EMG Graphic Novel Roundup 8

Last one!

Smaller Sister
by Maggie Edkins Willis
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Content: There is talk of eating disorders and body dysmorphia. As well as a lot of talk about crushes. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Born close together, Livy and Lucy were super close as kids. They played together, building imaginary worlds. It seemed to Lucy that they would always be inseparable. But then, their parents moved them to a different school and Livy became… different. She hung out with the popular girls, started talking a lot about boys, stopped eating, and (worst of all) stopped talking to Lucy. As things got worse, and Livy developed an eating disorder, Lucy was left to unravel things all by herself.

This one was just so good. I loved all the aspects of sisterhood that Willis touched upon, how the girls were close, and then grew apart as the oldest one got older. (They did make up in the end, and find their way back to friendship.) I also liked the focus on eating disorders from the outside. There is one scene, later when Lucy is in 6th grade when she decides to control her food, and Livy is able to talk to her and tell her from experience what was going on. It was an incredibly touching scene. A very good book.

Wingbearer
by Marjorie Liu and Teny Issakhanian
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Content: There are some intense/scary moments. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Zuli has been raised her whole life in the Great Tree, the place where the spirits of birds come to rest before being reborn. She is content there, communing with the birds, until the day that the spirits stop coming. Concerned, the birds send one of Zuli’s bird friends out to find out the cause, but when he doesn’t come back, Zuly and her companion Frowly set out into the wide world to find the problem. Once there, they find a world of danger, hardship, and a witch queen who wants to take over. On their journey, though, they find friendship and companionship, and most of all, Zuli finds out who she really is.

This is a really excellent hero’s journey tale. It has shades of Warrior Cats (there were at least a few pages that gave off strong Warriors vibes), but it’s still a solid tale. I love the world and the mythology that Liu has created and Issakhanian’s art is absolutely gorgeous. Definitely an excellent start to what could be a great series.

Play Like a Girl
by Misty Wilson and David Wilson
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Content: There is a bit of bullying and some friendship issues. It’s in the Middle Grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

In this graphic memoir, Wilson recounts her seventh-grade year when she was on the football team. She was always an active girl, in sports, and not really terribly feminine. So when the boys tell her she “can’t” play football, she sets out to prove them wrong. On the way, she loses a best friend – Bree, who doesn’t want to be all sweaty with the boys, but instead befriends the mean girl in the school, shunning Misty – and gains some new ones, as well as the respect of some of the boys (but not all) on the team. She learns new skills and works hard to play the best and hardest she can.

I’m always down for a girl in a non-traditional sports book, and this is a good one. I loved Misty’s determination to do anything she puts her mind to, even in the face of opposition from her teammates. I’m glad she had the support of some of the adults in her life, and I appreciated that Wilson didn’t shy away from the costs Misty paid for being on the football team. The art is really good as well. An excellent graphic novel all around.

YA Graphic Novel Roundup 5

Clementine: Book One
by Tillie Walden
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Content: There are zombies (duh), violence, and several deaths. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

This book is nominally set in the world of the Walking Dead (which I haven’t seen for Reasons), but all you have to know is that there are zombies all over, and non-zombies are rare. Clementine is traveling through the land, looking for… something… She finds an Amish community and then goes off with Amos who has started his rumspringa. They head north and end up in Vermont, on the top of a mountain, with three other girls. Trying to build buildings. In the winter. In Vermont. Of course, it goes badly.

I wanted to like this more than I actually did. Zombie stories can be pretty cool, but I don’t think that Walden did much that was new or interesting with the zombie threat. I did like Clementine and her fierce will to live – at one point she has someone cut off her bitten leg so she won’t be infected. But mostly, it was forgettable (and a bit implausible) for me.

перемога (Victory): Victory for Ukraine
by Tokyopop (there are a lot of writers and illustrators)
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: It’s war, so there is violence. It’s in the Graphic Novel section.

Written in the early days of the Russian invasion, this book is a series of short stories about how (and why) Ukraine will prevail against the Russian invading force. There is really no through plotline, but rather a bunch of different writers/artists being “Yay Ukraine!” and “Boo Russia!” In one story, there is a Ukrainian witch who defeats the Russians (every Ukrainian woman is fierce, and every second one is a witch!). And another story about Russians looting Ukrainian homes to send home state-of-the-art technology to their dirt hovels. And more stories about the sacrifice the Ukrainians are making and about how evil the Russians are.

There’s not a whole lot else to say about this one. In the end, I took it for what it was: War propaganda at its most.

Magical Boy
by The Kao
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Content: There is some cartoon violence. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Max is a trans boy and all he wants to do is figure high school out. The problem is that his parents – especially his mom – aren’t accepting of his being trans. Plus there are bullies at school who think that Max and his best friend, Jen, are an item (which makes them gay, if they don’t accept Max’s trans-ness) and make a big deal about it. It also doesn’t help that Max is part of a long line of magic girls who fight evil for this Goddess. What does one do if they’re supposed to be a magic GIRL if they are a BOY?

I wanted to like this a lot more than I did. It’s got a manga vibe to it, and I liked how inclusive it was. But, it just didn’t do much else for me. I think Welcome to St. Hell addressed the awkwardness and anxiety over gender dysphoria better, and even though this had a super-hero/chosen one element, it didn’t land for me. And it’s a volume 1? I’m not entirely sure where else this story has to go. Not bad, but not my favorite, either.

