YA Graphic Novel Roundup 5

Clementine: Book One
by Tillie Walden
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
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)
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
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
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
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
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
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
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
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.

Audiobook: Whiteout

by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Nicola Yoon
Read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Dion Graham, Imani Parks, Jordan Cobb, Shayna Small, A.J Beckles & Bahni Turpin
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Others in the “series” Blackout
Content: There is some mild swearing and one almost on-screen sex scene. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Much like Blackout, this book has an overriding premise: a snowstorm has hit Atlanta and has shut down everything (which, to be honest, I’ve experienced. It’s not fun.). People are stranded all over town, from the airport to the stadium to the local music venue. And everyone has a purpose: to help their friend apologize to her girlfriend and win her back.

It’s kind of a silly premise, but then this is not only a YA romance, but it also is a Christmastime/holiday YA romance, so of course, it’s a bit implausible. Everyone ends up with their happily ever after, though the authors do leave you guessing for a bit as to whether or not it will actually happen. It’s a whole lot of spectacle, though not a whole lot of falling in love. Instead, the authors chose to focus on established relationships: whether they are friends looking to level up, or old flames, or making up after a fight. It made the whole story smoother, knowing that these teenagers all had a past together. Additionally, there was so much gay in this book, it was wonderful.

On top of that, the full-cast recording made the whole book just a pleasure to listen to. I really loved this one.

YA Graphic Novel Roundup 4

Hollow
by Shannon Watters, Branden Boyer-White, and Berenice Nelle
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There are some scary moments with a ghost. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Izzy Crane has recently moved to Sleepy Hollow from San Francisco and she’s getting used to the whole small-town feel of things. She’s kind of made friends with Croc, the class prankster, and she has a crush on Vickie Van Tassell, whose family has a Legacy in this town (and who is not supposed to be doing anything with someone whose last name is Crane!). Then a mysterious substitute shows up at school, and Vicky and Izzy realize that Vicky’s life is in danger due to a centuries-old curse on the family). It’s up to the three high schoolers (with the help of the Headless Horseman) to thwart the curse and save Vicky’s life.

I’m a complete sucker for riffs on classic literature, and this is a smart retelling. I liked Izy’s relationship with both Croc and Vicky and the way they worked together. I liked the Headless Horesmeent, and the knowledge the book had that it was playing on the classic story. It was smart, it was fun, and I loved reading it.

Welcome to St. Hell: My Trans Teen Misadventure
by Lewis Hancox
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is teen drinking, and some nudity as Hancox tries to describe his gender dysphoria. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

In this graphic memoir, Hancox chronicles his teen years and growing up in a small English community, which they affectionately (or not) dub “St. Hell”. It’s not pleasant growing up: Hancox suffers from intense gender dysphoria and is struggling with his body. He tries everything – from being anorexic to power-lifting – to get rid of what he finds disgusting: his body. As he navigates this, he has friends and family who, while more supportive than not, often make missteps. But then, it was the early 2000s, and no one really knew what they were doing.

The thing I liked best about this memoir was that Hancox inserted himself into the story as well. His present self would go back and interact with characters in the story, from his past self to his parents and friends. He assures his past self that things do eventually turn out, and he asks his parents what they were thinking and why they acted the way they did. it’s not only a good story, it’s a healing one, and not just for the author, I htink. I think – no matter if we are trans or not – we should look at our past selves with compassion; we didn’t alwyas know what was going on and what we were doing, and hindsight is always 20/20. But it’s also a good look into what is ogin on the brain fo someone who is trans, and how (at least for Hancox) that played out.

Crumbs
by Danie Stirling
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: The characters are older – say in their late teens or early 20s, so it might not be too interesting to younger readers. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Ray is a witch, who has her sights on being a Council member. She’s gone to school, and she’s passed her examination to be n intern. Laurie is kind of aimless: he works at his aunt’s bakery, and is trying to be a musician, but keeps flopping at auditions. When they meet, there is an intstant attraction. As they start their relationship, they discover that having magic doesn’t really make relationships easier. They go through the ups and downs of establishing a relationship and communication and balancing that with their own interests and careers.

This was a very sweet graphic novel. I liked the magic system (the cell phones were really cool) ad I liked what Stirling created. I liked the way Ray and Laurie developed their relationship, and how it resolved in the end. It was charming and sweet and cute and fun, all those cozy words. There’s nothing deep here (though it is a good representation of a healthy relationship), but it was delightful to read.

