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.

Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie

by Lisa Napoli
First sentence: “On August 18, 2019, Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs Roberts, age seventy-five, did what she’d done for thousands of Sundays.”
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Content: There is some swearing, including a couple of f-bombs. It’s in the biography section of the bookstore.

Nominally, this is a history of how NPR became what it is today. Napoli focuses on the four women who were hired near the beginning of NPR’s tenure. Although she briefly illustrates the four women’s pasts and how they landed at NPR, the majority of the book is about the influence they had on shaping the way NPR became the influential reporting pwoerhosue that it is today.

I picked this up because I really liked Dinners with Ruth, and I was curious to know more about how NPR became NPR. It’s billed as the story of the women, but it’s really the story of NPR as a whole. There were ups and downs that I didn’t know about as NPR struggled to become relevant in the 1970s and 1980s, including a bankruptcy scare. and although the four women played a big role in it, they were not the only ones.

It was a good book, even if it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I liked learning the history of NPR, and learning what it took to get a national radio station off the ground. I was impressed, again, by the challenges women faced in the workplace in the 1970s, and the gumption that these four women had to become successful at a time when the odds were stacked against them. It’s not going to be my favorite book ever, but it was interesting and I enjoyed it.

YA Graphic Novel Roundup 2

Squire
by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas
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Content: There is violence, including suggestions of genocide. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Aiza dreams of becoming a squire for the knights of the kingdom, even though she is an Ornu, a people that has been conquered and oppressed by the kingdom. It’s her heart’s desire, though, and eventually, her parents let her go. What she finds when she gets there, however, is not what she was expecting. She hides her heritage – Ornu get tattoos on their arms and she hides that — and makes some friends. She fails her first exam, and starts trainging with the caretaker in the camp. But when she and her friends are out on a routine patrol, and they are attacked by Ornu villagers, Aiza needs to decie between her dreams and her people.

Oh, I loved this one so much. I loved that the authors are Jordanian- and Palestinian-American, and while this book isn’t explicitly Muslim, they are pulling on the cultures of the area. I loved that you have a girl who is learning and using her spunk to improve and gain respect from other people. I loved that they deal with prejudice and colonialism and war. It was an engaging story, with great art, and absolutely a joy to read. Don’t pass this one up.

Twelfth Grade Night
by Molly Horton Booth, Stephanie Kate Strohm, and Jamie Green
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Content: It’s super lovey-dovey, but not really anything else. it’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Vi same to Arden High for a fresh start – she wasn’t really jiving any more with the uniform of the private school anymore, and she needed a chance to be more expressive. Her twin brother, Sebastian, has decided to stay in the private school – which means he’s away at bearing school. Vi finds it all a bit disconcerting to be in school without her twin, but she eventally makes friends. There’s a dance coming up – and (especially if you’re familiar with Twelfth Night) shenanigans enuse.

I am a sucker for a good Shakespeare retelling, and this is a really good Shakespeare retelling. I liked that Vi is leaning toward non-bineary (though she still uses she/her pronouns) and defies the stereotypes of nonbinary characters. But there is a definite LGBTQIA+ element to this, which is a nice touch. I loved the way they set the play in a high school, and it follos the play pretty much beat for beat. I liked the addition of the faeries from A Midummer Night’s dream to the high school, and how it’s just a delight to read. I loved the art, and thought it was all a lot of fun.

Grishaverse: Demon in the Wood
by Leigh Bardugo and Dani Pendergast
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Content There is violence, including suggestions of genocide, and some murder. It’s in the graphic novel section of the bookstore.

While this isn’t the story of how the Darkling became the Darkling, it is a story about the Darkling before he truly came to power, and gives some of the reasons behind what he did that led him down the path to becoming the Darkling. He and his mother are wondering Grisha, and they find a village to shelter them. Aleksander is supposed to keep his powers quiet, especially the fact that he is an amplifier. But things go awry, and he ends up murdering a couple of the villagers.

It’s not a deep story, though it’s an interesting exploration of the “bad guy” as the main character. It’s slight, but the art is beautiful, and it serves as both a good interoduction ot the Grishaverse and a nice addition for someone who has been immersed in the world. Not bad at all.

