The Alchemist: A Graphic Novel is My Gift to 2020 Grads

alchemist graphic novel

2020 was supposed to be everyone’s year. We’d marked the date for one reason or another – my first big move is now on hold – but now that COVID-19 has put everyone inside and on punishment in order to stay safe, there’s not one group of us that my heart goes out to more than high school seniors. They won’t get to walk the stage for graduation, party it up for prom or any of the other activities that mark the momentous leap into adulthood.

While normally your cool auntie or childhood friend’s mom would gift you a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go along with a few gift cards, now that we should all be staying our asses at home, that book feels a little off target. Instead, I offer The Alchemists graphic novel adaptation of a classic fable from Paulo Coelho. This tale of a shepherd who sells his flock to embark on a quest for treasure and soon finds himself with nothing, deals with omens, listening to your heart, and when to give up everything you know for your ultimate desire. 

Young adults should relate. A graduation canceled by a global pandemic qualifies for some kind of omen, I’m sure. 


sample page of The Alchemist

Santiago may be a little gullible, but who hasn’t been.

My year started with an omen, too. On January 28, it took about five seconds of standing in my boss’ office with the man from HR to realize I was being laid off for the second time in three years (and in a January no less!). At that moment I wasn’t devastated or really disappointed. I had been manifesting a new daily routine with my passions driving the way, so it just confirmed that the universe was making way for my heart’s desires. I’d been tasked with seeing my plans through, and learning to adapt when situations change. I was Santiago, ready to venture out into the world without my sheep, faced with an energizing possibility.

Reading the novel is an almost whimsical experience as Coelho’s magical tapestry of proverbs and symbolism make it easy for readers to find common threads on their own journeys. The graphic novel feels the same way, buoyed by gorgeous illustrations from artist Daniel Sampere that bring each character and setting to life.

I own both the graphic novel and novel versions of The Alchemist so I can have the different reading experiences on hand. The book can feel like a study text, my current copy is filled with tabs and margin notes, because you’ll want to return to its pages when the world stops making sense. But when you just want to soak in Coelho’s world, the graphic novel becomes an oasis in solitude. 

To the class of 2020, I know you may be unsure where their next steps will take you, or when. But the universe is still waiting to help you find or follow your passions. Every season comes with a lesson, and I hope that whatever you find yours to be, you know that there is still life to live. The Alchemist is my gift of reassurance that no matter what’s ahead, there’s still life to guide you and a universe conspiring to get you everything you desire if you listen to your heart.

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Princess McDowell is a poet, writer and journalist from Dallas, Texas, and Rebellious Magazine's Special Projects Editor. She's also a cohost of the Feminist Erotica Podcast. As a writer-in-rebellion, Princess reviews graphic novels. She can be reached at