Showing posts with label graphic novel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label graphic novel. Show all posts

Early Book Review: It’s Your Funeral by Emily Riesbeck, Ellen Kramer, Matt Krotzer

It’s Your Funeral by Emily Riesbeck, Ellen Kramer, and Matt Krotzer is a young adult graphic novel currently scheduled for release on July 21 2020.
Marnie Winters was going to turn her life around; get out of the house, make friends, no more “Miserable Old Marnie!” Everything was going to plan, but then, of course, she died. Now, Marnie’s a ghost trapped on Earth, and the only one who can help her is the overenthusiastic, alien social worker, Xel, whose job is to help ghosts “close their file” and pass on.  Xel has an idea to soothe Marnie’s troubled spirit: an internship in the hopeless bureaucracy of the trans-dimensional Department of Spectral Affairs! This new do-gooder duo has their work cut out for them in a series of hilarious mishaps and misadventures throughout the space-time continuum (but mostly in and around the office) as Marnie finds pathways through her feelings of worthlessness by helping others. A paranormal fantasy about healing, learning to love yourself, and being OK with being not OK.

It’s Your Funeral is a graphic novel that is fun to look at. I really enjoyed the artwork and colors, and thought the imagination involved was wonderful. It was also a read that will appeal to many on an emotional level. There are a number of very different personalities, and I liked that no one style is touted as perfect or better, rather it is those differences that make things work.  I cringed a few times, especially when Marnie took her emotions out on others, but those emotions and reactions rang true and help move the story forward and raise the emotional stakes of the story. I like that the book acknowledged that dealing with anything, including depression or anxiety, is a process and that taking the time and being kind (including to yourself) is key. I thought the overall product was very good, and good read.

It’s Your Funeral is a well drawn and told story that will appeal to a number of young adult and adult readers. 

Early Book Review: RWBY: Vol. 1 The Beacon Arc by Bunta Kinami

RWBYVol. 1 The Beacon Arc by Bunta Kinami is currently scheduled for release on July 21 2020. In the world of Remnant, monsters known as Grimm wreak havoc. They’re kept in check by Huntsmen and Huntresses, highly skilled warriors experienced in monster extermination who utilize their special abilities on the field of battle. Ruby takes her first step on the road to becoming a Huntress by enrolling at Beacon Academy, eager to take on the battery of tests, challenges and difficulties that follow. Ruby knows her talents will take her to her goal, but is she ready to clash with Weiss Schnee, haughty scion of the Schnee Dust Company?

RWBYVol. 1 The Beacon Arc is a solid start to an engaging story. A few very important characters are introduced and fleshed out in the midst of settling into school and a very dangerous mission. I think story did a great job of introducing the world this all takes place in, and the characters in their strengths and weaknesses. I liked the variety of personalities and skill sets and think that it does a good job of interesting readers that might never have heard of the series previously. The art is nearly perfect, although I will admit that I occasionally had trouble keeping track of who was who in some of the action scenes, because there was just so much going on. I think this promises to keep newcomers to the RWBY Universe and long time fans happy and entertained. 

Early Book Review: One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks is being rereleased with reworked art and full color on July 14 2020.  
It is a middle-grade friendship story from one of my favorite graphic novel authors for this age group. When studious thirteen-year-old Juniper wins a scholarship to the prestigious Ellsmere Academy, she expects to find a scholastic utopia. But living at Ellsmere is far from ideal: She is labeled a “special project,” Ellsmere's queen bee is out to destroy her, and it’s rumored that a mythical beast roams the forest next to the school.

