September 04, 2013

The Night Wanderer: A Graphic Novel

by Drew Hayden Taylor
Art by Michael Wyatt
Graphic adaptation by Alison Kooistra
Annick Press
978-1-55451-572-1
108 pp.
Ages 12+
September, 2013

Drew Hayden Taylor's original Native gothic novel The Night Wanderer (Annick, 2007) has found its graphic texture in this upcoming release, The Night Wanderer: A Graphic Novel, illustrated in black and white by Michael Wyatt and adapted by Alison Kooistra.

In the story, Tiffany Hunter lives on the Anishnabe First Nations reserve at Otter Lake with her dad and grandmother, and feels like she has more than her share of angst.  Her non-Native boyfriend Tony may take her to drinking parties but never wants to really be seen with her.  Her friends, Darla and Kim, are feeling ostracized by her and reciprocate.  Her mother left and has moved to Edmonton with her white boyfriend, which clouds most of her dad's interactions with anger, including when he discovers her disastrous report card.  And now they've taken on a boarder, Pierre L'Errant, who claims his great-grandfather came from Otter Lake.
"Dad, I'm sick of all this garbage.  I'm just sixteen years old and I've got another seventy years of misery ahead of me.  And right now, the only thing I'm sure of is I can't take it." (pg. 68)
It is Pierre L'Errant, their mysterious boarder, who finds Tiffany and shares some truths about himself to help encourage her self-respect.

While I suspect that this graphic version of Drew Hayden Taylor's story may lack the literary punch of its original form (not surprising when text must be culled), The Night Wanderer: A Graphic Novel still produces the eerie atmosphere of the supernatural enmeshed in the harsh reality of many First Nations' people.  Even without the appearance of Pierre L'Errant (l'errant is French for "the wanderer"), Tiffany's life is a mash up of unfulfilled wishes, loss and confusion.  But, because his reminiscences and secretive actions on the reserve bring into question his true nature, Pierre's involvement with the young Tiffany adds the darker supernatural elements, leaving the reader wondering whether the story will turn out horribly or favourably for her.  Michael Wyatt's sharp-edged illustrations, only black and white with occasional splotches of blood red, complement the text appropriately, definitely prompting trepidation (though his final image surprisingly produced a calm in this reader).  While I would have liked to see how Drew Hayden Taylor would have adapted his own text for this graphic novel of The Night Wanderer, both Alison Kooistra and Michael Wyatt can be commended for bringing this gothic tale to a new audience of young readers, melding the vampire phenomenon with a First Nations' legend.

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