The Oracle Code by Marieke Nijkamp is one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in a really, really long time. This YA graphic novel is from DC Comics, and tells the story of Barbara Gordon, who becomes Oracle in the Batman/DC comic universe. Don’t be fooled, though– there are practically no superheros in this novel. Instead, we get a beautifully crafted story that is wonderfully diverse, fierce, and full of mystery and intrigue.
Barbara “Babs” Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, is a master computer hacker, and spends a lot of her time doing computer-hacker things with her best friend Benjamin.
One night, though, Babs’ life changes dramatically, and she ends up becoming paralyzed. Following the incident, she requires the use of a wheelchair to get around. Meaning well, Babs’ father sends her to the mysteriously creepy Arkham Center for Independence to help her heal and get stronger, both mentally and physically.
The story that unfurls throughout The Oracle Code is one of late night ghost stories, missing girls, fierce female friendships, and strong disability representation. The plot itself is the perfect blend of a gothic ghost story and a noir mystery, and I’ve never seen better in any graphic novel.
The Oracle Code is impeccably illustrated, and I loved that the “ghost” stories were illustrated to look different from the main story’s narrative. The coloring of the novel was just beautiful, too– full of rich purples and greens, with smatterings of purposeful reds, oranges, and blacks. It really is a gorgeous book.
While it’s a DC graphic novel, please don’t disregard this book in thinking that you have to be a fan of superheroes to enjoy it. All I really know about DC I learned from watching my husband play some video games and watching Christian Bale as (the best ever) Batman. With The Oracle Code, you really and truly don’t need to know anything at all about the DC comic universe, because the book is about Babs and her growth as a young teenager.
And, yes, The Oracle Code is a YA graphic novel; however, it definitely has wide demographic appeal. The atmosphere of the book is so richly creepy, and it really adds to the building suspense and tension over the course of the story. On top of that, the book has thoughtful themes of disability, identity, friendship (including great female friendships), and parent/child relationships. These universal themes are well-developed, feel true to the characters and situations in the book, and should appeal to nearly everyone. Even if you aren’t a fan of YA stories as a whole, I would still recommend giving this one a try. At least get it for the kid in your life!
Bottom line: It’s a lovely, diverse YA graphic novel with a strong plot and compelling characters. 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5! This book is out today, March 10th!
I received this title from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to DC Comics for the eArc and for letting me use the above art from The Oracle Code in this post!
I’m linking this review to Lovely Audiobooks’ Review of the Month link-up, so check out the other reviews linked there!