One Year at Ellsmere is not completely unexpected by fans of the author or genre. Middle grade and boarding school often go together, but as usual Hicks makes even the 'bad guy' a character that readers know is not wholly bad, despite their actions and the emotions that they often inspire. I love that Jun and Cassie are the main players, but they are not perfect rather they have the same fallibility that some readers might relate to. I really like that they are so different, and while they do make mistakes they are willing to own up to them and do better. They seem to recognize that others are equally fallible and that the things they do might come from a place of insecurity or pain rather than just being evil. The forest addition is lovely, and adds a jumping off point for interesting future stories, but it felt a little unnecessary to me. A fun twist, which adds a little mystical something, but I thought it could have been played in several other ways. Hicks remains one of my must reads authors, and I will continue looking for their work because even when it is not exactly perfect n my eyes, it is still pretty awesome.

One Year at Ellsmere is a perfect example of why I became a fan of Hicks in the first place. The story and art are perfectly matched, and offer a story that is engaging, entertaining, and hits readers in the feels.

Book Review: Ao Haru Ride, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka

Ao Haru Ride, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka is a popular shojo manga series that was adapted into the Blue Spring Ride anime. In high school, Futaba gets a second chance with her first love, Kou. Futaba Yoshioka thought all boys were loud and obnoxious until she met Kou Tanaka in junior high. But as soon as she realized she really liked him, he had already moved away because of family issues. Now, in high school, Kou has reappeared, but is he still the same boy she fell in love with?

Ao Haru Ride is a story that felt very classic to me. Girl that wants to fit in, but does not want to quite be the stereotype that she would need to act like to really fit the mold. Figuring out who she really wants to be, and how she wants to interact with other people. Trying to decide is Tanaka is who she thinks he is, and then where she stands with him, is at the heart of the story. However, being herself and figuring out the importance of how she interacts with others and being herself is a close second in importance. The story was classic for young adult literature in general, and this style of manga. I liked the art style, it was consistent and showed the emotion, motion, and mood of each moment very well. 

Ao Haru Ride felt familiar and comfortable. It is classic high school story of finding yourself and figuring out what you want and who you want to be.

Early Book Review: Not Your Idol, Vol. 1 by Aoi Makino

Not Your Idol, Vol. 1 by Aoi Makino is a manga style graphic novel currently scheduled for release on June 10 2020. It is a psychological suspense series about a girl who has given up her life as an idol after being assaulted by a fan. After that day, she stopped being a girl. In the wake of an assault, Nina Kamiyama, a former idol in the group Pure Club, shuns her femininity and starts dressing as a boy. At high school she keeps to herself, but fellow student Hikaru Horiuchi realizes who she is. What secrets is she keeping? The shocking drama starts.

Not Your Idol is a well drawn and suspenseful story. I liked the pacing, including the action and the character backstory and development. I really enjoyed the character dynamics of Nina/Karen and how her life and perspectives have changed over time. The issues of sexual assault and related issues are handled very well, and how different people react to them is an issue we all need to think about. The story is very engaging, and kept me turning pages to learn more about the characters and what might happen next. It is not an easy read, as there are a number of tough moments and some things that survivors might find very triggering, and others will find upsetting. However, it is well written and I am very eager to see where the story goes from here, and learn more about the major players as the story continues. My only complaint is the cliffhanger that the volume ends in. Be prepared to be left wondering, and eager for the next volume. 

Not Your Idol is an intense and engaging read. I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Early Book Review: Spy x Family, Vol. 1 by Tatsuya Endo

Spy x Family, Vol. 1 by Tatsuya Endo is a manga currently scheduled for release on June 2 2020. Master spy Twilight is the best at what he does when it comes to going undercover on dangerous missions in the name of a better world. But when he receives the ultimate impossible assignment—get married and have a kid—he may finally be in over his head! Not one to depend on others, Twilight has his work cut out for him procuring both a wife and a child for his mission to infiltrate an elite private school. What he doesn’t know is that the wife he’s chosen is an assassin and the child he’s adopted is a telepath!
Spy x Family is a fun and entertaining read. I liked seeing the lone wolf spy trying to make his next mission a success, even when it means bring a child and wife into the fold. He keeps his goal under his hat, but when the little girl you adopt is a telepath that does not do much good. Watching him struggle with what do with a child is very entertaining, and when his attempt at gaining a wife only ramps up the humor and complications. The characters each have their own issues, on top of their secrets, and it was an interesting and entertaining read. My only complaint is one I have with many manga that I enjoy, the story had just reach a point of everything coming together and high interest and I really need to know where the story goes from here. 

