Weir, Ivy Noelle, Illustrated by Steenz. Archival Quality. Oni Press, 2018. 280p. ISBN: 9781620104705. $13.99. HS OT *****
After being let go from her previous job due to a mental breakdown, Celeste takes an archivist position at the mysterious Logan Museum. The new job is rather strange: Celeste is required to live at the museum and to only work at night. She can’t help but wonder if there’s something about the museum that her new boss isn’t telling her. Then, strange things begin happening—objects moving, weird noises, and dreams of a woman that Celeste feels drawn to. As Celeste hunts for the truth about this mysterious woman, her own mental health begins to falter.
Archival Quality is a superb graphic novel about mental health, archives, and information. While this is not a teen-specific graphic novel (all characters are adults) it would certainly be loved and enjoyed by teen readers. The art is well-done and will appeal to teens; there are some mature themes regarding mental health and treatment that some younger readers may not be ready for. While this is a ghost story, it’s not scary and is primarily about mental health. Celeste struggles with her own mental health and learns about the way people with mental illnesses were treated in the past. There are also multiple characters of color and queer characters.
This was a fascinating story of mental health that works to destigmatize depression and other mental health conditions. Celeste is a young librarian seeking help and working every day to take care of her mental health. Archival Quality poses the question of how we heal others while also healing ourselves. Readers who go into it expecting a spooky ghost story may be disappointed, but it will be a perfect read for teens who want to know more about mental health stigma and treatment in both the past and present.
The art style and writing are easy to follow, making Archival Quality an excellent starter for teens new to graphic novels, but seasoned comic readers will also love it. Readers who like YA books dealing with mental health, like The Astonishing Color of After or We Are the Ants will also enjoy this graphic novel.
–Ari Nussbaum, Hayward Public Library