I am a little late to the game with this particular graphic novel but better late than never, right? I am still considered a millennial, but I’m on the edge as I was born in the early 1980s. That said, there is still something nostalgic about Paper Girls. The nostalgia isn’t exactly my story, but, it does take me back to a simpler time – when you went everywhere on your bike. Am I wrong? For my generation (and those before me) our bikes gave us some kind of freedom. It was definitely a different time, but there are elements from Paper Girls that take me back to that time.
If you’re not familiar with Paper Girls, it is written by Brian K. Vaughan and is about suburban kids in the 1980s getting sucked into a cosmic inter-generational battle. Ok, so that part doesn’t lend itself to the nostalgia in my head, but it does quench my thirst for science fiction and time travel. The story follows 4 pre-teen newspaper couriers who live just outside Cleveland. Thier bikes, serve as both their escape bods as well as their tools of the trade. What’s great about Vaughan’s story is that he pulls you in with the promise of a walk down memory lane, and then he pulls you back into the messed up future. Perhaps the real message is to warn us of the dangers of lingering in the past for too long.
After a run-in with travelers from the future, the four characters all start bouncing around the timeline themselves. One of the series best arcs happens when the girls stop in our present on their way back from further down the timeline. I love time travel stories, but I honestly can’t keep up sometimes! The whole series is kind of depressing in some ways. One of the characters learns that she will die from cancer before she turns 40. I mean, that’s the story, so I get it, but that doesn’t seem like the way to get readers invested. Or maybe it does. Maybe it gives you hope that someone will be able to travel in time (forwards or back) to stop this from happening.
In issues 6 through 10, the girls end up in 2016, and they encounter an older version of one of the girls. Of course, they freak out. I mean, if you traveled 30 years into the future, wouldn’t you be freaked out by what you saw? I feel like there would be a lot of anxiety about how or why I turned out that way. What could I have done differently to change my future? But maybe that’s the point?
In a more recent storyline, the girls go back in time and try to help a young mother. That storyline is a bit grim, but that’s kind of Vaughan’s writing for you. I actually really like it. I mean, it’s heavy, but it’s doesn’t weigh you down. It’s realistic, in many ways. Vaughan makes it humorous and plays on the human condition to bring out the coming of age truth.
And this might be why it resonates with me so much. As children, we have this idea that we just want to grow up so that we can have adult responsibilities. But there is no way that our child self could ever imagine what it’s like to live inside that reality unless time travel exists. And right now, that’s not an option. Or is it? Regardless, Paper Girls is a great way to travel through time and relive some of your childhood.