Search

Graphic Novelty²

Tag

YA

My School Library Journal reviews

I have been reviewing YA books (plus one graphic novel!) for the magazine School Library Journal for a year now, but haven’t really advertised that I was doing so, as this blog mostly revolves around graphic novels, but I thought why not share these great books since I’m (half) boss of this blog! Reviewing has been interesting, as I am limited to 250-300 words for each review, and can only share once it has been published with their edits. All the books have been worthwhile, so afterward I’ve purchased them for my library collections once they are available for purchase.

Better You Than Me by Jessica Brody

Two 12-year old girls, Disney-esque star Ruby Rivera and her biggest fan Skyler Welshman, meet on the set of Ruby’s hit television show and improbably switch bodies by accident. At first, thrilled with the situation, each tween believes the other has the better life in this Freaky Friday-like storyline. Due to various scheduling constraints, the girls plan to meet in several days to switch back. Meanwhile, each girl’s assumptions about one another are put to the test as they struggle to cope with scenarios they never expected and to make the best of their new lives. Brodt takes a common trope and freshens it up with realistic details. Whats starts out as a formulaic plot device evolves into a strong story about appreciating friends and family and making good choices. The alternating chapters with each girl’s perspectives gave each chapter a distinctive voice.

* Review published in the September 2018 issue of School Library Journal on page 102.

Second Star by JM Sullivan

Peter Pan is reconceptualized in this futuristic space fantasy with rogue Captain Hooke crash landing on the mysterious planet Neverland as his crew was mutinying. Ace mechanic Peter and his motley group of deserters take refuge away from the main ship and settle into life away from the devious captain. One hundred years in the future, the Londonierre Brigade receives a transmission from Hooke, and newly appointed Captain Wendy Darling leads her own crew across space to rescue the survivors of the Jolly Rodger. Once they arrive, loyalties are tested and the two crews fight an evil that could consume the universe.

Alternating chapters between Peter and Wendy’s point-of-view establish the character’s backstories, however, the world-building is slow before the story begins to gain momentum in the last half of the book.  Author JM Sullivan works mightily to stay within the classic story’s framework, but sometimes to the detriment of the story. A cliff-hanger sets up the narrative for a sequel, which might allow the series to evolve as it won’t need to hew so closely to the original fairytale.

*The review can be found online here.

All The Walls of Belfast by Sarah Carlson

American teen Fiona travels to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to reunite with her father whom she has not seen since she was a toddler. Having no memories of her older half brothers or her birthplace, Fiona tentatively begins to get to know her family and explores her culture and community. She discovers her Catholic father was formally a key member of the IRA and his bombs killed many people during The Troubles, a time when ethnonationalism led to violence between Catholics and Protestants. Fiona meets Danny, a Protestant who is studying for his school finals and wishes to join the British Army as a nurse against his gangster father’s wishes. The two begin to see one another, but their parents’ pasts threaten their relationship.

Alternating chapters between Fiona and Danny establish their family dynamics, and then allows the reader to root for them as their believable romance blossoms. Author Carlson creates an atmospheric narrative, explaining just enough of the current political and cultural landscape to understand how the walls running through Belfast still affect both communities on either side of it.  The story doesn’t shy away from showing gritty reality and dysfunctional families that are partly due to the conflicts that ended only fairly recently. This contemporary drama has an appealing romance and the nuanced story may push teens to think critically about religious and cultural differences, and ultimately about forgiveness.

*Not chosen for publication

Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir and Sarah Andersen

Dorothy from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Peter Pan’s Wendy are now teens and very misunderstood- no one else believed their wild stories, and they were diagnosed as delusional. However, the teachers at the boarding school Cheshire Crossing believe them and know that each one possesses amazing powers. When the girls’ fantasy worlds collide and Captain Hook and the Wicked Witch of the West band together, the three teens must harness their talents to save humanity. Weir, author of the sci-fi book The Martian, and Andersen known for her funny webcomic Sarah’s Scribbles, may seem an unlikely pair, but they pull it off admirably if not perfectly. The world-hopping is at times confusing and the character of Nanny is unnecessary. Several swear words and references to sex make the tale more appropriate for a YA audience, although the charming illustrations might attract younger readers. The art is appealing, with eye-catching details. A lovely red poppy motif appears throughout the narrative and Anderson uses bold colors to depict the fantasy realms. The epilogue hints that the girls’ adventures are not done, with another familiar villain ready to take center stage.

*Review published in the June 2019 issue of School Library Journal on page 86.

