Title: Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary
Author: Keshni Kashyap & Mari Araki
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Genre: Graphic Novel, Teen
Rating: 4 out of 5
Tina is a high school student at Yarbrough Academy. For a class assignment, she is keeping an existential diary. While trying to figure out the truths of her existence, she speaks with Jean-Paul Sartre on a daily basis, crushes on a boy at her high school, and rolls her eyes at her Indian parents.
Tina’s Mouth is a graphic novel/diary which takes the reader through Tina’s life. Tina is smart and witty, commenting on what is happening around her while she also grappling with changes of her own. At the beginning of her diary, Tina is completely sure of herself and her place in the world. She comments on the different groups at her school, her best friend, her siblings, and chooses not to count herself with any of them. As the book progresses, though, Tina realizes the world is more complicated than she thought, and that people don’t fit into neatly labeled boxes. It’s an important development, but is handled very subtly in the talented hands of Keshni Kashyap.
In her diary, Tina focuses on existentialism. Tina’s Mouth serves as an excellent introduction to the philosophy for anyone unfamiliar with it. As Tina goes about her life, she is constantly trying to figure out who she is and wondering about her place in the universe. It’s a great self-exploration, and if you went through your own existential phase in high school (as I did), you’ll find this book completely entertaining.
Tina also grapples with her Indian-American heritage, though this does not take center stage in the novel. Instead, it’s about Tina’s growing up. At the beginning of the book, Tina’s best friend abandons her because she isn’t interested enough in boys, but Tina develops a few crushes over the course of the book. Much of the book is taken up by simple high school drama, but it’s still entertaining to read.
The art in Tina’s Mouth is done by Mari Araki, and it’s beautifully done. It really adds to the story. While this novel does not necessarily contain the grandiose themes of some other, similar works, it’s still a fun read. Kashyap manages to keep the tone of the novel light from beginning to end, and it’s fun to watch Tina explore herself and the world around her.