La Perdida is a story centered on the life of a young American woman (Carla), living abroad in Mexico. Although Abel herself lived in Mexico City for two years (1998–2000) with her (now) husband Matt Madden, the story is not autobiographical. La Perdida is an expressively illustrated, emotional / relationship - based comic with strong cultural overtones. During her stay in Mexico City as an American expatriate attempting to gain a greater knowledge of her Mexican heritage, Carla encounters a variety of people, eventually rejecting her role within the expatriate social hierarchy and attempting to achieve a more authentic experience of life as an "ordinary" citizen of Mexico. Her encounters prove time and time again, however, that the dismissal of her background is not easily achieved and she eventually reconciles with the universality of human nature (in controversion to her initial notions of authenticity). Along the way, she confronts the complexities of an age-old civilization, upheavals of conflicting politics, and the criminal undercurrents of Mexico City.
Abel's style of rendering is an expressive ink-and-brush method, emphasizing persons over objects. Abel devotes care, however, to depicting accurate and enthralling environments, as well as her complex characterizations of expression. Although the black & white brush technique has been used in other graphic novels to great effect (notably Frank Miller's Sin City or Jeff Smith's Bone), Abel's usage achieves and effect perhaps most credibly comparable to that of Art Spiegelman's Maus. Tight panels and gutters, often crowded with speech bubbles, identifies Abel's primary allegiance to dialogue in her works; this careful attention is supplemented further by her use of Spanish punctuation and vocabulary in her work (complete with glossary).