On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden | REVIEW3 min read

Review of On A Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

Quick Info about On A Sunbeam

Title On A Sunbeam
Author Tillie Walden
Publisher First Second
Release Date 2 October 2018
Format Hardcover (library)
Representation Main character and love interest of color; Several F/F relationships (no labels in any of them); Non-binary minor character; Several other characters of color
Content Warnings Bullying in school; Purposeful misgendering of the nonbinary character (challenged by others); Violence; Blood; Death; Frequent cussing
Synopsis An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.
Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.
An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.

 Review of On A Sunbeam

Cover of On A Sunbeam by Tillie WaldenThis is a Grade A case of “I picked this up as a casual read and completely fell in love of this book and haven’t stopped thinking about it since I put it down.” Yes, that’s a very specific feeling, but I’m sure a lot of you can relate. I knew when I picked it up that On A Sunbeam would be a monster of a book. (It’s a graphic novel with 544 pages.) But I didn’t know it’d be such a monster that it would steal my heart.

Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong graphic novels, but most of them have been shorter reads (because pictures) and a lot easier to read than full-length novels. This, however, feels like a full-length novel. There is so much depth to the plot and the world its set in and every single character has so much about them that I could tell you their whole life stories. Plus there is so much to the world-building in On A Sunbeam that I really badly want a sequel just to visit this world again and see these characters again. I don’t even need more plot, I just want more of what Walden has set up here!

Now, let’s talk about the art style. It is GORGEOUS. You can tell even from the illustration on the cover that Walden has put so much effort into art. One aspect of it that I absolutely loved is that a lot of the panels are kind of monochromatic. Like, there’ll be a scene that just black, white, and one hue of blue in various shades and tints. But then the next scene will be the same but with a warm color instead of the cold color. It really helps to differentiate time and moods, plus it makes the more intense scenes, which feature multiple colors, even more beautiful.

I must mention before I go that On A Sunbeam features a female main character with a female love interest. There is also a nonbinary character in the main group. And honestly, I don’t remember a single male character showing at any point in the story? (Correction: The cat is male, but that’s it.) Although there are no labels given to sexual orientation or race, there are several (maybe just about all of them) sapphic characters, as well as many characters of colors. The nonbinary character, Elliot, is explicitly nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns.

Overall, I highly recommend this book. I am completely in love with the story, and I need to watch more people fall in love with it the way I did.

Whom I recommend On A Sunbeam to

  • Everyone on this planet
  • Lovers of sci-fi and space with a strong human aspect (as in, it’s in space but it’s not just battles and explosions)
  • People looking for a graphic novel with a lot of depth but not too much emotional heaviness.
  • Readers who enjoy character-driven stories

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