The following article originally appeared in Hyperallergic in September 2023.
RAVE, Jessica Campbell’s new coming-of-age graphic novel, opens in a church during a sermon. “I was enslaved to masturbation!” a pastor cries before shifting focus to his very pregnant teenage daughter, Amber. She becomes an example of what not to do, a sign of how insidious temptation can be, for, her father suggests, Satan even managed to creep into a pastor’s home and seduce his most innocent child. Subsequent panels cut between the pastor, congregation members, and Amber, who puts an end to her humiliation by standing up and proclaiming (albeit ambivalently) a return to the flock. All are emotional except Lauren, RAVE’s 15-year-old protagonist, who appears uncomfortable and acutely attentive.
RAVE follows Lauren’s growing disillusionment in high school as she pulls away from the Christian Evangelical church and the intimacy it affords its flock. Using the pressures of adolescence and indoctrination of the church as a framework, Campbell consistently captures the stress endured by young women and their bodies within a prescriptive Christian belief system that simultaneously sexualizes and shames them.