I first came across this book when I was planning my March break trip to New York. Looking for Canadian books with a New York connection, I was pleasantly surprised not only to find a graphic novel that fit that description but one that was also critically acclaimed.
My New York Diary is actually a collection of 3 autobiographical stories: "The First Time," Julie in Junior College," and the third and longest story of which the collection shares its name.
Writing-wise, "My New York Diary" is the strongest of the lot with more of a story arc (arguably a coming-of-age story, though Julie is at that point a young adult). The other two stories felt tacked on. As a character, I question whether or not Julie was presented in a self-deprecating way or if she wasn't just irritating. She made some pretty rash decisions and the only evidence that there was any reflection on those choices and their consequences seemed to be the book itself. The only people more annoying than her were the men she surrounded herself with.
The artwork saved the book. Highly stylized, the characters are all somewhat stunted in appearance with slightly oversized heads. They reminded me of Bratz dolls, but presumably without the chlamydia. The backgrounds are typically done in heavy black ink resulting in a woodcut look. But my favourite aspect of the drawings was the detail in the setting. As a child I was always attracted to pictures (drawings and photos) of dumps. I loved to see what treasures I could find from my sanitary safety zone of home. The only thing I liked more than looking at such photos was drawing my own. (Every junkyard I drew had to have a broken lamp, an old tire, a boot and an apple core. The rest could be miscellaneous colourful lumps, but those four items were staples.) Luckily, the characters in "My New York Diary" ranged from grossly untidy to borderline hoarders. Each panel was a veritable smorgasbord of trashy details. Cluttered tables, stuff strewn over the floor, fridge magnets. If the story wasn't really holding my attention, I at least had those distractions to occupy my time.