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McNeil Island in Washington state was the home of the last prison island in the United States, accessible only by air or sea. It was also home to about fifty families, including Colleen Frakes's. Her parents—like nearly everyone else on the island—both worked in the prison, where her father was the prison’s captain and her mother worked in security. In this engaging graphi McNeil Island in Washington state was the home of the last prison island in the United States, accessible only by air or sea. It was also home to about fifty families, including Colleen Frakes's. Her parents—like nearly everyone else on the island—both worked in the prison, where her father was the prison’s captain and her mother worked in security. In this engaging graphic memoir, a Xeric and Ignatz Award-winning comics artist, Colleen Frakes, tells the story of a typical girl growing up in atypical circumstances.


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McNeil Island in Washington state was the home of the last prison island in the United States, accessible only by air or sea. It was also home to about fifty families, including Colleen Frakes's. Her parents—like nearly everyone else on the island—both worked in the prison, where her father was the prison’s captain and her mother worked in security. In this engaging graphi McNeil Island in Washington state was the home of the last prison island in the United States, accessible only by air or sea. It was also home to about fifty families, including Colleen Frakes's. Her parents—like nearly everyone else on the island—both worked in the prison, where her father was the prison’s captain and her mother worked in security. In this engaging graphic memoir, a Xeric and Ignatz Award-winning comics artist, Colleen Frakes, tells the story of a typical girl growing up in atypical circumstances.

30 review for Prison Island: A Graphic Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Dave Schaafsma

    Again, the title is enticing, as is the simple cover art, and the subject matter is also intriguing. A girl and her family live on the last prison island in the US, McNeil Island, in Washington State! Could be cool, eh? And since Frakes largely depicts herself as a young girl here, seen from a kid perspective, that could invite kid readers in, right? Well. . . turn the page and not much really memorable actually happens. There's very little social outlet for kids. Her parents work at the prison. Again, the title is enticing, as is the simple cover art, and the subject matter is also intriguing. A girl and her family live on the last prison island in the US, McNeil Island, in Washington State! Could be cool, eh? And since Frakes largely depicts herself as a young girl here, seen from a kid perspective, that could invite kid readers in, right? Well. . . turn the page and not much really memorable actually happens. There's very little social outlet for kids. Her parents work at the prison. All the damned deer are eating their garden, darn it! Oh, and the raccoons! Can we name something "extraordinary" as the back cover claims? Bats? A couple escapes, sure, though nothing much happens even with those. The art is kind of emulating a sort of Liz Prince Tomboy cartoony vibe, and more power to Frakes for that, but what actually. To give it one star would be like kicking a puppy, Frakes is so nice, so will give it two. She needs a better story to tell, I'd say.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tobi

    My parents lived on McNeil when I was in my 20s, The Frumpies, one of my bands at the time, recorded a bunch of records in the basement of the warden's mansion. There was a perfectly square cement room that we used as an echo chamber that was ideal for recording my voice and the effect has been seemingly impossible to replicate. I really miss it. We spent a lot of time out there, so I can definitely relate to the authors' depiction of boredom and isolation. We even wrote an instrumental called "S My parents lived on McNeil when I was in my 20s, The Frumpies, one of my bands at the time, recorded a bunch of records in the basement of the warden's mansion. There was a perfectly square cement room that we used as an echo chamber that was ideal for recording my voice and the effect has been seemingly impossible to replicate. I really miss it. We spent a lot of time out there, so I can definitely relate to the authors' depiction of boredom and isolation. We even wrote an instrumental called "Shift Boat" to document the strange feeling of a punk group riding the ferry during a shift change so I understand the impulse to document the mundane moments! Also, the community center isn't the only building that had a bat infestation in the attic....