Book Review: Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 2 by Io Sakisaka

Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 2 by Io Sakisaka is a graphic novel continuing a young adult manga story. Fast friends Yuna and Akari are complete opposites—Yuna is an idealist, while Akari is a realist. When lady-killer Rio and the oblivious Kazuomi join their ranks, love and friendship become quite complicated! Love and friendship have become quite complicated for these four friends. Yuna has fallen in love with Rio, but he has feelings for Akari that he’s never been able to express. While Yuna keeps his secret, Akari makes a move on the person she’s interested in.
Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 2 is a good follow up to the first volume, but it did not grab me and keep my interest as much as the first. It took me a couple pages to remember all the details of who everyone was and where we left off. Once I was back in the swing of things there were emotions, angst, and teen conflict left and right. Yuna and Akari come to some conclusions and are working toward being more honest with themselves about their emotions, and in some cases more open with others. There were heart wrenching moments, and some that have left me as confused as the characters in the story. I think readers that enjoy character angst and emotional struggles will want to keep reading this series, and will enjoy it. 

Early Book Review: Blue Flag, Vol. 1 by KAITO

Blue Flag, Vol. 1 by KAITO is a young adult manga that is currently scheduled for release on May 10 2020. It’s the last year of high school, and love is in the air. Romantic feelings that have been building up over years of friendship come to light. When Taichi’s classmate Futaba asks him to help her confess to his best friend, Toma, it sparks the catalyst that begins the sweet and heart-wrenching journey of their third and final year of high school.

Blue Flag is a well written and drawn story. I liked the art style, and how no character is too perfect or bad. They are all just high school students trying to navigate school, relationships, and their own feelings. They are each complex characters, and changing as they grow and figure out who they are, what they like, and who the like. At that age these things are all moving targets, and  think the story does a good job of illustrating that. Taichi is getting a better understanding of some of the choices he has made, and how he appears to others. Futaba is trying to come out of her shell and be a stronger person, and Toma has secrets he is not ready to share. Watching their interactions with each other, and the larger scope of schoolmates and family, was fascinating and I cannot wait to see what happens next. I will admit that I saw some of the complications or secrets coming, but I so enjoyed the ride. My only issue with the story is that it ended just as things were getting good and I really want the next book.

Book Review: The Mythics #1 Heroes Reborn by Philippe Ogaki; Patricia Lyfoung; Patrick Sobral

The Mythics #1 Heroes Reborn by Philippe Ogaki; Patricia Lyfoung; and Patrick Sobral is a children's graphic novel. In the ancient times of Gods and heroes, evil attempted to seize the world disguising themselves as six different gods. While they were spreading all their power of destruction, six heroes, each with extraordinary powers and brandishing sacred weapons, rose against these incarnations of evil. The evil was defeated and sealed in a secret place within the red desert on the planet Mars. Today, enter six young heirs: Yuko of Japan, Parvati of India, Amir of Egypt, Abigail of Germany, Miguel of Mexico, and Neo of Greece suddenly pulled from their everyday lives. About to face the greatest threat that the contemporary world has ever known, in a flash, they get to discover just how worthy successors they may be of the ancient heroes.

Heroes Reborn is a graphic novel telling three origin stories, with three more to come. The artwork is very well done and I liked the style. The stories were nicely varied, with different locations and the focus or each tale different in lifestyle and interests than the others. The action was good, and the stories were well told. My problem is that none of it was surprising. The twists as to who was the carrier of evil in each part was fairly predictable, as were the reactions of the teens discovering their powers and dealing with their guide. It felt like so many other stories, so many superpower or magic origin stories, that I started skimming the action scenes in ope that the next character development moment would wow me. It was not badly told but it was not extraordinary. It felt familiar and fun, but not as new or fresh as I was hoping. 