Nona the Ninth

by Tasmyn Muir
First sentence: “In the dream, he told her the words about where he took his degrees his postdoc, his research fellowship.”
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Release date: September 13, 2022
Review copy snagged from the publisher when it came in.
Others in the series: Gideon the Ninth Harrow the Ninth
Content: It’s violent and sweary. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Things you should know:

  1. It’s MUCH better if you read Gideon and Harrow right before reading this one. Seriously. I spent so much time trying to remember things, I finally gave up, found a Wiki, and spent time looking up things to remind myself. If you remember stuff from the previous two books, you will better understand and grasp what is going on in this one.
  2. It’s the …. cheeriest? possibly.. of the three so far. Nona is an endearing character and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her, Pyrrha, Cam, Palamedes, and all the new characters we met.
  3. I have no idea what the heck happened in the last 1/4 of the book, and I’m not sure I care that I didn’t know. Truthfully: upon reflection, all the pieces were there, I just didn’t catch them. (See, #1.)
  4. Muir blew my mind in the best. way, and I am utterly impressed with her world-building, with her character development, and just the way this story is unfolding.
  5. Bring on Alecto. I can’t wait to see how this ends.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

by T. Kingfisher
First sentence: “There was a dead girl in my aunt’s bakery.”
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Content: there is some death by murdering and mild swearing. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Mona doesn’t consider herself a wizard. After all, all she does is small magic – like make bread rise or gingerbread men dance. But when a girl turns up dead in her the kitchen of her aunt’s bakery, she soon discovers that someone is out to get her (and all the other people who do magic in her town). And, since now of the adults in Mona’s life seem to be doing anything, she and her friend (the brother of the dead girl) soon decide to challenge the powers that be and make someone listen.

People have been recommending this to me for a while now, and I guess I just felt that Now was the time to read it. I mean, who doesn’t love a possibly sentient sourdough starter named Bob? But it was also more than that: it was about inclusiveness, about finding one’s power, even if you think it’s small, and about making and keeping friends. It’s very sweet I get why Kingfisher self-published it: it’s not really an adult book, but it’s not really a YA one either. it sits in that publishing no person’s land, where if you like the sort of thing – baking, slight mysteries, magic, etc – you’ll probably love this book.

I fell on the love it side, and I don’t regret that at all.

The Agathas

by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson
First sentence: “Alice Ogilvie is crazy.”
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Content: There is some swearing, including 3 F-bombs, some mention of teenage drinking, drug use, and sexual activity.

Alice Ogilvie is persona non grata in Castle Cove: last summer, she disappeared for five days. Everyone in town panicked and sent out searches for her. And then she reappeared, much to everyone’s chagrin, and refused to talk about her summer. She’s trying to get back into school – after being on house arrest for two months – and is failing at it.

Iris is trying to get her and her mother away from her abusive dad. This means she needs money. So, when the school counselor hirs her to be a tutor to Alice, she’s a little wary, but needs the $3,000 enough to take it on. But when Alice’s former best friend, Brooke, goes missing and then turns up dead, Alise is determined to get to the bottom of it. Iris is just along for the ride, and for the reward money. The question is: can two teenage girls figure out the mystery?

If you can’t tell from the title: this is really a straight-up murder mystery, the kind Agatha Christie used to write. It hits all the mystery beats: a dead body, a falsely accused person, and so on. And it did it all really well. I liked the voices of Alice and Iris, and the way the story was told through both of their eyes. I liked that the mystery was just high enugh stakes that I woudl fl a sense of danger when Alice and Iris get into questionable situatons It’s a strong story ad a fun one. Definitely recommended.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It

by Elle Cosimano
First sentence: “It’s a widely known fact that most moms are ready to kill someone by eight thirty a.m. on any given morning.”
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Content: There is swearing, including some f-bombs, talk of sexual assault, and (of course) death. It’s n the mystery section of the bookstore.

Finlay Donovan’s life is falling apart. Recently divorced, she is spending so much time taking care of her own children that she can’t finish the mystery book she’s supposed to have already had into her editor. Her ex-husband (and his fiance) is no help; he begrudgingly helps her bills when they get too big, but he’s had his lawyer file a motion for sole custody of the kids (even though he doesn’t really want to deal tih the everyday grind of raising them). Nothing seems to be going right.