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    the blurb will tell you that this is about her childhood on the island. this is a lie. it's mostly about her last visit to the island before it shut down. there were some childhood stories, but not very many, and the lack of characters made this super disappointing. the blurb will tell you that this is about her childhood on the island. this is a lie. it's mostly about her last visit to the island before it shut down. there were some childhood stories, but not very many, and the lack of characters made this super disappointing.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Peter Derk

    There were three main problems with this book. 1. It kinda jumps around to different times and events, which makes it hard to get in the mindset of how cool and weird it is to live on a prison island. There was a nice sequence about how hard it is to get a pizza, which is a true struggle in the best of times, and I wish more of the book had been like that, and that the timelines were better separated or the story was more linear or something. 2. Again, like the Wonder Woman book I just read, the t There were three main problems with this book. 1. It kinda jumps around to different times and events, which makes it hard to get in the mindset of how cool and weird it is to live on a prison island. There was a nice sequence about how hard it is to get a pizza, which is a true struggle in the best of times, and I wish more of the book had been like that, and that the timelines were better separated or the story was more linear or something. 2. Again, like the Wonder Woman book I just read, the thing on the cover doesn't happen in the book. I'm like, 90% sure. The cover image makes it seem like the prison is going to play a much bigger part, but it barely has anything to do with the story, honestly. Points off for that! 3. Finally, island prison is not on Pete's List of Best Prisons. Sorry, Island Prison, but you need to get in line behind several others: Face/Off Magnet Boot Prison Yes, the prison that had built-in, weird movie screens with pictures of deer on them, which seemed kinda almost like they were supposed to make prisoners crazier. Plus, magnetic boots. What better way to stop a riot than just forcing all inmates to wear magnet boots? Bonus, the prison was totally an offshore oil rig or something, which was a nice reveal, but ultimately pointless because it seems like the only thing it takes to swim to shore is to no longer be wearing magnet boots, which is what needs to happen so you can get to the top of the prison anyway. Pretty decent prison, but only because you can't smell it. A prison where the prisoners are wearing metal shoes 24/7? That place reeks of feet, at best. Lockout's Space Jail You know, it seems to me that a jail in space would totally work. I mean, what are you gonna do? Tunnel out? Swim? The big hitch is that the cost of shipping a person to space is like millions. So until they invent that space elevator doohickie, which I still don't understand at all, Space Jail is out. Not to mention that, based on most other films I've seen, the chance of space jail being taken over by aliens, leprechauns, Jason X's, or the chances of the prison traveling through a hellmouth, are pretty high. I guess I'm a lefty, but I think prisoners probably have the right to not be stalked and killed by supernatural horrors. Demolition Man's Cryo-Prison Mostly, my questions with this one have to do with why the inmates have to be naked, and also why their ice blocks are just hanging out in the open room. Why not put them in tall, cylindrical freezers or something? Freezing technology hasn't developed to the point where the prisoners could wear little shorts? Or be in opaque ice? Escape Plan's Glass Boxes The best feature of Escape Plan's prison was having Stallone and Schwarzenegger in the same movie. Okay, also, the weird glass box prison was pretty great. And the sunlight torture room that hurt people because it was really super bright(?) Oh, and the reveal that the prison is on a barge that's just driving around in the ocean, which means they're in international waters and can do whatever they want(?) And then the Jesus guy from The Passion movie gets blown up. It's really a movie that should be a lot better than it was. I don't know what happened, but I was pretty drunk for the first half. Escape From New York's...uh, New York This is a prison island done right. Sorry, Prison Island: A Graphic Memoir, but if your prison island doesn't contain Isaac Hayes in a limo equipped with a chandelier, OR a fight to the death with baseball bats with nails in them, I ain't interested.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth A