Constantine: Distorted Illusions
by Kami Garcia, illustrated by Isaac Goodhart
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is underage drinking and demons. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

John Constantine has grown up in London, and his stepfather wants him to go to America and study under a magic master. John wants no such thing, but he does want to get out on his own. So he lies to his parents, heads to Washington, DC to live with a friend of his, and joins a band. He does meet with the magic master and it goes more than badly. But John steals a magic book and he and his friends start dabbling. They unwittingly summon a Greater Deamon which takes possession of Constantine’s friend and creates havoc.

I don’t have much of an attachment to the character of Constantine; I only vaguely know him through Sandman (only the TV show, really), and so I have no idea what Garcia is trying to do with this character. The story wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t really engaging either (there are only so many bad-boy stories you can read). I liked that Constantine’s stepfather was the real parent, being there for his stepson in ways that Constantine’s father wasn’t. I also appreciated that Constatine had a definite growth arc.

I think that those who are interested in the character would be more into this one than I was.

If Anything Happens I Love You
by Will McCormack, Michael Govier, Youngran Nho
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It deals with grief and the trauma of a school shooting. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

An unnamed girl is dead and worrying about her parents’ grief. Her parents have been stuck since the moment they found out she was killed in a school shooting. But, through the magic of – something? – she is able to reconnect with them and remind them of the good things in her/their life before she was so brutally taken away.

I have no idea who this book is for. On the one hand, it shows the absolute grief of parents having their kids untimely taken away from them. It’s a horrible thing, and one I wish we could figure out how to address in this country. But, is it for kids? The girl is 12, but she’s not really a protagonist. Is it for parents who are grieving? Is it for kids who are in school, having to deal with lockdowns and shooter drills? is it to just raise awareness? Also: it’s not really a graphic novel, but more like a picture book for older kids/adults. It wasn’t a bad book, I just have no idea who it’s for.

EMG Graphic Novel Round-up 3

Little Monarchs
by Jonathan Case
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There are some intense moments, fights, and possibly leaving people for dead. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

In the near future, a sun sickness has killed off all mammals. What humans are left, have gone underground. But 10-year-old Elvie and her caretaker, Flora get live aboveground because of some medicine that Flora discovered: it comes from the scales off monarch butterfly wings. So they follow the migratory paths of monarchs to harvest and make medicine while Flora tries to make a permanent vaccination. That makes it sound very tame, but this has near death experiences, some pretty awful bad guys, and a lot of tension. There are some light-hearted moments, an it’s all about found family, and it’s full of STEM facts. I do have a slight issue with the author being white and the main character being Black, but that’s a minor one. Overall, it’s a remarkable book.

The Real Riley Mayes
by Rachel Elliott
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It deals with crushes, and there is some bullying and homophobia. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Riley just wants to be herself: Short hair, androgenous clothes, drawing as much as possilbe. But, her friend that “got” her moved away, and she’s having a hard time making new friends. One of the kids in class teases her for being a gay, calling her names and excluding her from all-girl events. The thing is, Riley’s not even sure she’s gay. She does make a couple of friends, but she’s not sure if they’ll stick especially after she makes smome mistakes. Maybe she’ll figure out this whole being a 5th grader thing out.

This one was super cute! I loved Riley, and her struggles felt like a real 5th grader’s struggles. Making and keeping friends, figuring out who you are, figuring out how to be a friend. it’s all there. I liked the art, and there wa seven some humor in it as well. Really really good.

Apple Crush
by Lucy Knisley
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It deals with crushes. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Jen is spending the week on her mother’s farm, after he divorce from Jen’s father. She’ getting used to living in the country, and going to school. But her new stepsiste, who visits on weekends, has other plans. One of them is super into boys, and all Jen wants to do is hang out, work on the pumplki patch next door, and draw. It’s a touch line to figure out how to walk.

This is a nice look at the different stages kids are at in middle school. Some are into relationships and “liking” other kids, others not so much. I appreciated the matter of fact way Knisley approaches the suject, and the way she woe a Halloween story in there as well. It’s a cute story and a cute book.

