Anne and Lewis are two teenagers living in Falin(g), Oregon. A small town that's falling apart at the seams. Lewis works for his mother Cat at an estate shop that sells off the unwanted items of the foreclosed and the deceased. Anne lives in a house filled from floor to ceiling with items, because her mother Danica can't throw anything away. From one perspective, it's a love story, but what I like far more about Bad Houses is the meat of the story isn't about Lewis and Anne finding one another; it's about their personal growth, how they grow up, and how they are similar and different from their parents.
While Lewis and Anne are at the heart of the story, Bad Houses focuses on a lot ofwell-rounded characters and finds a way to weave each of their stories into the larger narrative. Sara Ryan's dialogue and narrations succinctly introduce each of the characters' points of view. In addition, the history for most of the characters is deep and informs the characters' actions, in a way winding them up before setting them loose to interact with one another. Before starting this graphic novel, I couldn't have told you what compels people to hoard, but the writing shows those little moment for Danica that justify it, especially when combined with Carla Speed McNeil's art and the lettering's way of conveying the whirl of thoughts and conveying the anxiety losing any item causes Danica.
McNeil has a classic style of art that switches between levels of detail effortlessly. Bad Houses being a comic about objects, McNeil's talent for focusing in on them is perfect. I did have some trouble distinguishing characters at different points in the book, which I largely attribute to the book's black-and-white art and the similar appearance of some characters. This typically lasted about a page before some detail would tip me off to the fact this was a scene about Cat, not Danica, and I'd get back on track.
Five Piles of Popsicle Sticks out of Five