    It seems to me that almost everyone is writing a memoir these days, and while I do believe that we all live interesting lives (at least to ourselves), I'm not sure anyone else cares. The publishing industry seems to churn out memoirs at an alarming rate. Maybe it's because they are easy to write, and people are fascinated by an insider look at the lives of celebrities, but come on, not everyone lives a memoir worthy life! Now that I've got that out of the way, let's talk about this book. Literall It seems to me that almost everyone is writing a memoir these days, and while I do believe that we all live interesting lives (at least to ourselves), I'm not sure anyone else cares. The publishing industry seems to churn out memoirs at an alarming rate. Maybe it's because they are easy to write, and people are fascinated by an insider look at the lives of celebrities, but come on, not everyone lives a memoir worthy life! Now that I've got that out of the way, let's talk about this book. Literally the only interesting thing about it is that the author lived with her family on an island in Washington State that used to house a prison. Given that, this book should have been about a 5 page pamphlet. No more is needed in my opinion. The black and white art is not good, and the story is dull and uninteresting to anyone who does not love the author. There are not many graphic novels I have bailed on, and this one joins that trashy heap. I quit about half way through, and let me remind you that graphic novels generally can be read in a single sitting. I really wish publishers would reconsider the glut in the memoir genre, and go for quality over quantity. It's not that I dislike memoirs, though the last three or so I've read were all awful, but there needs to be something interesting about the life of a total stranger that makes me care to read on. Want to read some great books in this genre? Try any of these brilliant ones: Madam Secretary: A Memoir by Madeleine Albright, or The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, or The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, or The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sesana

    It's an interesting memoir, but mostly because the subject itself is so interesting on its own. The island is fairly isolated, which leads to basic difficulties with things like groceries or ordering a pizza or having a birthday party. And so does living right next to a prison, for that matter, especially when a prisoner escapes. But Frakes didn't really add much to make it more than just interesting. It's an interesting memoir, but mostly because the subject itself is so interesting on its own. The island is fairly isolated, which leads to basic difficulties with things like groceries or ordering a pizza or having a birthday party. And so does living right next to a prison, for that matter, especially when a prisoner escapes. But Frakes didn't really add much to make it more than just interesting.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Raina

    McNeil Island is the former location of the last prison in amerika accessible only by air and sea. Colleen Frakes was one of the kids who grew up there. The island is in the southern Puget Sound - the ferry to the island leaves from Steilacoom, a small waterfront town a short drive from my library. Frakes went to The Evergreen State College, which is in my town, and apparently works in a library in Seattle at the moment. One of my mom's friends grew up on the McNeil Island, too. So there's a loc McNeil Island is the former location of the last prison in amerika accessible only by air and sea. Colleen Frakes was one of the kids who grew up there. The island is in the southern Puget Sound - the ferry to the island leaves from Steilacoom, a small waterfront town a short drive from my library. Frakes went to The Evergreen State College, which is in my town, and apparently works in a library in Seattle at the moment. One of my mom's friends grew up on the McNeil Island, too. So there's a local connection. Since I'm also a lover of memoir GNs, I knew I had to own this. Frakes structures her memoir using a framing mechanism - a last visit with her family of origin which occurred when the prison closed, in 2011. As they toured the island one last time, she flashes back to her memories of each place - the different houses they lived in, the beach where she had her birthday party, the community center. She talks about the challenges of living on an island - taking the ferry to school early each morning, not being able to have friends over very easily, ordering a pizza... Having spent some time (including a semester of college) in isolated locations, I can identify with both the pluses and minuses of this very unusual way to grow up. And it makes me reflect a bit on the notion of "normalcy." I believe in the adaptive abilities of kids. In not treating one way of living as the "normal" way. But for Frakes, she lived years both before and after off the island, and went to school with mainland kids. Perhaps there is a personality element.... These are ill-formed thoughts. But anyway... Frakes doesn't do a tonne of reflecting, herself. The telling is pretty straightforward, and relatively vague. We never go into the prison itself. We don't get attached to the characters in the story (her friends, or even her family). There isn't a big climactic plot moment. The illustrations are black and white, and use a variety of panel layouts. You get maybe one or two scenes of OITNB juiciness (mostly revolving around escape attempts). It's true. Which kinda means it's boring. Which is probably a good thing, really.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