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Violet is an out-of-control NYC teen who is shipped off to her mother’s hometown in coastal Maine after her younger brother attempts suicide and her parents try to get a handle on both of their children’s problems. While living with her uncle, Violet is forced to volunteer at the aquarium in town. While there, she makes friends with some of the local teens and begins to research her family’s origins, with help from her new friends Orion and Liv. Supposedly her great-great-grandmother survived a shipwreck and was a founder of the community. Violet’s search for answers about her mysterious ancestor mirrors some of the journey she and her brother Sam are on.

Debut author Drake has created an authentic and romantic tale, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, that shows that life can be embraced again even after enduring a tragedy. Teen sexuality is respectfully addressed with a frankness that is welcomed. The realities of questioning yourself and the deep emotions that go with falling in love are ably displayed with the burgeoning relationship between Violet and Liv. Sibling bonds and the importance of family also balance out this narrative about battling grief and building bridges to a better tomorrow.

* The on-line review can be found here.

Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart

Ava has endured soul-crushing tragedy- her parents and cousin perished in a house fire, leaving Ava the sole survivor but with terrible burns all over her body. One year late she is released from the hospital after enduring skin grafts and surgeries. Moving in with her aunt and uncle who are grieving the loss of their daughter, Ava is encouraged to go back to high school, but she resists knowing her considerable scars will make it hard to make friends. In a support group, she meets Piper, another burn survivor from her new school, and the two girls bond together while trying to navigate their new realities. Ava is encouraged to get involved with the school play, as she had loved singing and the drama department at her old school. But Ava has to endure the cruelties of some, while also discovering new allies and a resolve she never knew she had.

The research that debut author Stewart did to write such an insightful book about burn recovery is evident. She also capably showed how Ava and her aunt and uncle come together to form a new family unit despite crushing grief. Stewart also captures the highs and lows of teen friendship. An interesting facet of the friendship between Ava and Piper was the often unhealthy dynamic between the two and could push teens to explore where they would draw the line regarding boundaries between friends. Ava’s journey toward healing, both physically and mentally, is thought-provoking. Not all scars are evident to the eye, and this narrative will push readers to think deeply about empathy, hope, and resilience in the face of heartbreak.

*The online review can be found here.

I have another book review that I just submitted, so perhaps down the line, I’ll share again once I have several to post.

-Nancy

Advertisements

Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale

Fifteen-year-old Selina Kyle has been through a lot in life already. Her mom, a waitress, has had a string of boyfriends, each crueler than the last. Dernell, the latest, tops them all. Selina reaches her breaking point and leaves home, striking out on her own and living on the streets. Her street smarts and quick, sticky fingers ensure she doesn’t go hungry or get hurt, even by the so-called Gotham Growler that’s been prowling the streets at night. When she meets Ojo, a parkour expert and fellow street kid like her, he offers her a place in his found family, and the next heist they’re planning. Selina refuses, believing she doesn’t need anyone. But maybe even lone cats need a family, every once in a while.

There was a lot going on in this one. At the forefront is Selina herself: her struggles with her home life, her feelings of hopelessness and despair, and her determination to never rely on anyone again. This is a Selina perfect for a young adult audience. Perhaps teens who read this will also be grappling their own broken homes and horrible feelings associated with it. As Selina shows us, it’s okay to open up and accept help every once in a while from those loved ones who offer it.

The review I read before it was published made it sound like the Gotham Growler was going to be a prominent part of the story, but it was very minimal. We don’t even find out who he is or why he’s attacking people in the end, which was pretty disappointing. And even though there is a thieving element, it is played down as well, to allow Selina and the tentative relationships she forges with the other street kids (and renews with one Bruce Wayne) to come forward.

Author Lauren Myracle is no stranger to teenage feelings and situations in her work (she’s written the ttyl books), but I was very surprised artist Isaac Goodhart is a relatively new face. His CV consists of a bare half-dozen titles, and this is his first DC title. Given his short career, I was amazed at the quality of his work. The whole book is in hues of deep, moody blues and purples, with pale yellow accents. His linework is precise, yet expressive. The audience will appreciate that writer nor artist held back with the deep and hurtful stuff.

As an adult, I found some plot points to be too convenient, but overall this DC Ink title will satisfy the intended YA audience. This dynamic duo pull no punches in this imagining of Selina Kyle’s teenage years. Though the story is hard, Selina’s inner strength and determination will be what stays with readers. I will be watching for more of Goodhart’s work, and I sure hope he and Myracle team up again in the future!

– Kathleen

Myracle, Lauren, and Isaac Goodhart. Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale. 2019.

