Magical realism is a tricky genre: tricky to describe and tricky to get right. When an author does get it right, as Tillie Walden does with Are You Listening?, pinpointing exactly how they did it can be tricky as well. A whole host of intangibles supports the fragile balance between truth and wonderment in a book like this, and trying to nail them down feels a bit like shouting out the secret at a magic act. Exposing the hidden wires wrecks the trick, and knowledge is no substitute for the joy a well-spun illusion gives ... One thing that's no mystery is the powerful role Walden's art plays in suspending the reader's disbelief ... Walden doesn't build up a thick, realistic magical world, but strips detail away instead. The story has the feel of a dream where everything is both larger-than-life and strangely featureless ... Still, the specialness of these two women and their journey suffuses every page thanks to Walden's busy, nervous, versatile pen ... every element is potent. Once in a while she takes time to pay homage to the beauty of the natural world; these pages have a huge impact.
Walden is up to her usual visual tricks in her latest, with intriguingly layered, intricately detailed images in rich, warm, sunset colors that lack concrete realism but cultivate powerful atmosphere ... For all its fantasy trappings, there’s a moving story of recovery and resilience here, as well: Bea in particular is searching for a safe place to call home, and the visual metaphor of building a road when you need one is particularly resonant. This artful, introspective graphic novel will likely be a hit with fans of weird fiction and could be a good crossover pick for new adults, too.
Walden evocatively sets the mood and tone with deepening, ominous tones of black and white. Only the first few pages (presumably reality?), contain color, albeit in dark tones ... There are tears, fears, some raw language and evil foreboding in this graphic novel that will leave readers pondering and contemplating the power of human connection.