The Great Gatsby: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by K. Woodman-Maynard: A Review

The Great Gatsby K Woodman Maynard

The Great Gatsby: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by K. Woodman-Maynard
Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Graphic Novel | Classics | Literary Fiction
Published by Candlewick Press
Publication Date: January 5th, 2021
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars

Adapting a classic and beloved novel into a graphic novel is no easy task, but K. Woodman-Maynard has done a fantastic job of adapting F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. 

K Woodman-Maynard
K. Woodman-Maynard

The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books of all time, so I went into this adaptation a little skeptical but wanting to love it. I needn’t have worried though – K. Woodman-Maynard stuck to the roots of the story while making it accessible to a new (and old) audience.

The ARC I received from the publisher was in black and white, but the finished version, set to be released in early January 2021, will be in full color. I actually loved the black and white artwork, but I am eager to see the full-color version! The art is simple and fits this medium perfectly, and also manages to grasp the feelings of extravagance and yearning of the original story.

Great Gastby
Colored preview courtesy of Amazon and the publisher

While it’s impossible to adapt a novel such as The Great Gatsby without leaving some elements of the original story out, Woodman-Maynard kept all the important bits and everything needed to create the same atmosphere and themes of the original. I wouldn’t call The Great Gatsby a difficult classic novel by any means, but I remember not really “getting it” in high school – this may have been a much better medium for me to be introduced to the story.

There’s no substitute for the original F. Scott Fitzgerald novel – there never will be. It’s one of the Great American Novels for a reason and I encourage you to read it if you never have. If it’s a story that you love, however, or if you find the original novel uninteresting (a concept I can’t understand!), picking up K. Woodman-Maynard’s adaptation is an absolute must.

You can tell when a writer and artist loves the story that they’re working on, and Woodman-Maynard’s love of The Great Gatsby shines through clearly in her work.

Thank you Candlewick Press for the free advanced copy for review.

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald – A Review

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott FItzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Classic Literature | Fiction
Published by Scribner
Released April 10, 1925
Goodreads | Amazon
Rating: 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars

The first time I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby I was in the tenth grade. It was assigned reading for my AP English class. I absolutely hated it. Looking back on that time, I feel that fifteen is too young an age to read this novel. You really need more life experience in order to appreciate it.

In my early-to-mid twenties (I can’t remember exactly), I decided to give this classic American novel a second chance, and I’m so glad that I did. The second time around, I adored it, and I’ve read it multiple times since then. It has become one of my all-time favorite novels.

If you aren’t familiar with the plot of The Great Gatsby, it takes place in the mid-1920s, so it was a contemporary novel when it was released. It deals with a number of important themes, such as the excess of the “roaring twenties,” idealism, and obsession.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, and “Scottie” Fitzgerald

The story takes place in a fictional part of Long Island, NY. There are two neighborhoods, called West Egg and East Egg, and both are filled with rich, successful people. Our narrator, Nick Carraway, moves to a small cottage on West Egg, next door to a huge, extravagant mansion owned by the mysterious Jay Gatsby.

Jay Gatsby’s past is a topic of much gossip, as his true identity is murky at best. However, this does little to hurt his reputation. He’s a favorite among the higher classes as he throws huge parties frequently at his mansion, and all sorts of rich and famous people flock there every week.

Nick and Gatsby get to know one another throughout the novel, and we discover that Gatsby is in love with Nick’s cousin, Daisy Buchanan. Saying that Gatsby is in love with Daisy is a pretty significant understatement – he’s not in love as much as he’s obsessed with the thought of her. They knew one another years before, and Gatsby has built his life around the idea of her, going so far as to build his enormous mansion directly across the bay from her and her husband’s home on East Egg. The rest of the novel involves Gatsby and Daisy finally encountering one another after many years.

Let’s talk about the themes that I mentioned earlier – excess, idealism, and obsession. These all go hand-in-hand with one another. The 1920s in America was a time of extravagance for the wealthy who could afford it, and we see that in The Great Gatsby. Huge mansions, fancy cars, luxurious clothes – the characters in the novel (excepting Nick) are all obsessed with these things, and use them as status symbols amongst their peers. Gatsby, especially, uses his wealth to try to impress Daisy, as that’s really the only thing that matters to him.

The last bit, about Daisy being the only important thing in his life, leads us to the second and third themes of idealism and obsession. Jay Gatsby has literally spent the last five years of his life trying to build himself up to be something that Daisy would fall in love with. It’s his drive in life and nothing else seems to matter to him. He has put Daisy on such a high pedestal that she cannot possibly live up to his idealized version of her. This leads to feelings of Gatsby’s disillusionment and disappointment in the latter half of the novel.