Comics Will Break Your Heart

I am a huge fan of Faith Erin Hicks- as I love her graphic novel Friends with Boys and her Nameless City trilogy, so when I saw that she had written her first YA chapter book, I jumped to read it.

Set in Canada (FEH’s home country) this sweet novel tackles first love, with a Romeo and Juliet framework for teens Miriam and Weldon. Years ago Miriam’s grandfather illustrated the comic book Tomorrow Men, but sold his rights to the author before it hit big, as happened IRL to too many artists back in the early days of DC and Marvel (as such the title is based off a quote from artist Jack Kirby who never made it as big as his sometimes writing partner Stan Lee). Now Weldon’s family is reaping the profits as the comic is poised to be the next big movie series, while Miriam’s family lives modestly even after a settlement was made in court. There has been bad blood between the families for decades when the teens meet and begin to fall for one another. I really appreciated there was no instant love, as far too many books use that trope, instead it was gradual and realistic steps towards romance with Weldon showing his interest first. While there was the obligatory misunderstanding that almost derails the relationship, the story ended on a good note at a big comic con which was apropos to the theme of the narrative. This novel gets a definite recommendation from me for it was a lovely ode to nerd culture and love.

The website AV Club had a great article and a FEH graphic to describe the book and the origin of Kirby’s supposed quote. Despite the publicity picture below, the only art is found on the front and back cover of the book. While I missed FEH’s illustrations, her story stood on it’s own!

-Nancy

The Sleeper and The Spindle

A reimagined fairytale combining parts of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty into one story, that because of the author Neil Gaiman, you know will be a dark and whimsical tale.

Snow White is about to have her wedding and her happily ever after, but she’s really not into her Prince and would rather have an adventure without him. She kisses him goodbye and heads off with three dwarfs to look into a sleeping sickness she heard about in the kingdom over. You are already off-kilter from that start, and the rest of the story follows suit. When she arrives at the castle you assume you are about to meet Sleeping Beauty, and are half expecting a romance to develop between the two women. But that’s not where Gaiman goes, and the surprise ending elevates this short story.

The book is more a novella with lots of illustrations, too long and mature in theme to be a children or even a junior book, but not quite a teen book or a graphic novel either. I enjoyed the twist ending but it is really Chris Riddell’s illustrations in black and white with gold leaf that pushes the book beyond a simple fractured fairytale. His illustrations are lush and detailed, with the gold touches used to great affect. This story is worth a read, especially if your like your fairy tales a bit on the creepy side.

-Nancy

Gaiman, Neil & Chris Riddell. The Sleeper and the Spindle. 2014.

Drama

Last Friday, I skipped writing a book review and instead wrote the definitive answer to who is the best cinematic Chris (Chris Pine of course), so this week my reading public has the pleasure of two book reviews from me!

As a teen librarian, I am in charge of leading two graphic novel book clubs- one for middle school youth, and the other for high school and early college teens. This month we read Drama by Raina Telgemeier, who is a favorite of the middle school set, and this particular story was requested after we read Ghosts a few months back. As coincidence would have it, the 2017 Top 10 Challenged Book list came out the week before we read it, and Drama is on it again! Continue reading “Drama”

Speak: The Graphic Novel

The 1999 YA novel Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was a poignant, uncomfortable but terribly necessary novel about a teen-aged girl surviving rape.  It is on many school reading lists, but also has been banned by some school districts for it’s mature content. In fact I had a long conversation with a conservative friend about the book, when our children read it during middle school for an English class, and whether parents and students should have the choice to opt out of reading it.

This graphic novel adaptation recently came out and was penned by the author and illustrated by Emily Carroll, best known for her eerie graphic short story collection Through the Woods. Carroll was an excellent choice, as her inky black, white and gray panels perfectly captures Melinda’s depression and internal struggle. Her depiction of realistic looking teens gives it a timelessness, so that you don’t even notice that no one has a cell phone, as it is based in the time frame it was originally written in.

As Melinda begins high school she knows she is an outcast, as most of the school knows she is the one who called the police to bust a drinking party a few weeks prior. Her former best friend Rachel won’t  associate with her and other students jeer at and bully her. Her only friend is Heather, a new student, who doesn’t know her past. Melinda’s depression is quickly established and the ongoing closeups of her bitten bloody lips that signify her anxiety establish Melinda’s descent. Her parents’s marriage struggles blind them to their daughter’s muteness and retreat from society. It is only much later in the book that we discover the real reason for Melinda’s struggles- her rape by a popular senior at the summer party. I do not feel I am spoiling anything by saying Melinda was assaulted, for I feel most readers picking this book up are aware of the novel’s subject matter.