    OK, obviously I can't be objective about this book because I know and adore Colleen. So I'll just point out some of the things about Prison Island that rule: Really excellent bat drawing on page 172 Perfect, evocative illustrations that capture the feel of McNeil The cat on page 144 I just really enjoy how Colleen wove in the narrative of a "last trip back" to the island with memories of actually living there in the nineties/early aughts. This is the best graphic OK, obviously I can't be objective about this book because I know and adore Colleen. So I'll just point out some of the things about Prison Island that rule: Really excellent bat drawing on page 172 Perfect, evocative illustrations that capture the feel of McNeil The cat on page 144 I just really enjoy how Colleen wove in the narrative of a "last trip back" to the island with memories of actually living there in the nineties/early aughts. This is the best graphic memoir of them all.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Russell Taylor

    This is a memoir not overburdened with airs of literary aspiration. Rather, it's a well-told collection of childhood memories from a fairly normal youth put in a mildly unusual environment, strung together with a bit of nostalgia on the occasion of a last visit to the place that shaped her. No deep traumas are discovered or revisited, no great social cause is invoked, and no lesson is learned. It's an accessible, well-paced, and entertaining read. Layouts are simple and regular, the art composed This is a memoir not overburdened with airs of literary aspiration. Rather, it's a well-told collection of childhood memories from a fairly normal youth put in a mildly unusual environment, strung together with a bit of nostalgia on the occasion of a last visit to the place that shaped her. No deep traumas are discovered or revisited, no great social cause is invoked, and no lesson is learned. It's an accessible, well-paced, and entertaining read. Layouts are simple and regular, the art composed of bold strokes and basic but clear facial sketches. I'll also put in a word for the prolific use of maps at the head of each chapter, a useful feature for a work so essentially about a particular place.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sparkleypenguin

    It was okay. The pacing and overall story line confused the hell out of me and just felt disjointed and unconnected.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    Colleen and her family grew up in unique circumstances. Her parents both worked in prisons and their longest assignment had them both living and working on the last prison island in the United States. The island was limited to prisoners, employees and families; a tiny community connected to the mainland by ferry. Growing up in these circumstances provided it’s own challenges; such as having to talk precautions so that escaped prisoners couldn’t use their pool toys to escape and getting a pizza d Colleen and her family grew up in unique circumstances. Her parents both worked in prisons and their longest assignment had them both living and working on the last prison island in the United States. The island was limited to prisoners, employees and families; a tiny community connected to the mainland by ferry. Growing up in these circumstances provided it’s own challenges; such as having to talk precautions so that escaped prisoners couldn’t use their pool toys to escape and getting a pizza delivered was nearly impossible. The artwork is intimate and cleverly uses an orange palette while drawing heavily on equal parts memory and research. Her writing and artwork is spare and the storytelling is straightforward. Frakes treats all of her subjects with sensitivity and fairness, which provides a balanced and compassionate view of the challenges prisoners and prison staff often face when working together. This is the rare book that addresses prison life that you could hand to a teen who has relative serving time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicola Mansfield

    This certainly sounded like it would make for a cool story. The author's real-life account of growing up on a penitentiary island. Unfortunately, I found it dull. The author chronicles a last-chance final-look trip her family makes when the prison & island were shut down and depopulated. The story flashes back to episodes from her childhood on the island and life as the child of migratory prison guard parents in general. Slight humour and a fairly interesting peek into an unusual lifestyle, but This certainly sounded like it would make for a cool story. The author's real-life account of growing up on a penitentiary island. Unfortunately, I found it dull. The author chronicles a last-chance final-look trip her family makes when the prison & island were shut down and depopulated. The story flashes back to episodes from her childhood on the island and life as the child of migratory prison guard parents in general. Slight humour and a fairly interesting peek into an unusual lifestyle, but nothing dramatic or climactic happens. I became bored half way through and had to push myself to finish it. Wasn't really worth the effort.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Newly Wardell

