First, a thank you to the author, Jason Pittman for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
The War for Kaleb is a brilliant and heartfelt snapshot into the mind and life of someone who suffers with an anxiety disorder. This book explores anxiety as a mental illness and the effects of medication on behaviour and perception when Kaleb, our protagonist, begins to question the validity of his relationship because of it.
The narrative told entirely from Kaleb’s perspective is often internal and introspective. It follows Kaleb’s train of thought, inner turmoil and moments of peace in an authentic way and is easy to completely immerse yourself in.
Reading this in one fell swoop on a plane from Manchester to Spain, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the tide of Kaleb’s life and it is a credit to Pittman that he managed to evoke such compassion and caring for his character in such a short book. I felt genuinely happy that Kaleb had the support system he did and the book had a satisfying and, frankly, realistic ending in that whilst it wasn’t unhappy, it wasn’t sunshine and daisies and happily ever after because mental illness isn’t a foe vanquished once, never to return. It is an ongoing war that individuals fight every day.
The artwork is different to any I’ve read before and I loved it, and it fit the story perfectly. As mentioned previously, the artwork is superb throughout but I have to give special mention to the fight scenes between Kaleb’s mental manifestations because they were as awesome visuals as they were powerful narrative tools for the inner turmoil of Kaleb’s thoughts.
My favourite thing about the illustration were the layers of metaphor interwoven into it, as well as the story itself. From such a basic yet effective method of colouring the world black and white at time Kaleb clearly feels separate and disassociated from it, to the distinctive yet subtle differences introduced to the appearance of Kaleb’s two imaginary superheroes, that are both clearly him, yet not him at the same time.
The best one for me, however, would have to be the thought boxes containing Kaleb’s inner monologue being layered and crowded on top of each other. I don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, but to me that perfectly illustrated what my mind must look like on paper, particularly at times when I feel overstimulated in crowded places (the train station being a repeat offender) – I was like …
I’d highly recommend this to any reader, but particularly those battling an anxiety disorder or mental illness themselves or know someone who is and wish to better understand it’s impact on their day-to-day life.
Writing Quality – 8/10
Image/Illustration Quality – 9/10
Character Development – 8/10
Overall – 8/10
“The idea came about while I was in a difficult spot in my life. Because of this my anxiety began to grow stronger and stronger, until I started creating comic book scenes in my head of situations I felt like acting out from. Most of these scenes made it into the book as it is today. The struggle took its toll not only on myself but the people that cared about me. The War for Kaleb became a way for me to work through some of this.”
– Jason Pittman in his Kickstarter Campaign Page
This book isn’t yet sold on Amazon but you can pick it up here.