Sunburn: The Complexities of Coming of Age

Time to grow up.

Sunburn opens with an offer of a summer most teenagers would dream of. Rachel, a girl living in England with her parents, is invited to vacation in Greece with Peter and Diane Warner, childless friends of her father. As the story begins, Andi Watson sets up a dream scenario for her teenage lead as she is invited into the beautiful and opulent life of the Warners.

Once in Greece, Rachel is thrown into a lifestyle she has never known and treated like the mature adult she longs to be. She explores Greece by foot, attends lavish parties in beautiful dresses, and sips wine under the stars with handsome strangers.

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Seeing the world through Rachel’s experience, we meet fascinating new characters on her epic journey. Peter, the workaholic husband who adores his wife and provides the lavish villa and lifestyle Rachel is drawn into. Diane; the glamorous fun loving wife who acts as a surrogate big sister while simultaneously encouraging adventure and admonishing indiscretions. And Benjamin, the charming love interest from parts unknown, who encourages Rachel off her beaten path both literally and figuratively.

The idyllic scenario is paired perfectly with the art of Simon Gane. Gane strikingly uses a color palette that, at any given moment, allows you to sense the fog and clouds of suburban England while also making you feel the Greecian sun beating down onto Rachel’s shoulders. The story also allows plenty of space for Gane to showcase his vision of Greece, a particularly enviable frame shows Rachel standing on the cliffs of Greece looking down onto the Aegean sea below, and you can almost smell the salt air.

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Andi Watson uses a picturesque backdrop to focus on a stage of life we all experience, the coming of age when we venture into adulthood. It’s at this time in Rachel’s life that she shirks her naivete and starts seeing adults as the flawed and complex individuals they are. As she stands at the threshold of her own life, the gorgeous facade of the village and its cast of characters begins to lose its shine, and it’s only then that Rachel can decide who she wants to be in this world of dinner parties and lavish adventures.

On different hands, the concept of Sunburn could seem unrelatable to a reader, yet Watson and Gane team up masterfully to tell Rachel’s story. On the surface, Sunburn is just what you imagine it would be, but in its pages, you find the depth, beauty, and complexity that comes with growing up.

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