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Real Life Superheroes

Did you know… that there are actual real-life superheroes?

It’s true! Reporter Nadia Fezzani interviewed, trained with, and even patrolled with multiple people who participate in the “Real Life Superhero” (or RLSH) movement. These people dress in costumes and body armor and go out and fight crime, keep the peace in their neighborhoods, or provide supplies and relief to the poor, homeless, or disaster-stricken. They also are active online and have created a sort of support group for themselves.

Fezzani interviewed multiple RLSHs both in person and over email and telephone. She asks questions about their early and personal lives, the inspiration for their costumes, what their signature method of superheroism is, and more. She wanted to understand why the RLSHs do what they do, and how they differ. Many of these heroes have had difficult lives, many have families and jobs, and some have even been arrested and done jail time. But they all have something in common: they were inspired by the fictional heroes of their youth, and they want to give back to their community.

And, of course, you can’t have superheroes without supervillains! Fezzani takes the time to talk to some real live supervillains (RLSVs). They range from online trolls to actual villainous organizations, but for the most part, a lot of the villains feel they are foils to the heroes. They sort of police the RLSH community, to weed out the “heroes” who only call themselves so for the online fame, for the media attention, or who harass other heroes. Some of the real-life villains and heroes are even friends! (Now there’s something you don’t find often in the comic books =P )

The book is short – barely over 200 pages – but I found myself stopping and mulling over it a lot. Fezzani writes succinctly, and yet, there’s a lot of food for thought. The reader becomes just as fascinated as Fezzani herself did about these heroes, and one can’t help thinking about their formative years, the events that made them into heroes, the dangers they face. It’s a world that shouldn’t be real, and yet is, and it’s somewhat hard to fathom after trying so hard to convince yourself it can’t be!

Yet, at the same time, you might even find yourself brainstorming about your superhero name would be and what your costume would look like.

There isn’t a lot of graphic violence in this book, which makes it excellent for teen or squeamish readers (like me), who want to learn more about the RLSH movement but who might not want any blood and guts. Again, it’s a short read at just over 200 pages. The pages are filled with larger-than-life characters who truly want to make their communities, and the world, a better place. It’s both humbling and inspiring. A fascinating glimpse into an unreal – but very real – world.

– Kathleen

Fezzani, Nadia. Real Life Super Heroes. 2017.

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Super You: Releasing Your Inner Superhero

Gordon, Emily V. Super You: Releasing Your Inner Superhero. 2015.

I figured a while back I needed to work on myself. I’m not perfect. I know I’m not! No one is! But recently I’ve decided that it’s okay, that I’m a work in progress (it sounds a lot nicer than a hot mess, which up until now is what I’ve referred to myself as). And what would a budding librarian use to improve herself? A book, of course! I chose this book in particular because of all the comic book references, which was sure to put me at ease.

The book is laid out beautifully. The table of contents at the front is good, but then the chapters themselves are broken down into digestible chunks. You start out by identifying the kind of person you want to be. You learn to recognize and highlight your best qualities, and own up to them! It’s okay to be good at stuff and you should be proud! You recognize your weaknesses and learn to accept and work with them. We are all flawed, and it’s important to recognize and accept your flaws if you’re to get better at loving yourself. Sprinkled throughout are tables, freewriting exercises, questions, and speech bubbles with fun comic facts related to what the chapter is talking about.

Gordon writes with empathy and in a conversational tone. You feel like you’re taking this journey with a good friend and mentor. She never makes you feel ashamed for picking her book up and wanting to work on yourself. For teens and young adults, the demographic this book was written for, this is HUGELY important. It was really important to me, and I was immediately comfortable opening the book and beginning to read. All the comic book references made me feel at home, too!

After finishing it, I feel like I am better equipped to handle my emotions and flaws. I didn’t believe her at the beginning when she says keeping a notebook dedicated to this book would be handy, but it really did help! I can look back on this journal now and see where my journey went.

The thing that resonated most with me and made me keep going was the very beginning of chapter one, the identity chapter. She outlines the different identities, or personas, she has kept her whole life. She goes on to explain that each of these personas was really her, but parts of her personality were toned up or down at the time in order to fit her needs at the time:

Every choice you make is a reflection of you doing your best with what you have in front of you. For example, my Punk Rock Stepford Wife was a hard, walls-up kind of girl, but at that point in my life, I couldn’t handle being vulnerable to other people That persona protected me until I felt ready to exist without those walls (14).

That sentence hit me like a ton of bricks. I was then able to identify EXACTLY where my comparable walls-up persona was in my life, why I needed her at the time, and why she was back in my life now, which was exactly why I picked this book up. It was my wake up call.

