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Author: Rachel Coad

Illustrator: Rachel Coad

Publisher: Upswell Publishing

Published: July 2023

America, 1977. Ray the snake is a failed insurance salesman. Strawberry is a musically-gifted glow octopus just out of prison. Rachel Coad is an award-winning West Australian painter with a background in illustration and design. Together they take us on a road trip in a used GTO from Midway Kentucky to New York City, hoping for a different life.

With her debut graphic novel NEW YORK CITY Glow, Coad brings together her skills as a graphic artist and storyteller in spectacular fashion, combining a grungy noirish monochrome palette with a rather sweet story of an unlikely friendship and finding your place in the world.

Ray is a loser with a big heart and is there for Strawberry when it counts. An inability to control her glow got Strawberry into trouble with the law in the first place. But it may prove to be not just her salvation, but that of the entire city. Including that of one Johnny Ramone.

When Ray and Strawberry find themselves in CBGB on the Bowery, Ray is a fish out of water, if you’ll excuse the mixing of species, but Strawberry is an octopus in a punk garden and wants to stay, finding work as a cleaner. It’s here that she encounters Johnny, who gives her guitar lessons. I know octopuses shed skin. But shred guitar?

NEW YORK CITY Glow is an affectionate retro roadtrip replete with playlists and fun facts that you’ll devour in one sitting before hitting the “repeat” button. As always, WA-based publisher Upswell’s book design is exquisite.


Reviewed by Will Yeoman

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