Heroes Reborn is a well drawn and entertaining graphic novel. 

Early Book Review: Rascal by Jean-Luc Deglin

Rascal by Jean-Luc Deglin is a graphic novel about a mysterious mewling package arriving in the mail. One busy young woman's life changes forever. Rascal lives up to his name, filling every day with wild adventures and long naps: brave expeditions into closets, fierce battles with curtains, and wrestling with slumbering giants... Sometimes she's tempted to throw him out the window. He's lucky he's cute.
Rascal is a cute book about a reluctant cat owner and the mischief that more pet owners can identify with. Rascal is a cute cat, and the illustrations are nice. The black cat is well paired with the tones used on each page. Cats are a blend of sweetness and trouble, killing machines that can endear themselves to even the most reluctant guardians and make us their caretakers, cooks, and maids. I think those of us that already have cats in their lives, and those that wish they did, will enjoy and see something of themselves in the story. 

Book Review: Kakushigoto: My Dad's Secret Ambition Vol. 1 by Kouji Kumeta

My Dad's Secret Ambition Vol. 1 by Kouji Kumeta is a manga style graphic novel. Kakushi Gotou is a single father with a secret: He’s a top-selling manga artist of a raunchy series that perhaps isn’t suitable reading material for his young daughter, Hime. So he does what any doting father would do, he hides it all from her, no matter the hi jinks that ensue!

My Dad's Secret Ambition is a book that hit some really good notes. I liked the single father struggling to do right by his daughter, and the lengths he would go to in order to keep her happy and healthy. The social gaffes and caste of characters were interesting, but I was rarely fully engaged in the story and found myself having to go back to re read or look closer at a picture to decide if I missed something. The artwork style is nice, but it just did not match up with my personal preferences consistently. I did like the personal notes and writings from the author, which put some on the scenes and moments in context and made it more interesting. 

My Dad's Secret Ambition is a good graphic novel, with some really good moments. It just did not wow me after having read some absolutely fabulous ones recently.

Early Book Review: Camp Spirit by Axelle Lenoir

Camp Spirit by Axelle Lenoir is a young adult graphic novel currently scheduled for release on April 14 2020. Summer 1994: with just two months left before college, Elodie is forced by her mother to take a job as a camp counselor. She doesn't know the first thing about nature, or sports, of kids for that matter, and isn't especially interested in learning... but now she's responsible for a foul-mouthed horde of red-headed girls who just might win her over, whether she likes it or not. Just as Elodie starts getting used to her new environment, though -- and close to one of the other counselors -- a dark mystery lurking around the camp begins to haunt her dreams.

Camp Spirit is a graphic novel that I could relate to on a number of levels, not the least of which I graduate from high school the same year the main characters did, so most of the pop culture references were a direct hit with me. I liked Elodie's character, her reluctance to be the smiling happy soul that most people seem to expect was something I could completely understand, as was her curiosity about the camp and those around her once she got tossed into the thick of things. I enjoyed the side stories of how she related to her campers and some of the other counselors. The second layer of the story, with the mystical elements, had me guessing right along with Elodie. Some of the sly glances had me thinking down false paths, but that was part of the nature of the artwork. I thought that the art was very well done, and added a great deal to the story, both in emotion and plot. I really enjoyed the read, and wonder if there will be more to come. 

Camp Spirit is a well written and drawn graphic novel that will appeal to some middle graders, but mostly young adult and older readers. Adults that shared the joys of high school in the 90's with me might want to give it a go as well.

Early Book Review: Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka

Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka is currently scheduled for release on April 10 2020. Four high school friends share the springtime of their youth together. Fast friends Yuna and Akari are complete opposites—Yuna is an idealist, while Akari is a realist. When lady-killer Rio and the oblivious Kazuomi join their ranks, love and friendship become quite complicated!

