Passport. by Sophia Glock. Little Brown & Co. New York. 2021. 320pp. $24.99
There’s this moment in Sophia Glock’s new graphic memoir when the main character (the author’s teenage self) is peering out into the audience from the backstage of a high school play. Marc, one her classmates, points out to Sophia that, if she can see the audience, they can see her. It’s a helpful enough comment also meant to sting, just the sort of callow comment young people will nudge each other along with. It’s a moment indicative of what the reader will find in this mellow yet haunting tale of a displaced young person.
Our main character Sophia has never had a consistent home growing up since her parents have regularly uprooted the family to various locales within Central America. Only by name can Sophia claim to originate from the United States. Like Sophia in the book, peering from behind a curtain in a theater, Glock seems to shyly reveal herself bit by bit, conscious of the reader. Getting back to that scene from the high school play, it figures prominently enough in this low-key story giving everyone a sort of goal to pursue. The actual play seems to be a fun but trifle affair. It gives Sophia and her classmates a chance to revel in putting on roles with each player upon the stage in control for a moment.
In reality, Sophia feels she has a very limited control over her life. Her parents keep moving her and her siblings with no explanation other than a few vague remarks. Glock keeps to a steady and spooky pace in this story about secrets. Glock’s drawing style enhances this secretive mood with her restrained and light touch, everything depicted with a spare and soft approach. The character’s faces seem more like masks as all are rendered with just a few lines and only dark little circles for eyes. It is this simplicity that invites the reader and builds over time to reveal a more complex narrative.
Nothing is as simple as it may have seemed at first, if it ever really was. Bit by bit, Sophia uncovers secrets that lead to her discovery that her parents are actually spies working for the CIA. In the end, the biggest question of all may be whether or not working for the CIA is as big a secret as the inner life of a teenager. Glock’s book proves to be a worthy answer. This book falls within the young adult readers category, somewhere within teens and up, and touches on some mature themes. Glock is known for exploring the more mysterious and darker aspects of storytelling going back to one of her earliest works, the mini-comic, The Deformitory. I fondly recall reviewing that back when it first came out in 2008 and it was well received by the readers to the outlet that I used to write for, which is incessantly obliged to mainstream superhero comics with little to no understanding of such fabulous indie comics. Well, that neat little book stands the test of time and it’s nice to see this cartoonist taking her work in new directions. Passport is Sophia Glock’s debut graphic novel and it is a gem.