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Why I Killed Peter

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Olivier Ka

"Peter was a populist priest. He was cool. He was funny. He was no priest, just a regular guy. It's like I had another uncle. A great one, who laughed, who sang, who tickled. Until he took us for summer camp. Until we were so close, temptation came … see full wiki

Author: Olivier Ka
Genre: Biography & Autobiography, Family & Relationships, Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: Nbm Pub Co
Date Published: October 01, 2008
1 review about Why I Killed Peter

Why I Killed Peter is a Heavy-Hitter

  • Jun 20, 2009
Pros: Packed with emotion; fantastic illustrations and wonderful coloring; combination of story-telling and art

Cons: May be overwhelming for some readers

The Bottom Line: A wonderful but extremely emotional piece.  The bottom line is glad to add this to our public library collection.

While checking book lists for new graphic novels, manga, and comic books for our library I came across Why I Killed Peter by Olivier Ka.  After reading a short synopsis, I couldn't pass it up, despite the lack of reviews I could find on the book at the time.  I'm happy to give this book five stars.

Why I Killed Peter begins with the first section, headed "I Killed Peter Because I'm 7 Years Old."  The narrator Ollie talks about staying with his grandparents in Belgium, where he attends Mass with them bright and early every morning.  Ollie begins to dislike going to boring Mass, and one night his grandmother verbally illustrates hell for him, terrifying him.  He asks what could earn him a spot there, and his grandmother tells him people who do bad things go there, "Like if you play with your peepee for example."  Little Olivier is frightened... because he already has played with his peepee.  The next section is similarly headed "I Killed Peter Because I'm 8 Years Old."  Ollie tells of his young life with his parents, free-spirits who encourage him to think for himself, who dislike religion, and who enjoy swimming naked with friends and family.  When Ollie is nine years old, his grandparents meet and introduce their new priest, Peter.  Peter becomes a hit with both the grandparents and the more liberal parents, and though Ollie is religiously unsure of his beliefs, he likes Peter as well.

At ten years old, Peter invites Ollie to come to a summer camp at a place called "Happy River."  For a few years after this, Ollie spends a month of his summer attending the camp, where he is happy... after all, the weather is nice, the activities and other kids are fun, and of course Peter is there. 

"I Killed Peter Because I'm 12 Years Old."  At twelve, Ollie begins to realize his own sexuality, and he also questions his belief in God, struggling with the difference in religious views between his beloved grandparents and his mother and father.  This year, when he attends camp, he is sexually manipulated and taken advantage of by Peter. 

Through the rest of his teenage years, Ollie struggles with the relationship he had and has with Peter, as well as relationships with others.  He soon meets a woman he falls in love with, and while one may expect life to keep moving on, Ollie seems to be doing so with some trouble.  Religion is still a sore point for him.  When Ollie's daughter turns twelve, he and his friend (the illustrator and adaptor of the book, Alfred) decide to revisit Happy River.  Ollie wants to retrace the moment in his childhood that changed him and hopefully help himself get over things.

Through straight-to-the-point storytelling, Olivier Ka shares his life with us with the help of Alfred (adaptation and art) and Henri Meunier (color).  The illustrations through most of the book are child-like and friendly; it's easy to see why one would like big old bear Peter.  Important points are made through the illustration and coloring: each picture seems to have its own color scheme and even its own story.  When we first are being introduced to Peter, his chest, covered by a button-up shirt and his hand grasping the neck of a guitar is shown in darker tones, blues, violets and greys.  The words take up the left side of the panel, each sentence outlined in its own box.  The following pane is more colorful; Peter's smiling, bearded face is shown with two round, smiling eyes and we see his shirt is red.  The simple sentence is outlined to the left: "His name is Peter."  In just these two panes so much emotion is felt through the simple, easy-to-read sentences and not only what is pictured in the pane, but how the color and shading help pull meaning from it.  In another full-page pane, Ollie is struggling with something, and the background is mostly black with grey smudges throughout; combined with the stair-stepped outlined phrases "At home..." "Safe..." "In my bedroom..." "In my own bed," help the reader feel as close to what Ollie probably felt as possible.  During Alfred and Ollie's return to Happy River the pictures take an interesting turn: they appear to be blurred photographs with almost comical speech-bubbles to handle the conversation. 

Splattered with a few foul words (not all cuss-words, but some synonyms for body parts, etc.) the storyteller gets his point across with an honest feeling but without going overboard.  The variety of illustrations and obviously professional coloring combine with his punch-packing short thoughts and sentences to tell a story that clearly means a lot to him.  There aren't really any parts that are just plain inappropriate, and in fact this book may even appeal to some older teenagers, and most definitely to many adults who may or may not have endured similar situations.  Religion is questioned by the author and discussed by the characters in many lights throughout the story but never in a way that is too much.  While reading I felt I had become a part of Ollie, and what seemed simple enough to read left me crying in the end.  After finishing the book in less than two hours I went to sleep with a lot of Ollie's emotional burden on my own mind.

The content of Why I Killed Peter is not inappropriate, but could be overwhelming for some, especially for younger readers.  All three contributors to this wonderful book have combined to create an emotion heavy-hitter, a masterpiece that takes the reader on a journey and makes them think.  This book is certainly not one to miss.


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