Bunnicula
by James Howe, Andrew Dokin, illustrated by Stephen Gilpin
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is humorous “horror”, and sometimes scary moments. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Bunnicula is one of those books I’ve heard a lot about, but have never read. Things I didn’t know: it’s written suppsoedly, by the dog, who is telling the story of the vampire bunny. I didn’t know that the bunny only sucks the juices out of vegetables, turning them white (i had thought maybe it was a real vampre bunny). I didn’t know that it was the cat who goes pretty crazy tyring to prove that the bunny is a vampire. I thought it was scarier than it actually was.

Still, it wa a fun graphic novel and not a bad way to be introduced to this story

Didn’t finish: Sorceline.

YA Graphic Novel Roundup 2

Squire
by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
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
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
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
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
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.

Heat Wave

by TJ Klune
First sentence: “Near dusk, shadows stretch like reaching darkness, the heat from the summer day like molten claws to the chest, digging into the beating heart of a city under siege.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: The Extraordinaries, Flash Fire
Content: There is an extended discussion of gay porn, how to have anal sex, and a very awkward sex scene. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore, but really needs to be moved.

We pick up with our illustrious heroes soon after the events of Flash Fire. Except Nick’s mom isn’t dead. Right? It’s all weird. Owen is back as a villain, and Simon Burke is the Big Bad – not only is he running for myor of Nova City, he wants to do away with Extraordinaries.

Underneath all of that Nick is trying to enjoy his relationship with Seth, and figure out how to be an Extraordinary. Plus apply for college. It’s a lot for a kid.

Honestly, while this was fun, and an okay ending to a series, it wasn’t my favorite. I don’t know if it’s because I wanted and lost the momentum I had between the other two, but even though I adored Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz and their very healthy relationships with their parents, I didn’t really like the book. Maybe because I felt like it took too long to get going. Maybe it was because I ahdn’t read the others in ages Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood.

Not Klune’s best book, but I am still glad for the LGBT representation. Not a bad book, just not for me.

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.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
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.

Spear

by Nicola Griffith
First sentence: “In the wild wast, a girl, growing.”
Support your local independent bookstore: by it there!
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.

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting

by Clare Pooley
First sentence: “Until the point when a man dying right in front of her on the 08:05, Iona’s day had been just like any other.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some swearing, including some very well placed f-bombs. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Iona has been a magazine advice columnist for 30 years. She has a routine, and she sticks to it She gets up, rides the train into the city and works, and comes home. She is happy with her life the way it is. That is, until the day it all changed. It starts with a man chocking in front of her and spirals out from there: she has trouble at the magazine, she’s “too old” and out of touch. But she also makes connections with these fellow commuters, whom she only knew by the nicknames she gave them. Suddenly , they have names, and problems, and she has a purpose. But it’s not just a book about Iona. While she is the axel on which the wheel of everyone’s lives turns (as was very helpfully pointed out by a inor charaer), it’s also about the lives of the people Iona comes to interact with. It switches perspectives, giving us the background on a few of the characters, as they, too, go through changes.

Oh, I adored this book. I loved Iona – she is a fantastic character, so full of charm and wit and life — but I also loved the way Pooley explores all the little ways that people are and should be connected. It was charming, it was funny, and I was thoroughly touched by Iona and the lives of the others in the book it made I was absolutely delighted by this book, and I wish there were more so it wouldn’t have to end.

The world needs ore Ionas in it, and I hope that maybe I can be one. Someday.

Audiobook: Yerba Buena

by Nina LaCour
Read by: Julia Whelan
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there is some talk of drug use, some prostitution, off-screen sex, and swearing including f-bombs. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Emelie and Sara are two women, both at odds with their life. Emilie has been in college for seven years, changing her major five times, and has yet to graduate. Sara ran away from home at 16, without finishing high school when her best friend (and lover) was found dead in the river. She spent years working her way up from the bottom to become a respected bartender. When she and Emilie first meet, though, it’s an instant spark, but at the time, Emilie is having an affair with the owner of a restaurant. When they do connect, things don’t go well. In fact, that’s the whole point of the book, I think: Emilie and Sara have to become their own individuals before they can successfully become a couple.

I think that’s the whole point of the novel: it’s much less a love story than it is a growing-up story. Both Emilie and Sara have pasts they need to reconcile with and futures they need to figure out. Yes, they are ready for a relationship, but maybe not quite ready enough, which gives the whole book an air of the bittersweet to it. I adore LaCour’s writing and the way she makes characters come alive. It also helped that Whelan’s narration was incredibly engaging.

Definitely a good book.