Unretouchable
by Sofia Szamosi
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There is mention of body image and eating disorders. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Olivia is a recent high school graduate living in New York City with her mom, who works at a high-profile golf magazine. She wants to go to an art school, and her mom sets up an internship with a digital-imaging specialist at Fash, the top fashion magazine. Olivia is excited to learn more about how art can be used commercially, but then she actually gets into it. She learns that pretty much any image that is published has been retouched: every model is made thinner, perfect, and flawless. And it’s not just the fashion industry: digitally altering/retouching images is everywhere. Olivia even learns that one of her favorite influencers is a digital construct. It makes her question everything: the purpose of art, the prevalence of digital images, and what she wants to be when she grows up.

I really liked this one. The art is reminiscent of Persepolis, done all in black and white and with angular lines. But I really liked the exploration of body image and our perceptions of our bodies and how media/industry uses that against us. it was fascinating and important and just a good story of a girl figuring (some) things out.

Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands
by Kate Beaton
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There is swearing, including many f-bombs. There are also instances of sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

After college, saddled with debt and no lucrative job prospects, Beaton decides to head out west to Alberta to work for the companies that mine the oil sands. It’s hard work – though she mostly works in the tool shed and the offices – in camps with very little time off. The workforce is mostly male; Beaton comes across very few women in the two years that she works out there. She puts up with a lot: harassment from the men, being hit on, being put down. She is even raped (twice? I think?). But, it pays well, and by the end of the two years, she is completely debt-free.

This was a hard one to read. The oil sands are a hard place, and Beaton doesn’t shy away from the difficult things that happened. She is open about the harassment, but also not harsh on the men; there’s a panel where she explains that she understands that the men are far away from their families and have needs. I don’t think she’s excusing their behavior, just that things are different out there. I’m still not quite sure if I liked it, though. I do think it’s important – look at the things that capitalism and patriarchy have wrought – but it’s not one I’m going to read over and over again. Still: quite good.

Heartstopper Volume 4

by Alice Oseman
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Others in the series: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3
Content: There is a handful of swearing, including a few f-bombs. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

This picks up almost immediately after Volume 3: Nick and Charlie are still in the first parts of a relationship, one where they love spending time together. It’s still summer, and Nick is going to go on vacation soon. But Charlie is anxious: he wants to tell Nick that he loves themhim, bu twonders if the timing is worng. Nick has his own concerns: he cares about Charlie, and has noticed that Charlie has issues about eating. It’s a lot to handle, and Nick isn’t sure what he should do.

This one covers a lot of time: from the initial few days and then the weeks that Nick is gone on vacation, it skips ahead: first to New Year’s Eve, where nick catches us up on the previous few months, and then to March, where Charlie takes his turn. It doesn’t have s solid resolution, but rather a very hopeful one.

I like that while this is a book full of queer people it’s not a book that dwells on its queerness, but rather its a fact of life. It was remarkably matter-of-fact about it all. Charlie and Nick have an incredibly healthy relationship, and it shows them dealing with problems and issues in a mostly healthy manner. It’s delightful andcute, and very resfresting. I adore this series, and can’t wait for volume 5!

The Girls at 17 Swann Street

by Yara Zgheib
First sentence: “I call it the Van Gogh bedroom.”
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There is frank discussion of eating disorders and some mild swearing. If the girls were younger, it’d be a Teen book, but because they’re in their 20s, it lands in Adult Fiction. It’d be appropriate for teenagers, though.

Anna has moved to St. Louis from Paris because her husband, Matthias, got a job here. She was a ballerina, but injured herself and has been off dancing for a while. And when she moved to the states, she couldn’t find a dancing job. One thing led to another, and it soon turned out that the only thing that Anna really could control was her eating. And control it she did, right down to 88 pounds.

Which is why she ended up at 17 Swann Street, a treatment house for those with eating disorders, primarily anorexia and bulimia.

The book follows Anna through six weeks of treatment, while we find out how she ended up at 17 Swann Street through flashbacks. We get to know some of the other patients, but only through Anna’s eyes, as well as Anna’s personal struggles with body image and food.

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. Partially was visual: there was just too many italics. I know it’s a little thing, but I got tired of reading in italics and felt that they were unnecessary. But, beyond that, I felt that this was kind of clinical, and I was kept at an arm’s distance from really feeling like I was involved in it. Maybe it was me (I have my issues with food, but not a full-blown eating disorder), but I just didn’t connect with Anna or her story. I felt it was all a bit too… pat, for lack of another word.

It’s not a bad book — I finished it, after all — but it’s not the best I’ve read either.

Lighter Than My Shadow

by Katie Green
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some disturbing images and language, as well as depictions of sexual assault. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

This is a graphic memoir depicting Green’s journey and experience with eating disorders. She frames it as reflections from an adult perspective, looking back on her childhood, teens, and twenties as she struggles with anorexia and binge eating. It’s a very frank look — both at the way she perceived herself, but also the small things others around her, from her family to her friends to other students, said that contributed to her negative self-image.

Green tries many treatments, from the hospital to therapy to alternative therapy, but nothing seems to work. She thinks she’s “cured” at one point, but it’s really just a different manifestation for her need for control, which is the root problem.

Green’s not saying that her experience is typical of all anorexic’s experiences. But, that there is something of value in telling her story. And I think there is. I could see some of myself in her; while I have never been anorexic, I do have an inherent dislike of my body, and while I try not to pass that on to my girls, there are times when I’m afraid I have through little things I have unintentionally said.  I want them to have a healthy relationship with food, with their body, and reading books like this help me figure out how to help them have that.

I also really liked how the art reflects the story; Green does amazing things with darkness and shadow and fading images. It not only helped tell the story, it intensified it, giving a depth to this particular story that wouldn’t have come through in a prose book.

A very, very good book.