In this heartbreaking graphic novel debut, AJ Dungo memorializes his girlfriend Kristen, who died of bone cancer while in her 20s. Kristen loved surfing, and In Waves parallels the story of her life and death with a history of surfing as a pastime, beginning in Hawaii before the Western invasion. Though distant from each other in time and space, these two narratives--one deeply personal, the other spanning centuries and continents--support each other beautifully, both characterized by the rhythmic ebbs and flows of ecstasy, disappointment, triumph and loss.
From the book's sparse captions and bold, coursing lines emerges a subtle exploration of personal (and cultural) tragedy and rebirth. Beginning in high school, AJ and Kristen's relationship builds slowly, driven by a gentle series of meetings and partings. As Kristen gradually warms to AJ and their relationship evolves, In Waves meditates in turn on the slow commodification of Hawaiian culture--a development that would propel surfing into the international spotlight, but forever corrupt its meaning.
An ancient cultural tradition, a competitive sport for some and a path to transcendence for others, surfing is shown to be as much about holding on to the past as it is about learning to exist purely in the moment. For Dungo, this paradox crystalizes into a framework for understanding grief. "It is unpredictable; brewed by a storm in the distance, deep in the ocean, far from view... it grows until it cannot sustain its shape... and then the water retreats, only to begin again." --Devon Ashby, sales & marketing assistant, Shelf Awareness