Some things in life are universal. The smell of rain, popping bubble wrap, and laughing at someone when they unknowingly walk into a closed glass door are all things that everyone can relate to. Also among these universal truths: music and the mistakes of youth. I Am Young by M. Dean is a musical journey that explores the impermanence of youth in a series of emotionally resonant stories.
The beauty of I Am Young is in its simplicity. The central story deals with two teenagers who meet and fall in love after a Beatles concert. Every person who reads Dean’s book will have a cherished memory involving someone they deeply cared for and a song or band. The relationship may play out for years or it may end before the next song begins, but for whatever reason, that moment remains etched in your mind forever.
I Am Young is not just one memory tied to music, but a number of them. It’s similar to talking with a group of friends about their favorite songs. Roberta talks about how Eddy Arnold’s music reminds her of her wedding in Las Vegas, Lisa can’t stop talking about The Beach Boys, and Amanda goes on and on about AC/DC. The stories range from psychedelic to tragic, but they are also intimate since readers are able to share in the experience.
The main story between George and Miriam is also a story that all readers will be able to understand on multiple levels. The two share a strong connection from the moment they meet but for whatever reason the relationship does not quite work out as expected. Still, the two keep in contact their entire lives. It’s touching to see their lives continue on as their relationship evolves along in a manner similar to the band that first brought them together.
A running theme throughout I Am Young is youthful arrogance. This is seen most in the book’s main characters. George and Miriam have a lot in common, but it is also clear that a romantic relationship is beyond the two of them. Their long lasting friendship is initially built on a refusal to admit they were caught in a whirlwind relationship and nothing more. Roberta’s story about her failed wedding and her reaction is also a very poignant example of pride of youth.Dean’s artwork in I Am Young is beautiful. At a glance, the pages look incredibly simple — like doodles drawn on a a napkin. However, it does not take a much closer glance to see the details in the emotive drawings. Desperation, love, awe, tenderness, and dedication can be seen in the eyes of the book’s many characters. Backgrounds effortlessly add to the atmosphere while panel placement is used in a way that draws the reader into the story.
Similar to the narrative, the art also has a personal feel. The seemingly simplistic drawings invite the reader to be a part of the story. The down to earth moments in the stories are like looking at a photo album. Dean’s art style complements her writing perfectly.
I Am Young is a touching collection of stories that all readers will enjoy. It manages to tug at the heartstrings without ever being manipulative. The bands and songs may not be familiar to everyone, but the emotions and carefree attitude of youth is something that anybody will be able to relate to.