Novel Review: Calvin

This noteworthy short novel has been written for the YA crowd, but its likely audience is some years older, familiar with the leading light of the second (and likely final) Golden Age of Comic Strips.
It concerns a schizophrenic Canadian teen named Calvin who heads out across the frozen Lake Erie accompanied by an imaginary talking tiger named Hobbes and a girl from his school named Susie, in a mad quest to find…

…the elusive Bill Watterson.

Title: Calvin
Author: Martine Leavitt

First published December 2015.

ISBN-10: 0374380732
ISBN-13: 978-0374380731

Available from,,


Calvin was born the day the last Calvin and Hobbes strip appeared in papers, and received a stuffed tiger as a present.
Seventeen years later, the schizophrenic teen plans a mad quest to cross the frozen Lake Erie and find Bill Watterson.

High Point:

The book, brilliantly though sparsely written, features fantastic descriptions of a sparse and deadly land(lake)scape that reflects its protagonist’s afflicted mental state. Calvin is a small piece of art…

Low Point:

…but art, especially art conscribed by genre, comes at a price. The book assumes familiarity with Calvin and Hobbes; that may be a small section of its intended audience.

Many readers will find that the ending, while suited to the genre, feels a bit too easy (unless you impose on it a spectacularly dark twist, which the book does not really support).

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Calvin feels fresh, despite borrowing its central characters from a well-known (and acknowledged) source and its plot from centuries of quest-narratives (and not a few previous books which impose modern psychiatric understandings on the quest).

Imagery: 5/6

Story: 4/6: The book starts slowly, builds quite nicely, and then ends rather abruptly.

Characterization: 5/6 The book raises some interesting questions regarding what readers and reviewers mean when we say a book has believable characters.

Emotional Response: 5/6 The book features some powerful and poignant moments, especially for YA. The ending undercuts these somewhat….

Editing: 5/6 …but there is no denying the power of Leavitt’s stripped prose.

Overall score: 5/6 I’m giving the author special consideration for even attempting a novel with this premise. Calvin itself represents a mad quest.

In total, Calvin receives 32/42