The Greatest Thing (Sarah Winifred Searle, A&U Children’s)
The Greatest Thing is a graphic novel about friendship and self-actualisation, with a dash of queer romance. Semi-autobiographical in nature, it’s set in America in 2002 where Winifred (Searle) meets Oscar and April—kindred spirits in self-hatred. Together they channel their feelings into a collaborative zine which, in a beautiful use of the graphic novel format, Searle shows the reader every page of. The Greatest Thing delicately handles heavy themes, including depression, self-harm, disordered eating, learning difficulties and gender questioning in an unsupportive family environment. Searle makes good use of the graphic novel format to temper this emotionally intense content with backgrounds in soothing pastel tones and intimate, close-up shots of the characters supporting each other and accessing professional help. Throughout the novel Searle includes exposition from adult Winifred, reminding the reader that The Greatest Thing is just one year within a whole lifetime. Some readers may find this reassuring, especially given the themes that are explored, while others may find it interrupts the narrative immersion. Fittingly, the ending of The Greatest Thing is both sad and hopeful—this is not a story about the power of everlasting friendship, but a homage to the friendships that are impactful even when they are fleeting. Although thematically similar to Heartstopper, tonally, The Greatest Thing is best suited to fans of This One Summer and teens aged 13–15.
Jordi Kerr is a freelance reviewer and youth literature advocate, and a support worker for the LGBTIQA+ community.