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Outburst (2017)
Book Reviews

Outburst (2017)

A young boy’s retreat to his inner sanctum is an ideal metaphor for the loneliness we all feel at times.

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Can I just say Pieter Coudyzer may be the only person in the whole world to make trees vaguely disturbing for me? I never knew bark and branches could ever make me turn my head twice or flinch, but Outburst certainly did the job. His story put things into perspective as well, like how affected people are by their childhoods. I went through a phase a few years back where I read memoirs and, without fail, always identified most with those sections about the author’s life. Our childhoods play a huge role in who we turn out as people into our adulthood, it’s frightening.

Passing impressions at the age of ten can have a massive impact on the kind of interests and career choices a person has later on in life. I originally got into writing because my mom had given me a blue notebook and I wanted to fill it up with something. I decided that day to write a story about the new dog we had adopted and I’ve been hooked on the written word ever since.

Outburst carries a similar concept with Tom, who’s about as nerdy and social outcast-y as you can get in today’s age. He’s a chubby boy whose clumsy and introspective, spending most of his time gazing out the window with his head in the clouds. His home life is hardly any better with his parents absent for most of the time and being lost in his inner forest. He finds solace there when the outside world continually pummels him whether it’s from being bullied at school to dealing with the drudgery of carrying on in everyday life.

I’ve read my fair share of graphic novels, but here there weren’t many words where Tom expressed himself. Altogether, I think all the sentences together would have averaged one or two paragraphs at most. The descriptions and emotions lay in the through airy brushstrokes and earthy colors to tell the story. There’s a gentle violence to Pieter’s art style that left me feeling disturbed and even a little upset. I took a look at other work of his like PSALOM and I SHALL NOT MOVE , which also left with a sense of foreboding.

Outburst is not a happy graphic novel, it left with me mixed emotions after the last page had been turned. On the one hand I felt sorry for Tom and found myself drawing conclusions about his social status amongst his peers, and how he’s just a victim of bullying and refuses to do anything when the other kids put ants in his lunchbox. But then Tom eats his lunch right in front of them. It grossed me out and then left me with a sense of guilt afterward for being so judgmental over a troubled child.

The warning I drew away from here is for people to be careful of the walls they build to protect themselves. While Tom’s inner forest is a sanctuary he can retreat to when the outside world is too much for him to deal with, we eventually learn it may also be the root of his problem. He’s so focused on looking inward and being withdrawn out in the real world, he becomes lost in his inner forest until it consumes him. Add in the fact none of his peers offer a kind hand to hold or a word and it’s easy to see what drove him to loneliness in the first place. Still, throughout the entire story I felt Tom didn’t want to be alone at all; he just desperately wanted someone, anyone, to step into his forest to save him.

Outburst surprised me with its quiet colors and the soft way it unraveled Tom’s story. It’s a somber tale that left me grieving for a person I knew wasn’t real, but had already pulled me into their world. At the end I played a recording of nature sounds to immerse me more in Tom’s forest to ‘honor’ him in the way once I reached the ending. I’d highly suggest the same for anyone going to read his story but you know – just remember to step out of the forest once you’re done.

About the Author: Nia Bothwell