truth, but it’s also about the trauma created in the untangling ... Grove’s message is resonant, but it’s also worth noting how she uses the language of comics to deliver it. Grove uses simple but distinct character design effectively. Even when they wear the same wig, it’s easy to tell Katina’s goofy smiles or intense scowls from Emma’s gentle features. But more critically, early in the memoir Grove uses an empty black panel to establish a visual shorthand for a key aspect of Emma’s experience. Established before we (or Emma herself) realize exactly what the panel means, this shorthand not only adds value to a reread, its reveal gives us insight on the unmooring nature of Grove’s episodes. It’s an effective way of commandeering from us the sympathy that Toby refused to give Emma. Through The Third Person Grove is the sort of voice I hope will convince the public that trans folks deserve and warrant the care they are asking for, at the time and place they ask for it.
Readers will be engrossed by this candid tale of intimate transition, bravery, and a fierce determination to confront demons in order to embrace the true self. Creatively conceived, Grove’s use of cartoons to tell her story is a clever choice. At nearly 900 pages, the book is a surprisingly brisk reading experience rendered effectively through the minimalist illustrations and powerful dialogue exchanges. Grove’s artistry also embellishes the journey with palpable character movement and facial expressions and mood representation. While untangling the complexities and often sobering dynamics of vulnerability and identity, Grove’s impressive comic journal illuminates, inspires, and educates ... A deeply personal, artistic self-portrait of being transgender and becoming whole.
... a breezy affair even at close to 900 pages, dives into tangled questions of identity with clear-eyed, clean-lined assurance ... Grove’s simple but marvelously elastic, emotive art is reminiscent of Jules Feiffer. Though there are glimpses of Emma’s traumatic past and daily struggles at work and home, the bulk of the narrative consists of therapy sessions. Yet the characters are drawn with so much personality that it doesn’t grow visually dull. With quiet ease, Grove draws readers into Emma’s world and makes them feel the complexities and contradictions of her experience. Grove proves an impressive new voice in comics.