    It was okay very simple story about growing up in unusual circumstances.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    When you think of prison islands, Alcatraz comes to mind. Or maybe Devil’s Island. McNeil Island is the one I’ve never heard of until reading this book, so yey for books. Turns out it was the last remaining island prison in the US prior to its closing in 2011. Even held Charles Manson once. So yeah, a real place, a government owned island with prison as its main attraction, but also a place to live for people who worked for the system and their families. This is a memoir of a kid who grew up on When you think of prison islands, Alcatraz comes to mind. Or maybe Devil’s Island. McNeil Island is the one I’ve never heard of until reading this book, so yey for books. Turns out it was the last remaining island prison in the US prior to its closing in 2011. Even held Charles Manson once. So yeah, a real place, a government owned island with prison as its main attraction, but also a place to live for people who worked for the system and their families. This is a memoir of a kid who grew up on McNeil Island and the location here was the main attraction for me. I’m not huge on memoirs, I don’t love the kind of very basic cartoonish art like this book featured and this was actually rated YA, a definite drawback, but…but it was actually a pretty good read in spite of all that. It didn’t read especially YA either, save for the fact that the main character is mainly a teen for the duration of the story. It’s just such a strangely singular place to grow up, an island where most of the maintenance work is done by prisoners, somewhere without stores, with complete dependency on the mainland for all things, a small isolated community, a land where something as simple as ordering a pizza can be a major ordeal and yet…to the author and her family somehow homey. A place that provided much needed stability and security for her family to be together. A place to return to one last time before it’s close for good due to financial reasons and reminisce affectionately. Strange what one can adapt to. But, as anyone who’s ever lived in nonmainstream, less than ideal conditions can attest to, you’d be amazed what you can get used to. So yeah, this turned out to be more enjoyable of a read than anticipated and a lightning quick one, 192 pages in something like 45 minutes. Plus I learned about a new strange place, which is always a bonus.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eric Piotrowski

    I found this on display at a used bookstore while searching for something to read during lunch on a day off. It was perfect — easy to get into, accessible art style, nothing too heavy. In a way I feel bad giving it only three stars, but I liked it, and that's a sincere compliment. It just doesn't go farther than that. It doesn't need to. This is a simple, honest, straightforward memoir about living on a prison island. It delivers exactly what it promises on the tin. It's interesting and well-pace I found this on display at a used bookstore while searching for something to read during lunch on a day off. It was perfect — easy to get into, accessible art style, nothing too heavy. In a way I feel bad giving it only three stars, but I liked it, and that's a sincere compliment. It just doesn't go farther than that. It doesn't need to. This is a simple, honest, straightforward memoir about living on a prison island. It delivers exactly what it promises on the tin. It's interesting and well-paced, mixing facts about the island's history with slices of the author's life. Getting a pizza delivered, for example, is an arduous process for the kids. I feel like I need concrete reasons for denying those other two stars, but the truth is that I will recommend this with a smile.. but not passion. It's good, but for whatever reason doesn't cross over into great. I'm wondering now if a book like this could be great, according to my arbitrary standards, and I don't know. Perhaps it would need the kind of exhaustive research and literary connectivity of Fun Home, but this isn't that kind of book — nor should it be. The best thing about the book is the personal reflections on proximity to prison. Meeting the people who know the people inside; glimpses of life while an escapee is at large. That sort of thing. Plus the author includes excellent little touches like "mow" from the cat, and Mean Girls-style haterade during a sleepover. It's a fun book to read. That is all.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Eli Claire