Then, at a meeting in a Panera with her editor, a woman overhears her talking about the plot of her new book and mistakes her for an assassin. She hires Finlay to off her husband, offeringto pay enough to cover Finaly’s bills for quite a while. Finlay is determined not to dot his (she’s not a killer after all!), but when she’s checking the husband out, he accidentally ends up dead (seriously). Everything goes off the rails after that, with Finaly’s former nanny (who had quit because Finaly’s husband was sexually harassing her) getting in on the deal, and the two of them attempt to figure out who killed the husband while keeping the cops off their trail.

I needed something fluffy that wasn’t a romance, and this definitely delivered. It’s an incredibly smart and funny book, full of twists and turns, while also being a critique of how we look at motherhood and single/divorced moms. It was a lot of fun and the plot was good enough that kept me guessing.

I’m glad there’s a sequel so I can enjoy Finlay some more.

Audiobook: Flying Solo

by Linda Holmes
Read by Julia Whelan
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Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s swearing, including a couple of well-placed f-bombs. There is also off-screen sex. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Laurie grew up in a small Main town, and couldn’t wait to get away. She didn’t return often, and once her immediate family moved away, there wasn’t much reason to return. That is, until her Great-Aunt who had no children of her own, passed away. Suddenly, it became Laurie’s job to go through Aunt Dot’s house and get it ready to be sold. Once there, she discovers a wooden duck in a blanket chest, and that starts off a chain of events that leads Laurie to a greater understanding of her aunt. Along the way, she reconnects with her old boyfriend, Nick, who is recently divorced.

I liked that this was a less-than-traditional romance. While it’s still about people falling in love, it features a heroine who called off her wedding because she didn’t feel right about it. She’s nearly 40, she’s she’s a larger woman; Holmes mentions “size18” and “larger body”. Laurie is a woman who knows that she wants to live alone and that maybe being married isn’t for her. She’s bucking societal norms, not doing things the way things are “supposed” to be done. I really really appreciated that. And honestly: it was this embracing of non-traditionalness that made the book a really good one for me.

Whelan is still a delightful narrator; she makes the listening experience super engaging and enjoyable. I will have to listen to her read more! In short: thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Spear

by Nicola Griffith
First sentence: “In the wild wast, a girl, growing.”
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Content: There’s some violence and off-screen sex. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

One of my co-workers sold this to me by saying “It’s Arthurian legends, but gay” and honestly, that’s all it took. Griffith is taking the world of King Artur, planting it in 6th-century Wales, and making one of the knights, Peretur (or Percival) a woman. It’s familiar (to those of us who have gone through Arthurian obsessions), and yet, it’s also new. Making Peretur a woman updates the myth without sacrificing its ancient origins. I adored Peretur, and the journey she went on, from growing up in the wild with her mother to her quest to become a knight of KIng Aruthur. Her kind heart and fierce nature were balanced so well. I felt that Griffiths’ writing gave the book an ethereal quality, making it seem like a story that’s being told around a fire. It’s short, so I felt like Griffiths was able to get to the heart of the matter, without there bieng a lot of extra.

In short, It was exactly everything I wanted from an Arthurian tale.

Bravely

by Maggie Stiefvater
First sentence: “This is a story about two gods and a girl”
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Content: There is some violence, a pretty intense fire scene, and a small amount of romance. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

I will admit that when I heard Maggie was going to write a book set in the world of Brave, that takes place after the movie, I was a bit skeptical. I mean Disney is a huge corporation, and corporate fiction isn’t always, well, good.

This book takes some time after the movie, and Dun Broch has gotten stagnant. When, on a Christmas Eve, merida captures the god of change and ruin, Feradach, at her house, she knows something bad is about to happen She makes a bargain with him and the Cailleach (the goddess of renewal): give her a year to get her family to change, and prove that they are worthy to be spared.

I shouldn’t have doubted: The journey Maggie takes readers on is amazing. Fllowing the seasons, as Merica and her family visit three other neighboring kingdoms, is full of heartbreak, laughter, and yes, change. Maggie explores the need for change, and the difference between natural, renewing change, and the destructive change that humans bring. Merida ries so hard to make Feradach into the “bad guy”, but he’s not. There is a balance to all things, and maggie explores that as well. Brave is one of my favorite movies, and to have a book that is set in this world and is so compelling and complex makes my heart sing.

I will read anything Maggie writes and I will proabably love it. So, I’m biased, but truthfully: this really is a great book.