The Best We Could Do

by Thi Bui
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Content: There is talk of violence. It’s in the Graphic Novels-Nonfiction section of the bookstore.

I fit this in among my reading for school, partially because we were reading books by Asian authors, and one that Bui illustrated (and won a Caldecott honor for), A Different Pond, was on the list. I figured it was a good opportunity to read her graphic memoir, which I’d been meaning to read for years. (This is a theme with this class: I’m catching up on ones I have meant to read!)

It’s mostly the story of her parents, their lives in Vietnam before and during the war. Bui is exploring their trauma and how it relates to her, especially after she gave birth to her son. Her family fled Vietnam and came to the United States when she was young, and her parents weren’t terribly demonstrative in their affection. Bui, as she got older, wanted to understand their stories, and where they came from, in order to understand them, and by extension, herself.

Her parents’ stories were fascinating, and I learned a lot about Vietnam, a country I sadly know very little about. Her art style was simple – mostly line drawing on a muted color background – but effectively portrayed emotion and the story she was trying to tell.

A very good graphic novel.

Hooky

by Miriam Bonastre Tur
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Content: There is some bullying, and a few intense moments. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

I picked this up because it looked cute (“ooh! Witches!”). K saw it when I cam e home and delcared that she loved Hooky and had been following it on Webtoons for ages. So, of course I had to read it.

The basic story is witch twins Dani and Dorian missed the bus to their witch school, and so have to fin alternative schooling for the year because they don’t want their (somewhat powerful) parents to find out they’re not at school. There are adventures involving a missing prince, a princess who is determined to rescue said prince, a soothsayer who has determined that one of the twins was going to be the next witch king, a witches gathering… and many opportunities for growth and figuring out oneself. That makes it sound pretty mundane, but it wasn’t. I adored this – it’s fun, it’s cute, it’s got intense moments, and you definitely get attache to the characters. I’m a little bit disappointed it’s not a single story – the book ended on a bit of a cliffhanger, and I’m just glad I didn’t have to wait between segments!

It’s a cute fun graphic novel. I cant’ wait to read the rest of the story!

Heartstopper Vol 2 and 3

by Alice Oseman
Support your local independent bookstore buy it there! (volume 2, volume 3)
Others in the series: Volume 1
Content: There is a lot of swearing and talk of sex but none actual. It’s in the Graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Oh my heart.

I am totally on team Nick and Charlie. Their romance is the cutest, sweetest thing ever.

In volume 2, Charlie and Nick officially get together, but Nick — who has realized that he’s bi — isn’t quite ready to go public with it yet. That is quite all right with Charlie, because he was bullied last year when he was accidentally outed, and doesn’t want the same for Nick.

It’s super cute, full of clandestine kisses and Nick and Charlie slowly telling everyone that they’re together.

Volume 3 is a summer trip to Paris, learning about Nick’s family, and finally being comforanble being out together. Oh, and Charlie may have an eating disorder.

It was absolutely delightful to read these, even with the high school angst and the bullies and the homophobic families. Nick and Charlie have a fantastic relationship, and I am here for it.

Bring on Volume 4!

Heartstopper Volume 1

by Alice Oseman
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some bullying and a scene of sexual assault. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

I had seen this around the bookstore, and picked it up on a whim when we were in Chicago earlier this summer, with no idea what to expect. Turns out, it’s a very sweet love story between two boys – Nick, grade 10, and an out gay kid at the school; and Charlie, grade 11, a rugby player, who is not entirely sure about his orientation (is he gay? is he bi?) but knows that he really likes spending time with Nick.

There isn’t much story-wise: Nick has been having a secret romance with another kid, Ben, who is pretty toxic. He develops a friendship with Charlie when they are placed next to each other in class, and the friendship develops into a crush, but he thinks Charlie is straight. Charlie becomes a really good friend to Nick, but is struggling: he likes Nick as more than friend, but has always assumed he was straight. What did all that mean?

I really enjoyed this graphic novel! I liked that Oseman highlighted that boys can be on the receiving end of sexual assault, I liked Charlie’s open questioning (rather than shutting everything down), I liked Nick and Charlie as characters. The art isn’t super sophisticated, but it gets the job done, and doesn’t detract from the story.

It’s the first of at least a trilogy, and I will definitely be checking those out.

The Accursed Vampire

by Madeline McGrane
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Content: There is some blood and gore (um, vampires!). It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Dragoslava knows that being a vampire kid has its perks, but sometimes it’s not the greatest. Especially if you work for a demanding witch who sends you on her most unpleasant errands. The most recent being to fetch a grimoire from a former student and then curse the witch who stole it. So, off Dragoslava goes with their friends to do this job. What they find, though, is unexpected: a home and a family.

Oh this book was so charming! (I’m in the market for sweet, adorable, funny stories right now.) K heard about it on YouTube and asked me to pick it up, and I’m so glad I did. It’s sweet, it’s silly, it’s interesting, it’s well-told, the drawings are adorable, and I loved every moment reading this one. Drago and their friends are adorable and charming, and I adored the adult characters. It was a bit about finding confidence in yourself, a bit about found family, and a bit about being kind.

Exactly what I needed.