I’m not going to discuss how the story ends despite its being a classic, because I feel that everyone should read this short, important novel. Now that I’ve read this novel as an adult, and have a few unhealthy relationships in my past, I can appreciate this book more than I could have when I was fifteen.

I recommend this novel to literally everyone. I’m convinced that everyone can read this book and take something away from it. If you haven’t read it, please do so.

Have you read The Great Gatsby? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

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10 Picks from the Great American Read

PBS is hosting a new series centered around the 100 most-loved American novels, The Great American Read. The first episode is already available, and it’s running through October 23rd. The list is full of different genres, and everyone will be able to find some books on here that they’ll love. Here are my top 10 picks from the list, followed by 5 I’m immediately adding to my TBR list.

My 10 Top Picks

While it was extremely hard to limit this list down to only 10, some of my favorite books of all time are here.

  • I can’t remember who first introduced me to Douglas Adams, but I’ve read and re-read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so many times I’ve lost count. Every single time I read it, it leaves me laughing so hard that I’m in tears. All of Adams’ books are incredible, but this will always be my favorite. Bonus: it contains some of my favorite quotes from any book that I’ve read:
    • “It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”
    • “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”
    • “He was staring at the instruments with the air of one who is trying to convert Fahrenheit to centigrade in his head while his house is burning down.”
    • “It is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.”
  • A dear friend of mine, Kathleen, gave me a copy of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale years ago. As I read it for the first time, it terrified me, because none of it seemed far-fetched. Keep in mind, this was almost ten years ago, so now it’s even more relatable, which is something no one should be proud of. I hope this book is required reading in all high schools.
  • I hated F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby when I read it in the 10th grade. Like, really, really, really hated it. I thought all of the characters were silly and unrelatable, and the book itself bored me to tears. Last year I was at the library and came across a copy, and since it’s a very short novel, I decided I’d give it a second chance. I’m so glad I did. There’s so much going on with this novel, and it paints the 1920s in such a vivid way. Fun fact: I used to work at The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC, where Fitzgerald lived and worked for a while. It’s a beautiful place with a view that is unbelievably inspiring. I can’t blame him a bit for wanting to write from there.
  • Everyone has seen the movie by now (I hope), but I still recommend reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. As detailed as the films were, there was so much that they had to leave out. Tolkien was a master of world-building, and was also a linguist who put great effort into creating his fictional languages. For Christmas one year, I received a cloth-bound box set of The Lord of the Rings, with illustrations by Alan Lee, one of my favorite artists. It was my most-cherished possession until my family’s home burnt down a couple of years later, and I’ve been looking for that exact copy ever since with no luck.
  • I was 10 years old when J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came out. I literally grew up with the books, and was borderline obsessed with them. When the fourth book, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, was released, I read the entire book in one sitting because I was so eager to find out what happened next.
  • Stephen King books were everywhere when I was growing up, as both of my parents like his books. The Stand is my absolute favorite. In fact, I would say it’s my second favorite book of all time, coming in just behind Cormac McCarthy’s The RoadMy genre-of-choice is post-apocalyptic, and King just knocked it out of the park with this novel. I do recommend reading the Complete and Uncut edition of the book, which adds over 500 pages that were edited out of the first release. It’s massive but well worth the effort.
  • My mother had a paperback set of C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia books, and I read and re-read them so often that, by the time I entered high school, some of the pages were falling out and the spines were completely cracked. It was one of the first fantasy novels I read as a kid (aside from The Hobbit), and I was immersed in the world. I’m planning on re-reading it soon, and I’m looking forward to it so much.
  • Like so many others, I first read George Orwell’s 1984 in high school, right after finishing Animal Farm. I loved both, and I’ve re-read both several times, but 1984 strikes me as something that isn’t that farfetched (much in the same way as The Handmaid’s Tale). With privacy being stripped from us more and more as our technology increases, I think this is an incredibly relevant book.
  • While A Farewell to Arms is my favorite Ernest Hemingway book, The Sun Also Rises is right behind it, along with The Old Man and the Sea (click for my review).  Hemingway can be a polarizing writer, but he has a very unique, straight-forward style that I really appreciate. I also find myself feeling so much empathy for his characters.
  • Finally, we come to Andy Weir’s The Martian, which is a spectacular work of science fiction, both in print and on film. I’m a science geek, and I appreciated how much science Weir worked into the story. We don’t just read about what Mark Watney is doing, he explains to us why he’s doing it. It’s also just a well-written and fast-paced novel.  If you’re a fan of Star Trek, you’d love this book.

Again, there were so many other books on the list that are amazing, but those are my 10 favorites. Tomorrow, I’ll post a follow-up entry listing the five books that I’m most excited about reading from this list, as well as a few books that I think should be omitted from the list.  So, if you enjoyed this post, be sure to subscribe and check back for a more critical look at some of the books from the list.

Click here to read part two of this post.