Book Review: Imagine Wanting Only This

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Imagine Wanting Only This is a graphic memoir about author Kristen Radtke, and her seemingly quarter life crisis as she struggles with becoming a true adult while discovering a passion for ruins and things/places that have been left behind. The book spans her life from young, idealized nineteen year old to a woman in her mid-twenties, searching for more.

I chose to read this book after seeing it reviewed favorably in a number of publications I usually trust and I am a huge fan of graphic novels. That being said, this is one of the most disappointing reads I’ve experienced in a long time. Perhaps I went into the book already thinking too highly of it, but the text didn’t give me anything to mull over at the end, except for how much I wished I’d skipped it. Perhaps that’s too rude; there are some good parts to this book. The artwork is really lovely and the simple coloring of them really added to the feeling one is supposed to have when reading the book. I thought the art complimented the book far more than I was expecting, especially because of its simplistic nature (at least when compared to most graphic novels I consume).

While the writing is very easy to follow, I felt that this book was hollow. That’s not to say there isn’t merit to Radtke’s story. This is a book of loss and connection and if you are struggling when you read this, I think it would have much more of an effect on you. There were certainly parts and lines of the book that resonated strongly with me, such as the panels below,

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but overall I didn’t feel like I finished this book with any sort of takeaway message. I understood what the author was projecting and I too have felt similarly to her, but haven’t we all? Haven’t we all at some point in life wondered about the things we want, or thought we wanted, and how much those choices affect us forever? To me this wasn’t a work that inspired realization within me. Others may have a very different read on it, but after finishing this, I wouldn’t recommend it to many people. The author comes off, especially in the first half of the book, as pretentious and entitled, exactly like we imagine the stereotype of art students in major cities to be, and it never seemed like she grew out of those characteristics.

Before sitting to write this review, I took a look on Amazon and Goodreads for some information on the author, and what I found honestly bothered me. At the start of the story, Radtke takes photos from Gary, Indiana and intends to use them in an art installation, not realizing they were left there purposefully as a memorial to a young photographer named Seth. Throughout the book Radtke illustrates versions of his photographs to seemingly work as a catalyst for her decision making. In looking up information on the book, I found that Seth did exist, and Radtke made no attempts to contact his family or friends before using his story and photos in her book. This information is easily found by searching the book, as his friends and family have been adamantly posting reviews on her work with their story. I would recommend taking a look if you’re contemplating reading this, because while I didn’t particularly enjoy the book before, now I know to not actively seek out any of the author’s future work.

Imagine Wanting Only This feels like a book that is trying to convey a message, but never quite gets there.

Title: Imagine Wanting Only This
Author: Kristen Radtke
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 278
ISBN: 9781101870839

Three Descriptors: Melancholy, self-realizing,

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