Ascendence of a Bookworm: Part 1, Vol 2-3

by Miya Kazuki
Illustrated by Suzuka
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there (vol 2, vol 3)!
Content: There is some violence and talk of death. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.
Others in the series: Part 1, Volume 1

We pick up where volume 1 left off: Myne is still trying to figure out how to make aper so she can make herself a book. She has got one of her father’s soldiers to teach her the alphabet, she tried making clay tablets but they exploded. She tried weaving paper but it took so much. So she focused on other things: being strong enough to walk to the forest. Heping her friend Lutz with his goals of being a merchant instead of a carpemnter. Figuring out the rules of this world she has found herself in.

It’s not easy: she is always rnning up against limitations with her body and the expectations of the adults around her. But she perseveres and keeps trying to achieve her goal.

It’s really a fun manga; I’m enjoying Myne and her story and the fish-out-of-water element as she brings the knowledge of her former life to this world. It’s a clever concept andit’s really well executed.

I can’t wait to read more!

Ascendance of a Bookworm: Part 1, Volume 1

by Miya Kazuki and Suzuka
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Content: Aside from it being a manga, which is kind of tricky to learn to read, there’s nothing. It’s in the manga section of the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Urano is a college student who loves books. Loves them so much that she surrounds herself with them. And, unfortunately, that is her downfall: she dies in a book-related accident. And then wakes up, reincarnated into 5 year old Myne, as a peasant in a world with a low literacy rate. It becomes Urano/Myne’s goal to find a book, and when she can’t find one, to make one.

My youngest told me that I would really like this manga series, and she’s right: it’s bookish, it’s cute, it’s fun. And unlike other isekai manga, this one is centered on a girl with a goal is really quite fun. I adored the fish-out-of-water aspect as Urano tries to figure out how to operate in this new world and body. And her focus on inding and then making a book is completely relatable.

So, yes, I have picked up the next few volumes of this one. I have found a magna that I like!

The Leak

by Kate Reed Petty and Andrea Bell
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Content: It’s got one kiss and some talk of making out. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Ruth Keller is 12 years old, and wants to be a journalist when she gets older. She runs a little newsletter, reporting on stories in her middle school and town. And then one day, she is out fishing at the town lake with her friend Jonathan, and she sees something weird: a mysterious sludge and a dead fish on the shore. Ruth sees a story — local companies must be polluting the lake – and runs with it. The problem is that she’s only 12, and adults aren’t listening to her. Well, that, and she kind of jumps to conclusions before she gets her facts right.

This is a really great little story not just about youth activism and awareness, but also about facts and truth and how stories can be affected by perspective. There were a couple of subplots that I didn’t care for — one involving Ruth’s older brother hand his girlfriend (who is a mentor to Ruth), and the other involving Ruth and Jonathan “liking” each other — but that didn’t take away from the charm and message of the main story.

A solid middle grade graphic novel.

The Girl from the Sea

by Molly Knox Ostertag
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Content: There is some kissing. It’s in the teen/adult graphic novel section of the bookstore, but I think younger kids who don’t mind a romance would like this one.

Morgan lives on a small island, where she has a good group of friends. However, this summer things are changing: her parents just got divorced, and Morgan has come to realize that she’s hiding a huge part of who she is: she’s gay. She figures just make it through high school, and get away from the small island town, and then she can live her Real Life.

Except the universe has different plans: Morgan meets Keltie, a strange girl with some secrets of her own. As the two girls get to know each other, things change a lot faster and a lot more than Morgan is ready for.

I have really enjoyed Ostertag’s other graphic novel series (there’s a third one I haven’t read yet) and this one is just as delightful. She captures the feelings of feeling isolated and different and wanting to feel like they fit in. She captures first love and trying to make it work with someone who is very different from you are. I adore her art and I think it works really well with the story she’s crafted.

Definitnely a real winner.

Firefly Legacy Volume 2

by  Joss Whedon, Zach Whedon, Chris Roberson, George Jeanty, Karl Story, and Stephen Byrne
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Others in the series: Firefly Legacy Volume 1
Content: There is some nudity and sex (but not graphic) and lots of violence. It’s in the graphic novels section of the bookstore.

While Volume 1 covered backstory and the time in between the series and Serenity, this volume of two longer stories and a short story picks up after the movie. Which means it’s more grim, Wash and Booke are dead (sorry: spoilers) and the world that Mal and his crew inhabit is an increasingly grim one. But they have their own little family on the ship. Inara has left being a companion and is with Mal, Kaylee and Simon are together. Jayne has left but comes back. And Zoe and River have formed a bond over Zoe’s baby. It’s sweet. Except the ‘verse and the Alliance won’t leave them alone. There’s a warrant out for Mal’s arrest because of the New Resistance, and the Alliance is still after River.

It’s a grim couple of tales, with a very sweet short story intermission, but ones that I felt were super compelling. I liked the first volume, but I really liked this second one. The multi-chapter format gave the stories room to grow and find depth, and (as always) the characters were compelling. I don’t think Kaylee and Simon had enough to do, but I did like Jayne’s crisis of conscience. And? The story isn’t over. It ended, sure, but there are lots more stories that could be told about the crew (and I am interested to see where this one goes next. If there is a next.)

Probably not a great place to pick up if you’re not familiar with the world-building, but a delight for fans.