Next week Lerner Publishing Group’s Graphic Universe imprint will release Unretouchable, the debut graphic novel from cartoonist Sofia Szamosi. The young adult graphic novel follows Olive, a recent high school grad interning in the fashion photography industry as she deals with issues of ethics, body image, and learning to love who she is. Today The Beat is pleased to present an exclusive excerpt from the book, which finds Olive imagining the various paths her life may take now that she’s out of high school.

Here’s how Graphic Universe describes Unretouchable:

Olive is spending the summer before art school at a coveted internship, helping one of the fashion industry’s elite digital-imaging specialists. After a glamourous New York photoshoot, she learns that taking pictures is only the first step. She discovers the “violent verbs” (cut, crop, slice, lasso) of image retouching software and the secrets behind “virtual models.”

Soon Olive is fixating on her own appearance and pondering the ethics of her work behind the scenes. As college gets closer, she’ll try to get out of her own head, attempt to quit the Internet, and finally embrace image-making on her own terms. Unretouchable is a window into the little-known, hugely influential world of fashion photography and a tribute to self-acceptance.

“I love drawing NYC and all its endless details,” Szamosi told The Beat. “It’s alive and layered with meanings and memories. When I first moved to the East Village when I was seven, my street was famous for its shoe stores and head shops. Just like all those stores eventually closed and new ones opened, I laid new memories over old ones: lusting over Beanie Babies in the candy store window on my 8th birthday, getting a tattoo of “NYC” with a heart around it at fifteen, strolling on a first date with my now-husband… I like to imagine my stories overlapping with everyone else’s, all the people who have lived, died, and made memories on a single block.”

Szamosi also told The Beat about the inspiration behind her debut graphic novel. “In 2016 when I did the photo retouching internship that inspired Unretouchable, I remember being really struck by the barrage of advertising I experienced just getting from point A to point B. I ended up maxing out on NYC and in 2019 I moved to a place where I am no longer bombarded with underwear ads the moment I step out my door. Instead I get a much needed dose of nature and I couldn’t be happier. But I do miss NYC, which bombards me with more than just advertising – it bombards me with art and music and hijinks. It will always be my home- beautiful, hilarious, complicated, and the only name I will ever get tattooed on my ass.”

The process of writing and illustrating the book was a reflective one, Szamosi continued. “Creating Unretouchable, a fictional coming-of-age story set in NYC, was a way for me to return to and relish in my favorite city. I liked imagining how the main character, Olive, would relate to all the underwear ads and visual stimuli of NYC, as she learns what goes into the creation of these images and begins to dissect them. NYC was a perfect landscape for Olive to explore her relationship with the media around her and what her role in that media should be.”

Check out the exclusive excerpt from Unretouchable below. The graphic novel will be available in hardcover, graphic novel, and eBook formats next Tuesday, September 13th.