Adrian and the Tree of Secrets

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets (2013)

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A bittersweet graphic novel about a nerdy teenaged boy who falls in love with the cool kid at school.

Adrian isn’t very happy these days. He lives in a small town and goes to a Catholic high school. He wears glasses, secretly reads philosophy books, and wishes he had more muscles. He’s dogged by a strict mother, bullied by fellow players on the soccer field, and chastised by the school principal, who considers rumors about Adrian being gay as a sign that he is “ill. ” But Jeremy, the coolest kid at school, thinks otherwise; he takes Adrian on scooter trips, where they end up in Jeremy’s secret treehouse stealing kisses. Adrian finds himself falling in love, until Jeremy’s girlfriend rats them out, sending Jeremy into a tailspin of embarrassment. What will become of Adrian?

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets is a poignant, beautifully illustrated graphic novel about first love, growing up, and having the courage to be true to yourself.

From: Arsenal Pulp Press

Notes on This Title

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets is written by Hubert and illustrated by Marie Caillou. It was originally published in French. David Homel provides the translation.

The graphic novel depicts homophobic language, underage drinking and smoking, sexual situations, and discussions of suicide.




“The retro color palette and curvy lines soften the often-harsh text, providing an effective contrast. The most successful panels are wordless, visually capturing the desperation and hollowness that Adrian often feels as he moves through days that all blur together. Unfortunately, there’s an uncomfortable amount of exposition about coming out and gay identity that’s shoehorned into dialogue; the scenes where Jeremy and Adrian are alone are particularly disappointing, as authenticity is buried under programmatic discussions. In addition, the book feels more ‘important’ than genuine, providing emotional homework rather than inspiring connection. Even with the tone quibbles, this is still a lush, thoughtful graphic novel; quiet readers, wherever they are on the sexuality spectrum, may relate to Adrian’s painful reminder that life in the background may be safer, but it is also terribly lonely.”  (Source: Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, February 2015, Vol.68(6), p.315)

“Though the book, itself, is brief, Hubert manages to build a protagonist that readers will care about and become emotionally invested in. Even secondary characters like Jeremy, Adrian’s mother, and the principal—who are ultimately much less likeable than Adrian—are well constructed, even as their religiosity and betrayal causes them to act more as villains than helpful authority figures. The principal’s talk of Adrian’s sexuality as a disease is sad and frustrating but ultimately mirrors the real life experiences of too many young people in real life. One character who manages to restore faith in adults within the book is Adrian’s aunt, who left the church many years ago, but who is supportive of Adrian for a time. In some ways, I do wish the book had been longer than a mere 124 pages so readers could experience even more character development over the course of Adrian’s story.” (Source: Canadian Review of Materials, January 16, 2015, Vol.21(18))

“The realities captured in this book about the violence in small towns and catholic schools are not at all unbelievable. That being said, the oppression we witness in Adrian’s life really do pile up in an exhausting way. All of these different brutalities against him seem to be irreparable, and for much of the book the author beats a dead horse letting the reader know how unhappy Adrian is. Adrian, in response to his problems, uses sarcasm and depression to cope with like a kind of Daria-Charlie Brown hybrid. Though not an entirely original character, something that’s interesting about his psyche is that Adrian doesn’t necessarily seem to be closeted by a harsh environment so much as he is very open and honest with himself, yet has no one in his life to trust his feelings with. Adrian is clearly the smartest character in the book and struggles with being misunderstood in an intellectual way.” (Source: Lambda Literary)

“This is a beautifully illustrated story of first love. Adrian is the class nerd, and Jeremy is the coolest kid in their Catholic high school, but it is Jeremy that initiates their relationship. Just as things are looking good, Jeremy’s girlfriend finds out, and the fallout is painful for everyone concerned.” (Source: School Library Journal)



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