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Webcomic Review: Grind Like A Girl

Grind Like A Girl is an autobiographical webcomic (Available on Gumroad) from cartoonist Veronica Casson about growing up as a transgender girl in the 1990s. I saw some pages from the most recent chapter on Casson’s Instagram, immediately saw that she had an eye-catching art style and an incredibly personal narrative and decided to go back and read the story from the beginning. This review covers the first four chapters of Grind Like A Girl available on Gumroad. However, chapter five and parts of chapter six are available on Sasson’s Instagram.

Nearly every page of Grind Like A Girl tells a complete story and illustrates a pivotal step of Veronica Casson’s coming of age. From the first page where the protagonist tries on dresses in an elementary school class and is scolded for it by her teacher, Casson plays with different styles to get her point across. In this case, Chapter 1/Page 1 is almost an homage to Charles Schulz’s Peanuts in the way that Casson draws eyes and also how the teacher immediately doesn’t consider the protagonist’s point of view and drones on like the teacher in Peanuts. However, as the story progresses, Casson goes from the dot eyes to more expressive ones to mirror the protagonist growing up and coming into her identity as a woman.

Veronica Casson also varies her color palettes to give each page and chapter a distinct mood. There’s the dark lighting and flat pinks and blues of the punk rock show that our now high schoole age protagonist goes to escape her life, the baby blue freedom of the K-Mart dressing room, and finally a muted palette when she shows up to a family dinner with makeup smudged on her face. Color is a weapon in Casson’s storytelling arsenal and can create raw energy like during the punk shows, when the protagonist is talking with a cute alternative boy about the new Elastica album, or is going out with her female friends.

Color can also be used for tension like deep blues when the protagonist comes out as trans to her friend Jason and speaks openly about how she feels and her gender identity when in previous issues they would just drink booze and shoot the shit about Dungeons and Dragons and X-Men comics. To expand on this, the protagonist’s appreciation of and the escape she finds through comics and manga is great recurring detail and connects to Veronica Casson’s virtuosic storytelling in Grind Like A Girl. When she was bullied or feeling dysphoric, she would escape to the world of fantasy novels, video games, indie music, and yes, comics. Having these and her friends’ interests pop up in the story add texture to its world and ground it very much in a time and place.

Grind Like A Girl definitely has its share of empowering and even adorable moments like any time the protagonist articulates to her friends that she’s a woman and wants to live her truth. However, Veronica Casson also shows the terrible transphobia she had to deal with, especially going to a Catholic high school. For example, in chapter one, one of the protagonists’s “friends” in grade school says that she “grinds like a girl”, which leads to her saying that she is, in fact, a girl complete with a powerful facial expression and bright lighting. But this is undercut by the boy using slurs and beating her up that leads to a montage of bullying to wrap up the chapter while she just counts down the days to high school in a new district.

However, high school leads to new complications as the protagonist must present as male to her parents and at school while she can be her true self around her friends. Veronica Casson shows this visually in chapter four through a double page spread/cut out diagram of the protagonist’s car where she stashes clothes and makeup showing the lengths she has to go to be herself. It’s great that the protagonist gets to be femme before graduating high school, but this leads to some issues like the aforementioned incident with her family. Also, some romantic elements start to show up in this chapter All of this shows that Casson isn’t just doing a blow by blow autobiography, but can also create stakes and tension too.

Veronica Casson’s Grind Like A Girl is a stylish and poignant look at growing up as a trans teenager in New Jersey in the 1990s. I admire its storytelling techniques, layouts, and color palettes as well as feel empathy for our protagonist and look forward to following the rest of the series on Instagram and Gumroad.

Story/Art: Veronica Casson
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.4 Overall: 9.2 Recommendation: Buy