The narrative covers a school year, and in the end Melinda grows stronger and has some hard-won redemption. This adaptation, at 372 pages long, compared to the 198 pages of the chapter book, still had me at the edge of my seat during the scary confrontation between her and her rapist at the conclusion. I truly was impressed that this version is as strong as Anderson’s first book, and perhaps even more so, as Carroll’s illustrations aptly depict this difficult subject matter and Melinda’s journey towards recovery.

As to my earlier conversation with my friend about the subject matter, I voiced that I felt it was too important a topic to ignore, and students should read it. I stand by that opinion and would recommend it to teen readers who all should be educated as to the horrors and fall-out of sexual assault.

-Nancy

Anderson, Laurie Halse & Emily Carroll. Speak. Text 1999 & Pictures 2018.

Top 5 Wednesday: Book Covers You’d Live In

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

As some of you may know, I’m also an artist! I looooove me a well-done book cover. Here are some I love so much I’d just crawl in and stay there!

gunslinger-reborn

5. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born by Stephen King

The backstory to the titular Gunslinger in Stephen King’s weird Western series. I’m not sure that I’d necessarily want to live in the world of the Gunslinger, but the art in this GN is so beautiful and dark and hypnotic, I’d want to go at least for a visit. A short one =P (Review of this one upcoming!)

 

18798983

4. The Wrath and the Dawn by Reneé Ahdieh

A retelling of the “Thousand and One Nights” with a female heroine. The peek-a-boo nature of this cover is brilliant, and reflects the shadowed intentions of some of the characters. What I wouldn’t give to wander an Arabian palace with screens and decorations like this pattern!

22501055

3. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

A YA Western adventure novel featuring heroines and heroes of color. I fell in love with the colors and silhouettes of this cover. It makes me want to roam free and be wild! But then settle down and watch the brilliant sunset ;D

multi-toned252520blue252520with252520silver252520sparkles

2. The Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz

A favorite guilty pleasure series of mine when I was a teenager, featuring vampires of New York’s richest set. I’ve always loved these covers, and each one depicts a different city featured in the novels as the main characters go on their adventures. The silhouetted skylines make me dream of wandering these cities on my own someday.

 

51mii4p2yyl-_sx258_bo1204203200_

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay

The original covers will always have a place in my heart, but I think this cover perfectly captures the spirit and wonder of Harry’s world. Besides, if I were in this cover, I’d be on my way to Hogwarts! =P

Who wants to climb in here with me?

– Kathleen

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite LGBTQ+ Reads

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

I admit I haven’t read a whole lot of LGBTQ+ fiction, but I will do my best!

19547856

5. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon’s email falls into the wrong hands, and he’s suddenly being blackmailed into playing wingman for the hacker – or both Simon and the boy he’s been emailing (who, by the way, he has a huge crush on) will be outed. A funny story about friendship and family and figuring out who you are.

24727094

4. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

I spoiled my own post… the official review is coming in 2 weeks! Maggie develops a crush on a camp counselor one summer – a crush that would be innocent enough, if the counselor in question wasn’t also a girl. Heartbreaking and a too-real portrayal of teenage girlhood.

18090059

3. Great by Sara Benincasa

A modern retelling of The Great Gatsby, featuring a fashion blogger and a senator’s daughter as the reincarnations of Jay and Daisy, respectively. A fresh take on an old tale with all the sumptuous summer setting and gossip you could want.

6911529

2. Batwoman: Elegy, written by Greg Rucka

A new cult in Gotham is obsessed with Batwoman – and why they do reveals a painful family secret. Batwoman’s sexuality isn’t a surprise to anyone, but her stages of coming out are revealed through poignant flashbacks.

51smenwjsll-_sx320_bo1204203200_

1. DC Bombshells, written by Marguerite Bennett

An AU in which DC heroines serve in World War II covertly while their male counterparts are on the front lines. Batwoman is one of the main characters, but feelings bloom between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, and it’s hinted there were past relations between Wonder Woman and Mera ;D

Any recommendations for us? =D

– Kathleen

Guest Post on the Green Onion Blog

Believe it or not, but I read many other genres than Graphic Novels! Check out my guest post on the Green Onion Blog about one of my favorite books, Eleanor & Park!

The book has some issues of bullying in it, which connects into the timely #AntiBullyReads 2016 readathon that runs from November 14-20th. This Readathon is created and run by Sarah Churchill with the aim to start discussions about bullying and our bid to stand up for those who need it and never be a bystander. Check out this Goodreads page for more info!

-Nancy

Picture from the talented Simini Blocker!

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