    I recently went to an exhibit about McNeil Island at the Washington State History Museum, and was so fascinated to learn about the prison and the island’s inhabitants - I didn’t know that there was something like that so close to me, for most of my life (I mean, it’s still there ... just shut down.) Craziness. I picked up this memoir because I wanted to know more about what life was like on the island for the people who didn’t work at the prison - the kids and spouses of the prison workers. And I recently went to an exhibit about McNeil Island at the Washington State History Museum, and was so fascinated to learn about the prison and the island’s inhabitants - I didn’t know that there was something like that so close to me, for most of my life (I mean, it’s still there ... just shut down.) Craziness. I picked up this memoir because I wanted to know more about what life was like on the island for the people who didn’t work at the prison - the kids and spouses of the prison workers. And honestly, I was kind of disappointed. I wanted more history and more details about life on the island - the author lived there for 10 years, and I feel like I barely got a glimpse into a year of her living there. Most of what I got was that it sucked being reliant on a boat to get to the mainland, and that the community was very close. So, I am glad that I had a little bit of perspective about the life on prison island, but I wanted so much more ... I wish the graphic novel had been much longer, and more detailed! (Plus, I found two spelling mistakes. 😬)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    2.5 stars. There's no real narrative arc here. It's more a series of interludes about the author's experience living on a prison island in the PNW. Perhaps this structure is a good fit for the intended audience (YA), but I think it does limit the overall impact of Prison Island. I like the novelty of the topic (and I learned the term "Island Brat"), and some of the vignettes are well-written, but I bumped it down to 2.5 stars because it doesn't do much with the visual style. If a graphic memoir 2.5 stars. There's no real narrative arc here. It's more a series of interludes about the author's experience living on a prison island in the PNW. Perhaps this structure is a good fit for the intended audience (YA), but I think it does limit the overall impact of Prison Island. I like the novelty of the topic (and I learned the term "Island Brat"), and some of the vignettes are well-written, but I bumped it down to 2.5 stars because it doesn't do much with the visual style. If a graphic memoir is not capitalizing on the graphics, I get very rage-y. Considering the unique, bucolic vibe of Puget Sound and the area the author is describing, it really felt like a waste of potential to have a rather bland and basic visual style. Perhaps if Frakes had veered closer to mixed-media, and incorporated some photos alongside her illustrations, the medium would have been more impactful.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Keen

    3.5 Stars! “It’s not really any person’s home. It’s just a home of memory.” We are told that “McNeil Island in Washington was the home of the last prison island in the US that was accessible only by air and sea.” Which certainly tees this story us rather nicely. The art work is not great in here but it still does an effective job and I have to say I really enjoyed this book. The author is highly likeable and we get an insightful enough tour of this mysterious prison island from a fairly unique pers 3.5 Stars! “It’s not really any person’s home. It’s just a home of memory.” We are told that “McNeil Island in Washington was the home of the last prison island in the US that was accessible only by air and sea.” Which certainly tees this story us rather nicely. The art work is not great in here but it still does an effective job and I have to say I really enjoyed this book. The author is highly likeable and we get an insightful enough tour of this mysterious prison island from a fairly unique perspective, allowing us to experience the many haunted houses as well as the stories of escaped prisoners. We also get acquainted with the many frustrations and shortcomings of living on such a bizarre and isolated part of the world.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Heather Gallagher

    Quite a freaky idea to consider growing up on a Prison Island. But this graphic memoir gives an insight into what that would be like with the author spending her teenage years on McNeil Island where both her parents worked int he prison system. The most poignant episode was when Colleen tried to have a birthday party on the island and because one of the prisoners had escaped there was a lock-down and only two kids ended up coming to the party. The island has since been decommissioned but in its Quite a freaky idea to consider growing up on a Prison Island. But this graphic memoir gives an insight into what that would be like with the author spending her teenage years on McNeil Island where both her parents worked int he prison system. The most poignant episode was when Colleen tried to have a birthday party on the island and because one of the prisoners had escaped there was a lock-down and only two kids ended up coming to the party. The island has since been decommissioned but in its time was the last prison in the US only accessible by air or sea.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kate Stericker

    Although a graphic memoir about growing up on a prison island sounds fascinating in theory, the stories Frakes recounts are fairly mundane and lack any kind of narrative arc. This book might be best appreciated by someone with a personal connection to McNeil Island rather than a casual reader. I did enjoy Frakes' art style and narrative voice, though, so I'd be interested in checking out her future projects. Although a graphic memoir about growing up on a prison island sounds fascinating in theory, the stories Frakes recounts are fairly mundane and lack any kind of narrative arc. This book might be best appreciated by someone with a personal connection to McNeil Island rather than a casual reader. I did enjoy Frakes' art style and narrative voice, though, so I'd be interested in checking out her future projects.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    It would have been nice if the author had chosen one topic to focus on. Like the history of the island or stories about inmates. Her few stories about boring times with friends wasn't interesting enough. Or maybe even talking about the politics behind prisons and what makes prison islands unique? There was such potential here... It would have been nice if the author had chosen one topic to focus on. Like the history of the island or stories about inmates. Her few stories about boring times with friends wasn't interesting enough. Or maybe even talking about the politics behind prisons and what makes prison islands unique? There was such potential here...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joan Baslow-Temple

