I can so vividly remember what being a teenager was like. Just like most teens, it was a very weird and confusing time where I had to figure out who I wanted to be and where I would fit in this world. I remember dressing in black every single day, tuning everyone out while listening to my favorite punk bands and always feeling like nobody really understood me. I always laugh (and even cringe a little) when thinking back on my rebellious days because of how far I ended up distancing myself from that, but it was still a really crucial period in my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am now if I hadn’t gone through it.
Whether your experience was similar to mine or not, everyone can relate to teen angst and the journey of self-discovery that happens during those years in some way. Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo’s Teen Titans: Raven really dives deep into what it’s like being a teen and the complexities of searching for your identity while also incorporating the supernatural world that Raven comes from.
In this graphic novel, we’re introduced to Rachel Roth (AKA Raven), a teenage foster kid who has not only dealt with the immense loss of losing her foster mother in a horrific car accident but has also had her memory wiped clean with no recollection of who she once was. In the early weeks after the accident, she moves in with her foster mother’s sister in New Orleans and enrolls in a new high school with her new foster sister to finish her senior year.
Throughout all of these major life changes, Rachel struggles with grieving the loss of her mother (who she can’t even remember) and the little things that define who she is. She doesn’t know what her favorite songs and artists are, what clothing she likes to wear or even what candy bar flavor she likes. I mean It’s already hard enough to be a teenager, so having zero recollection of who you are and the things you like just makes the whole situation 100x harder to deal with.
While coping with her amnesia, she’s also forced to face these strange supernatural occurrences that pop up in her daily life. She can hear the thoughts of her classmates and make people do things by merely thinking about it. She also has these terrifying nightmares of her demon father Trigon. She can’t tell whether these are side effects from the accident or if they’re from something greater and scarier from her past; but regardless of that, it still terrifies her.
Rachel must subdue her emotions to prevent herself from becoming unstable and unleashing Trigon, but since she’s unaware of how her powers work, she’s putting herself in danger by feeling too much. Even in our own lives as teens, being too emotional is seen as a bad thing or as a sign of weakness. It’s a very flawed way of interpreting emotions because people truly underestimate the power behind them. I’m speaking figuratively, but in Rachel’s case, her emotions are literally her powers and allowing herself to feel emotions is what makes up her greatest strength.
Rachel’s foster sister, Maxine Navarro, helps Rachel try to understand and control her powerful empathic abilities as best as she can. Max herself also has some experience with supernatural powers as we later come to find out. Max is a very interesting character who stands out just as much as Rachel does. Their relationship reminds me a lot of the friendship I had with my high school best friend. Having a sister or best friend to help you navigate your teenage years is the best gift anyone could ask for—Rachel is lucky enough to have both of those wrapped into one person!
One of the funniest and most relatable parts of their relationship is when Max sets up Rachel with her crush’s phone number. I remember feeling so nervous about sending text messages to the boys I had a crush on. I would always second guess even the simplest of replies and would need AT LEAST two friends to give their input before hitting send. It was both funny and cute seeing a little part of my teenage life play out in the story like that.
I think the journey between Rachel and her high school crush also encompasses all the feelings you get when you’re a teenager in love. She feels the rush of butterflies and blushes whenever she’s near him. They have cute and awkward encounters that make them seem so perfect for each other. But reality does set in once we discover who he really is, and the heartbreak Rachel goes through feels very real as well. I appreciate how even though Rachel is hurt and feels betrayed, she still remains strong after it all. It’s a great message to show young teens that breakups aren’t the end of the world, especially when you have a demon father that’s trying to control and manipulate you. (Can’t be worse than that, right?)
Ultimately, the defining point in Rachel’s search for her identity comes from her battle against Trigon. Raven’s demon father is trying to force her to become something evil that she doesn’t want any part of. Trigon tries to define who she is, but Rachel fights to overcome his influence and chooses the life that she wants to live. In a way, her amnesia actually helps her with this. It gives her a clean slate that allows her to decide who she wants to be, and even after regaining her memories, Rachel still doesn’t allow Trigon to take that away from her. She’s a fighter and decides that only she belongs to herself (as it should be).
Overall, Teen Titans: Raven excellently blends Rachel’s teenage journey while sprinkling in the supernatural elements that make her the popular Teen Titan that she is. For younger YA readers, it’s empowering and encourages them to be brave and take a grasp of their own lives, even when faced with major obstacles. For older readers, it’s both a relatable and inspiring story that will bring back the fond memories from their own teenage years. I’m definitely excited to see what’s in store for the rest of Garcia and Picolo’s Teen Titans graphic novels and how they’ll all connect!
Lissete Gonzalez absolutely loves DC’s dark and mysterious characters so it’s no surprise that her all-time favorite DC superhero is none other than The Bat himself. When she was younger, she used to love reading YA books from authors like Suzanne Collins and J.K. Rowling. You can find Lissete on Twitter at @lissete74.