Emily V. Gordon has written an excellent book. She gives you the tools you need to better yourself without making you feel ashamed for reading a self-help book. She writes with empathy and eloquence and incorporates nerd culture into her book to help teens and young adults feel more at home, and make them feel that they can become a superhero – the very best version of themselves possible. I personally am deeply grateful to her for having written it, and I’m sure many others are, too. Highly recommended.

– Kathleen

Fairy Tale Retellings

(Inspired by this tumblr post from tumblr user thesepaprhearts)

And now for something completely different!!!

When I’m not reading comics or graphic novels, I love a good fantasy. Epic, urban, alternate universe… I love them all. But I do have one guilty pleasure.

Young adult fairy tale retellings.

I think part of this stems from the fact that I read a lot of them when I was younger. They were kind of a gateway into the fantasy genre as a whole for me, as well as historical fiction. I loved how an author could take a timeless tale and mold it into something new yet familiar. I’m laughing as I write this remembering all the fanfiction I used to write in the same vein, including one I started while I was in college and never finished. There’s something innately attractive about taking something old and making it new.

Here are some of my favorite ones:

  • I love Donna Jo Napoli. She was one of my favorite authors growing up, and for a while she wrote exclusively YA fairy tale retellings based in historical fiction. Beast (Beauty and the Beast) is my favorite of her books, but I also love Sirena (The Little Mermaid), and Zel (Rapunzel). Her prose is poetic and she draws her characters with depth and emotion.
  • East by Edith Pattou is a beautiful retelling of East of the Sun and West of the Moon. I had no idea this fairy tale even existed before I picked up the book, and it’s now one of my favorites of all time. The book is told from multiple points of view, and while the narrative is cohesive, all the voices are distinct.
  • I discovered these only last year, because the author is one I read regularly. Lilith Saintcrow writes under the pen name Lili St. Crow for her YA novels. Her Tales of Beauty and Madness trilogy retell Snow White, Cinderella, and Little Red Riding Hood. These tales are detailed and beautifully haunting with just a dash of horror.
  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is a blend of Middle Eastern and Greek stories. The prose is absolutely beautiful. It reads like silk sliding over your skin. The plot revealed itself a tad too soon but the book was written so beautifully I spent exactly .2 seconds being upset about it.
  • The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh was sort of the same, but I didn’t like it as much because of the writing and the (forced) romance implicit in a retelling of 1001 Nights with a female protagonist.
  • Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson took the Bluebeard tale and transported it to the Mississippi swamps before the Civil War. Great dose of Southern Gothic in this one~ (even if the inevitable love triangle was vexing)
  • And an upcoming one! Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter is supposed to be a retelling of Vassilissa the Beautiful and Baba Yaga. I’m quite excited to read it =D

… That got away from me a bit XD I love these things though!!! I was so inspired when I saw the tumblr post linked above and it just got my gears turning. Hope you guys enjoyed my tangent =D

– Kathleen

Ready Player One

RPO
Cline, Ernest. Ready Player One. 2011.

As an avid reader, I’m always excited when a new book vaults to the top of my favorites list, and this book did so! While not a graphic novel (but, God, it would make a great one!), with all the 80’s pop culture references & geek culture throughout…this book was made for me.

The year is 2044 and the world is in shambles, with society choosing to live their lives online, in a massive multiplayer world called OASIS. The creator of this virtual game, James Halliday, has recently died and has left an “easter egg” hunt for players to compete for his estate worth billions. The gamers have to decipher his many layered riddles, having to study pop culture and Dungeons and Dragons mythology to understand the clues. Years have gone by with no one solving the puzzle, so enter Wade Watts, a young man with no real life who spends all his time trying to find the clues to Halliday’s first riddle. Amazingly he figures it out, which puts him on the scoreboard and brings the world’s attention to the hunt for the egg. Wade’s online friendships are tested, and his real family is threatened as professional gamers go to any lengths to beat Wade to the next level. Quests are mounted, battles are fought, betrayals occur; but also, a real romance is brewing between Wade and Art3mis, a competitor of his. You must read to find out how his online and real world’s collide and how things turn out. While at times the story almost veered into ridiculousness, it stayed the course, and was just so flippin’ awesome!

Wil Wheaton (Star Trek TNG) narrates the audio version of the book, and him reading it was a stroke of genius, for it was so meta-he even mentioned himself…swoon, I just had a nerdgasm. This EPIC book should be on everyone’s to-read lists, and I eagerly look forward to the movie based off the book that is being directed by Steven Spielberg and slated for release in 2018.

-Nancy

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