No, I’m not crying, you’re crying. Then on the next page, I’m laughing. And also, I’m getting hungry. Truth be told, there’s a whole range of emotions in Turtle Bread for you to experience.
Written by Kim-Joy, former finalist and fan favorite on The Great British Bake Off, the graphic novel centers on Yan, whose social anxiety prevents her from doing most things, including having a job and maintaining friendships and other relationships. One thing she can do, though, is bake, and when she sees a flyer for a local Baking Club welcoming all skill levels, she decides to give it a try.
Once there, she meets a group of people (What if they hate her?) from all walks of life (They’re so much more interesting than she is.), who couldn’t be more different (They probably think she’s weird and stupid.), but who all have one thing in common: They love to bake. Together (Is she talking enough?), each group member takes a different task (Is she helping enough?) to put together a delicious Victoria Sponge. (Is she talking too much about herself? Was her joke offensive? She’s so weird. They clearly all hate her.)
Despite constant intrusive thoughts, feelings of inadequacy, and the terror of being rejected, Yan actually has a good time. With reassurances from Bea, the group’s sweet and charismatic leader, Yan comes back to the next meeting, and soon becomes a regular. Can baking with this eclectic group of friends help her to come out of her shell? Can she ever hope to be as cool, confident, and funny as they are? Are they really all as cool, confident, and funny as they seem on the outside?
I could spend pages describing the nuances of the plot and the characters, the twists and turns, peaks and valleys, but it’s better if you just read it for yourself. Not that it’s the kind of story that would be ruined by major spoilers, but just because Kim-Joy tells it better than I would, and it’s a journey you really need to take for yourself—through whatever emotions it leads you to.
As someone who loves to bake and has social anxiety, this comic feels tailor-made for me. My anxiety isn’t as bad as Yan’s, but I’m very familiar with those moments of wondering, “Do these people actually like me? Are they mad at me? Have I ruined everything?” even after they’ve reassured me that they do, they aren’t, and I haven’t.
Also: The book has recipes! Several are woven into the comic itself, with pictures of ingredients and procedures, alongside exact measurements and instructions. Then there’s another written recipe as part of the book’s backmatter. Rest assured that I will be trying these recipes at my earliest convenience.
The story is a roller coaster of emotions from beginning to end. It’s uplifting, but it also feels very real. There’s no magic wand (or spatula) to be waved that fixes Yan’s problems with The Power of Baking™. The book understands the fact that dealing with anxiety and depression is an uphill battle that sometimes gets easier and sometimes gets harder, but never really goes away. The message is a powerful one, and one that I think a lot of people need to hear. If you suffer from anxiety, if you struggle fitting in, if you want a story that will make you laugh and cry and everything in between, or if you just love The Great British Bake Off, then you need Turtle Bread in your life.
Creative Team: Kim-Joy (written by), Alti Firmansyah (art and cover by), Joamette Gil (letters by), and Yenny Laud (cover colors)
Publisher: Dark Horse
Click here to purchase.