Impossible People: A Completely Average Recovery Story (Hardcover)

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Impossible People: A Completely Average Recovery Story By Julia Wertz Cover Image

Impossible People: A Completely Average Recovery Story (Hardcover)

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(Graphic Novels)

Staff Reviews


Julia Wertz writes "cartoons"(?) an honest and earnestly funny graphic memoir about her 5 year journey towards sobriety. I found myself shutting the book closed out of frustration with Wertz ad because I laughed so hard I needed a minute. I'm envious of her comic-style ad storytelling and that's how I knew it's a damn good book!

— Rebecca R.

** NPR "BOOKS WE LOVE" SELECTION **
** KIRKUS "BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR" SELECTION **

In her keenly observed graphic memoir, Impossible People, celebrated cartoonist Julia Wertz chronicles her haphazard attempts at sobriety and the relentlessly challenging, surprisingly funny, and occasionally absurd cycle of addiction and recovery.


Opening at the culmination of a disastrous trip to Puerto Rico, the first page of Impossible People finds Julia standing stupefied in the middle of the jungle beside a rental Jeep she's just crashed. From this moment, the story flashes back to the beginning of her five-year journey towards sobriety that includes group therapy sessions, relapses, an ill-fated relationship, terrible dates, and an unceremonious eviction from her New York City apartment. Far from the typical addiction narrative that follows an upward trajectory from rock bottom to rehab to recovery, Impossible People portrays the lesser told but more common story: That the road to recover is not always linear. With unflinching honesty, Wertz details the arduous, frustrating, and hilarious story of trying and failing and trying again.

Julia Wertz is a professional cartoonist, amateur historian, and part-time urban explorer. Her books include The Fart Party, Museum of Mistakes, Drinking at the Movies, The Infinite Wait and Other Stories, and Tenements, Towers, & Trash: An Unconventional, Illustrated History of New York City. She does monthly comics and doodles for the New Yorker and the New York Times. After leaving New York City, she settled down in Northern California with Oliver (yes, that Oliver) and their son, Felix.
Product Details ISBN: 9780762468256
ISBN-10: 0762468254
Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal
Publication Date: May 9th, 2023
Pages: 320
Language: English

"With her trademark dark humor laced with earnestness, sensitivity and wit, Wertz’s wiry black-and-white comics trace the roots of her slow road to sobriety. This tome is unusually absorbing for the unflinching way the narrator exposes her uneasy path to vulnerability – with friends, other loved ones and, ultimately, herself."

Tahneer Oksman, NPR's Books We Love

“The main reason to pick up “Impossible People” is to be privy to Wertz’s madness, whether booze-fueled or sober, and her wry take on her own idiosyncrasies, her chronic self-isolating tendencies and her ineptitude at dating. . . . You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll laugh and cry at the same time. (At least I did.)”—Alexis Burling, San Francisco Chronicle

"Wertz writes with witty introspection, punctuated by moments of bottomless sadness and crude humor, both with surprising timing.... There are no life-changing revelations and no epic epiphanies, be we don't need either. Wertz masterfully turns the everyday and the mundane into stories funny enough to keep you entertained, and sad enough to leave you just a little wistful."

Kay Sohini, The Washington Post

“The core of this book, how every connection we make matters, is something I find so relevant in the world we live in, where it’s becoming easier than ever to feel alienated… Impossible People is perhaps the most graceful ode to these connections I’ve seen in a book in recent memory. It might touch upon some sensitive nerves, but it’ll also bring you to a place where you feel understood, heard, and encouraged to press on. Whether you’re already a fan of Wertz, a graphic novel enthusiast, or a stranger to both, I really can’t recommend this book enough.”—Madeline Carpou, The Mary Sue

"[Sobriety] is hard and can happen over a long, unpredictable timeline, which is the point that Julia Wertz's Impossible People drives home brilliantly....The book’s subtitle…is both a joke and a promise. There’s no debauchery. No epic meltdowns that whisk her away to rehab. (She drives herself there, calmly and with a friend.) It’s just an artist trying to understand her addiction and how to live and create meaningfully in sobriety.”—Mike Scalise, Harper's Bazaar

"Reflective and honest, Wertz’s take on recovery is filled with ups, downs and unexpected turns. Through each winding revelation, she comes to see herself in a new light — one that forces her to care more deeply for herself."—Kristie Song, KQED

"Julia Wertz’s very funny story of addiction, is a pleasant meander through typically heavy memoir material, but also ordinary days, the promises we never plan to address, the thoughts we entertain (Wertz fantasizes falling through a subway grate and recouping millions)."—Christoper Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

“Reading Julia Wertz’s new book, Impossible People, is akin to a series of comfortable, chatty afternoon visits with an old friend.”—Gene Bild, Graphic Medicine

“[Julia Wertz] wrestles with sobriety in this forthright, wickedly funny graphic memoir...[Her] punch lines are as perfectly timed and indelicate as ever, and she’s augmented her trademark candor with probing insight… Unvarnished yet buoyant, this recovery memoir presents Wertz at her wry best and is sure to recruit new fans to her scrappy, irreverent diaries of the absurd.”
 —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Wertz’s light touch as a narrator and talent as an illustrator helps the narrative avoid the down-and-out, hell-and-back pathos of so many recovery memoirs.With her consistently engaging, well-wrought black-and-white cityscapes—native New Yorkers, in particular, will appreciate the fine details of the illustrations—Wertz captures the busyness of life, teeming with possibility, including a happy ending. Her story may be “completely average,” but the way she tells and draws it is extraordinary."
 —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Calling her story "completely average," Wertz has created a book that will speak to readers universally, regardless of their relationship with alcoholism and sobriety. But for those who have experience with addiction and recovery, this book is a remarkable act of generosity and community that could actually save lives."—Shelf Awareness

"No one but Julia Wertz could make such a devastating story of addiction and recovery so damn funny and charming. This book makes me miss New York desperately, and miss drinking and singledom not at all. Best of all, it made me laugh out loud! Read it."
 —Adam Conover, comedian and creator of Adam Ruins Everything

"Julia Wertz makes the personal effortlessly universal, sneaking past our usual defenses with grace, charm, and/or a fart joke. Impossible People is a funny, sad, hopeful, messy, charming—and true—story, and I loved every part of it...It's a new height for an already towering cartoonist."
 —Ryan North, author of How to Take Over the World and the graphic novel adaptation of Slaughterhouse-Five.

"Impossible People hurts and is hilarious at the same time. This book is like a visit with an old good friend—you spend the whole night laughing and crying and when you leave, you think, 'Wow, I needed that!'"—Eleanor Davis, author of The Hard Tomorrow