I went to school with AJ and Kristen so I had the privilege of watching their story play out in real time. Before she lost her battle with cancer in 2016, Kristen made AJ promise that he would tell their story. In Waves is a love letter - to the water, to the history of surfing, and above all to Kristen.
A tale of love, heartbreak and surfing from an important new voice in comics. In Waves is Craig Thompson's Blankets meets William Finnegan's Barbarian Days.
In this visually arresting graphic novel, surfer and illustrator AJ Dungo remembers his late partner, her battle with cancer, and their shared love of surfing that brought them strength throughout their time together. With his passion for surfing uniting many narratives, he intertwines his own story with those of some of the great heroes of surf in a rare work of nonfiction that is as moving as it is fascinating.
About the Author
AJ Dungo is an illustrator from Florida. He studied at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, and his work has been shown in several group exhibitions in New York and LA. His work strives to create interesting atmospheres and feelings that viewers can have a reaction to. He lives in LA.
One of NPR's Favorite Books of 2019
American Library Association's Alex Award winner 2020
Winner of the 2020 Prix Des Libraires Du Quebec in the Comic category
Finalist for Pop Culture Classroom's 2020 EGL Award, Best in Adult Graphic Literature
"I love this book deeply. AJ writes and draws like a surfer, with such fluidity, grace, and breathability, managing to flow with the most profound love and loss, without it dragging us under. He surrenders to the infinite power and mystery of the ocean to heal the void within . . . this book is a clean line that glides, rolls, and truly moves you. Currently my favorite graphic novel in the universe." —Craig Thompson, Eisner award winning author of the bestselling Blankets
“Nature is massive: Human forms are diminutive when measured against Dungo’s spare representations of starry skylines, butterflies, mountain ranges and, primarily, the ocean, a striking and dense blue against the panels’ abundant white space. […] On two-page spreads that recall Raymond Pettibon’s mesmerizing large-scale paintings of Hermosa Beach’s wave riders, Dungo is engulfed by marble seawater, its dark swirls more closely resembling snaking wood grain than they do any ocean.” —The Los Angeles Times
"While 'In Waves' packs an emotional punch, Dungo avoids sentimentality and is careful not to miscast the ocean as some soppy metaphor for salvation. The book seems to argue that life and death are what they are, and riding waves is no shortcut to health or happiness—it can, however, provide momentary escape, a temporary shelter, a kind of peace. As Dungo states, loss often leaves us alone 'with only water to comfort.'" —Surfer magazine
“Dungo seamlessly weaves together the tale of his partner’s prolonged battle with cancer with the history of surfing. Part autobiography, part history, In Waves is a beautifully rendered tale of how we move through the world and the impact we have on others.” —Comic-Con Book Club
“Dungo tells these stories with a sure hand, weaving time lines and seemingly disparate elements into a rich, cohesive tale. The simply drawn illustrations are elegant and economical but deeply powerful . . . A beautiful tribute to first love and living life to its absolute fullest.” —Booklist
“Mixing his love of surfing with the deep pain of his dying partner is a fantastic way to explain how we can process grief in unexpected ways.” —Book Riot
"Part memoir and part history book, A.J. Dungo brings both together in a tender examination of grief and healing for his debut graphic novel In Waves, finding the connections between the two focuses of his interest and emotion and uncovering how all these part can work to keep him going." —The Beat
“Always interesting when something is at once terribly sad and gorgeously life-affirming. A.J. Dungo’s In Waves is exactly that. […] It’s heartfelt and it’s heartbreaking. And it’s so beautiful.” —Jamie Brisick, author of Becoming Westerly
“The muted color scheme alternates aquamarine with seashell peach. Through sweeping two-page spreads showing the texture of waves in decorative, woodlike patterns and through quiet interludes following Kristen’s ultimately tragic story, Dungo presents an evocative tone poem that celebrates the spirit of a young woman who clings to experience as tenaciously as a surfer riding high.” —Publishers Weekly
"Dungo delineates his characters -- their faces often turned away from the reader like Downwind from the Smilin' Jack comic strip -- dwarfed by swirling, striped waves, austere urban landscapes and sometimes even just inky blackness, efficiently conveying the sense of helplessness and sorrow that comes when confronted with terminal illness." —The Comics Journal
“On paper In Waves is a story that weaves together chapters on the origins of surfing with the personal experiences of its author around the sport. In truth, it’s about so much more.” —The Inertia
“The way these stories are woven together helps paint a picture of grief saturating every part of life, of how helpless we feel in its grasp. But it also proffers the ocean as a tonic and a release from the pain of grief – and hints at the ancient instinct of turning wavewards to find solace.” —Marie Curie charity
“Dungo tells several stories in In Waves that are from different times and places. But in his telling, he was able to connect to the stories of my life, and I believe it will be so for you also, whether you are a surfer or not. And when that happens, I think there is a place where your heart is tender and aches a little with feeling someone else’s pain, and then we feel our own.” —International Examiner