    Disappointing; no real substance.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mehsi

    Re-read 2021: Decided to do some rereading of graphic novels, this one was the first on my pile to read. I really enjoyed this re-read, especially since now, despite it being 5 years later, I knew what to expect of this book. I loved seeing the family explore the island and see what happened to the buildings and stuff and remember memories of their time there. From ordering pizza, going to school on the mainland, friendships, and more. -------------------------- 4.5 stars. Not entirely what I was Re-read 2021: Decided to do some rereading of graphic novels, this one was the first on my pile to read. I really enjoyed this re-read, especially since now, despite it being 5 years later, I knew what to expect of this book. I loved seeing the family explore the island and see what happened to the buildings and stuff and remember memories of their time there. From ordering pizza, going to school on the mainland, friendships, and more. -------------------------- 4.5 stars. Not entirely what I was hoping for/thinking this one was. What I was thinking this would be (based on the blurb + cover) was a book about a girl who lived a big part of her youth on a prison island. About her struggles, about living life on such a place, on making friends. Starting from the beginning, until the moment they had to move again/she was moving because she was older. Instead it was just bits and pieces here and there, hotchpotch in ages, and mostly triggered due to the island shutting down and them taking one last trip. It was good, don't get me wrong, but again, I expected a totally different book. I kept re-reading the blurb to make sure I had the right book/that I wasn't missing anything. So I do have to deduce a half a star for it being totally different. Of course, like I said, the book was still good, it was really interesting to read about her experiences on the island, to see the island itself, and see how everything looked. I can imagine that kids might get bored on the island. They couldn't play in the forests, because it was a protected area. They couldn't play in the ocean, because of the currents. They only could go to the park, or if they really wanted go to the mainland, though that seemed to be quite a Russian roulette of trying to get there on time to do stuff + then having to get back on time for the last boat. It also seemed quite exciting, living on an island with inmates in a prison. Inmates who at times escape, or are unaccounted for and thus causes a lockdown. So I did enjoy the book, it was interesting, though I wish it was a bit more in-depth. It felt a bit bare bones at times. Maybe also because of my expectations, maybe because it was truly just that. The art was pretty decent, it is a style I see often in graphic novels, it looks quite good close-up, but when it gets to further away perspective it turns into stick-puppets, which is not really so great. But all in all, I would recommend this one. Don't be fooled by the blurb though. Review first posted at http://twirlingbookprincess.com/

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gary Anderson

    Prison Island is a graphic memoir from Colleen Franks based on her family's time living on McNeil Island in Washington state, home of the prison where her parents both worked. This made for an unusual childhood: ferry rides to and from school, inmate-escape lockdowns interrupting birthday parties, and daily encounters with wildlife. Told through a flashback frame of visiting the island as a young adult during ceremonies surrounding the prison's closing, Prison Island offers a view of an interest Prison Island is a graphic memoir from Colleen Franks based on her family's time living on McNeil Island in Washington state, home of the prison where her parents both worked. This made for an unusual childhood: ferry rides to and from school, inmate-escape lockdowns interrupting birthday parties, and daily encounters with wildlife. Told through a flashback frame of visiting the island as a young adult during ceremonies surrounding the prison's closing, Prison Island offers a view of an interesting living arrangement from both childhood and adult perspectives. Maybe I'm a little persnickety about such things, but I was pulled out of the story a couple of times by misspelled words and run-on sentences in the cartoon balloons. Still, I liked the characters and appreciated the insights into what it means to a child to live isolated from classmates but close to prisoners.

