House Party is a graphic novel by writer and illustrator Rachael Smith – most well-known for her Flimsy the Kitten series, a very popular, very funny webcomic which spawned its own Tumblr ‘Ask Flimsy‘. Recently Smith has also created a comic based around the adventures of the band Her Name is Calla as well as working as an illustrator for the Leicester Mercury.
House Party is Smith’s debut full-length graphic novel and, having interviewed her while in the middle of a rather successful Kickstarter campaign, we at AP2HYC were very much looking forward to checking out the finished work! The novel tells the story of three disillusioned recent graduates. Their successes in university are starting to mean less and less as they struggle to deal with the realities of finding their way in the wider world. The story is extremely relatable: what 20-something hasn’t despaired of finding a job that will actually use their degree, or longed for the days when they could pull an all-nighter with zero regret the next morning?
Our heroine is a girl called Michelle, or Mish to her friends. Stuck in a job she doesn’t like and a relationship where the spark seems to be fading away, she is desperate for a way to feel like a hope-filled student once more. Enter boyfriend Neil who, after watching a local ‘cool’ band, suggests that after the band’s next gig he and his friends host a massive party at their house – just like the old days! Best friend Siobhan eagerly jumps on this scheme and Michelle finds herself in the middle of all the madness!
The story is full of truisms – as a twenty-something it is all too easy to find oneself drifting, wondering how to achieve the life that you believed at uni was easily within your grasp. And of course relationships aren’t all flowers and romance but nor do they always end in flames: Smith perfectly captures the sneaking anxiety that comes from wondering if one partner is somewhat less invested than the other. The gentle humour, which is present throughout, keeps the novel from feeling too gloomy – from what I’ve heard, the joke about the set square is a particular fan-favourite!
The themes of this comic aren’t something I would usually choose to read about – I feel like this sort of story has been covered many times. However, Smith’s humour and artistic talent raise this up to something that is definitely worth checking out. As someone who knows the area in which the story is set, I have to say that Smith has done a brilliant job of recreating Leicester in comic-form – it’s an amusing bonus to be able to spot familiar places in the background of many scenes!
Smith’s artwork is strong and consistent. Every page is full of intricate background detail which draws the eye in and makes for a very visually pleasing piece of work. Her use of colour is excellent, the palette she has used tones together beautifully and the flashes of strong colour stand out against the sometimes muted backgrounds. Smith has the knack of telling you the time of day and whether a scene is inside or outside just by the shades she uses. All this results in an impressive looking, high-quality graphic novel.
Overall, I would certainly recommend Smith’s work – particularly for those who fall into the age range she has written about – I can almost guarentee you will find a reflection of yourself in there somewhere! Smith is clearly someone to watch and I look forward to seeing whatever she comes up with next…
You can also find Rachael this weekend at London Film & Comic Con!