  25. 4 out of 5

    John

    Unique. I moved around a lot as a kid. That's not that unusual, as Colleen Frakes' new memoir shows. Like me, she often felt alone and isolated in her new towns, but one place she lived took it to a whole new level. Life on an island is hard enough, but add in a prison and things get extreme. This book reflects back at the years on McNeil Island, while also interspersing an decade-later return to the island just after the prison was shuttered and just before the island was permanently closed to v Unique. I moved around a lot as a kid. That's not that unusual, as Colleen Frakes' new memoir shows. Like me, she often felt alone and isolated in her new towns, but one place she lived took it to a whole new level. Life on an island is hard enough, but add in a prison and things get extreme. This book reflects back at the years on McNeil Island, while also interspersing an decade-later return to the island just after the prison was shuttered and just before the island was permanently closed to visitors. It's full of great details and memories that few others will have. I do wish Frakes had another 50 pages to reflect a bit more on the past, but even so this is an entertaining and thought-provoking memoir with great art. Highly recommended.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jannah

    A family reunites to say goodbye to McNeil Island and the penitentiary where the parents used to work before its doors are shut for good. As they drive around the island (with the father constantly fretting over whether or not they'll make the next ferry) they reminisce about the time an inmate escaped and almost ruined a birthday party and other quirks of the life they spent there for 10 years. It's a brief love letter to life on the prison-island but I feel like the description and illustratio A family reunites to say goodbye to McNeil Island and the penitentiary where the parents used to work before its doors are shut for good. As they drive around the island (with the father constantly fretting over whether or not they'll make the next ferry) they reminisce about the time an inmate escaped and almost ruined a birthday party and other quirks of the life they spent there for 10 years. It's a brief love letter to life on the prison-island but I feel like the description and illustrations of the setting fell a bit flat and hid behind repeated images of the island's map. It could be argued that it is so undeveloped because the kids may have only seen their houses and the playground while living there, but it still just seemed like it could have been fleshed out more.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Notess

    Interesting story! The art was just ok, but somehow she conveyed that lost-in-time-and-mist feeling I get when I am on some of the islands in Puget Sound. A very Northwest book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    A good read, but a bit too short!! I wanted more history, maybe? More stories from others who lived there?

  29. 5 out of 5

    MariNaomi

    A quiet, charming book that reminds me that there are so many ways we might have experienced childhood.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Caitlin

    This should have been a way more interesting story than it was. The most intriguing word in the title is PRISON but most of the book could have been about living on any island, and even then the anecdotes would be flimsy and uneventful. Despite taking place in such an interesting location, the book lacks atmosphere thanks to the oversimplified and underdeveloped art style and the insulated viewpoint. Why didn't Frakes delve into the conditions of the prison itself and the lives of its inmates, w This should have been a way more interesting story than it was. The most intriguing word in the title is PRISON but most of the book could have been about living on any island, and even then the anecdotes would be flimsy and uneventful. Despite taking place in such an interesting location, the book lacks atmosphere thanks to the oversimplified and underdeveloped art style and the insulated viewpoint. Why didn't Frakes delve into the conditions of the prison itself and the lives of its inmates, who are so tangential to the story that they almost might as well not be there? Why did she devote pages and pages to a slumber party where nothing happened and a trip to the mall where she didn't buy anything? Memoirs don't have to focus only on serious topics, but if your memoir is literally about growing up on an island next to a prison, and you want to focus on the non-prison parts, your half of the story had better be fascinating! It's difficult to care about someone's frustrating experience ordering pizza to an island when the very same island holds hundreds of prisoners living in a kind of hell. Frakes has little interest in the prisoners, and only extends sympathy to them to mention that being in a prison doesn't make someone a bad person. The closest she gets to lifting the rose coloured glasses is a pair of throwaway panels where she says, after breezily defending prison labour, "I'm not saying the system is perfect, or even good. I'm just saying that we should all be more informed, especially since we live in a country with two million people behind bars!" She never goes into specifics or returns to the topic again. Why announce that people should be more informed and then not inform the reader about any of it? Is "prison ain't so bad!" the thing we had to be informed about? It's downright unnerving to see a character cheerfully note that inmates built her family's house and then have ... nothing else to say about that. Interviewing former prisoners and incorporating their experiences into the story would have added depth and pathos to this empty book.

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