Love Me, Love Me Not is a sweet story of four high schoolers trying to figure out what they want from love, friendship, and themselves. I liked the way the characters were different from each other and none was perfect. I enjoyed the art style, it did not stand out as unique, but did a wonderful job of capturing the moods and emotions of the text and characters. The four major characters all had moments when they absolutely shone, and others when they showed their flaws. I think the self doubt and worries were all very realistic and the story covers Yuna and Akari facing some of their issues in how they see themselves. My biggest complaint is the big reveal and cliff hanger ending opening up more questions than were actually answered in the story. Of course, thes just means I need to read the next one, but still. AS a whole I really enjoyed the story, and am glad that I read it.

Love Me, Love Me Not is a young adult graphic novel that will appeal to many. I enjoyed the story and will be keeping an eye out for volume two.

Book Review: Komi Can't Communicate, Vol. 1, by Tomohito Oda

Komi Can't Communicate, Vol. 1, by Tomohito Oda is a young adult magna. The journey to 100 friends begins with a single conversation. Socially anxious high school student Shoko Komi’s greatest dream is to make some friends, but everyone at school mistakes her crippling social anxiety for cool reserve! With the whole student body keeping their distance and Komi unable to utter a single word, friendship might be forever beyond her reach. Timid Tadano is a total wallflower, and that’s just the way he likes it. But all that changes when he finds himself alone in a classroom on the first day of high school with the legendary Komi. He quickly realizes she isn’t aloof—she’s just super awkward. Now he’s made it his mission to help her on her quest to make 100 friends!

Komi Can't Communicate is a graphic novel about finding your place in school, and I really like that it shows how different the way people feel can be from how they are perceived by others. I think readers of all ages can identify with Tadano on some level. He just wants to get through school unscathed, but things are not all that simple. In real life they never are either. Befriending Komi might not be good for flying under the radar, but it does help her start toward her own goals for school. I really liked that we get to see multiple perspectives, which gives the reader a bit of room to wonder how much of the story might be different from another view, and how much of their own worries or fears are fueled by similar assumptions and misperceptions. Aside from all that heavy stuff, there was also a good deal of humor and funny moments, and I found the read engaging and entertaining. I enjoyed the artwork very much, and think the line work did a great deal to add to the emotion and overall story through out. I thought the cast of major characters was well done and fun, and I look forward to seeing more. I did find the ending a bit abrupt, like maybe the last couple pages and back cover were missing from my digital copy, but that could have just been a clever hook to make me want the next installment even more. 

Komi Can't Communicate is a fun and engaging read. I think most middle schoolers through adults would find something entertaining and relatable in the read. 

Early Book Review: Dekoboko Sugar Days by TOKYOPOP, Yusen Atsuko

Dekoboko Sugar Days by Yusen Atsuko and Tokyopop is currently scheduled for release on February 18 2020.  Yuujirou Matsukaze has been close friends with Rui Hanamine since the two of them were children, and at that time, Yuujirou was the one who stood up for and took care of his adorable, soft-hearted friend. But as it turns out, Yuujirou's childhood dreams end up growing a little too big to handle - or, rather, too tall! At over six feet in height, the cheerful and happy-go-lucky Rui towers over his would-be protector, and still has no idea Yuujirou's had a crush on him since they were kids!

Dekoboko Sugar Days is an enjoyable graphic novel that show two fairly clueless high school guys finding their way from friends to more. They each have to figure out their own feelings and then gather the courage to share that information with each other. I like that it showed their continued struggles with communication- which often gets left out of the story. Insecurities and figuring things out is more than half the struggle particularly for young and new adults that are still trying to figure out what they want, never mind how to talk about it with they person you care most about. The assumptions of those around them, and the doubts they each had felt the most real in the story. I liked the artwork, although I do have to admit that there were a couple of moments that I confused a couple of characters and it took me a minute to figure it out. I liked the occasional breaks in the fourth wall, and the amount of humor that was sprinkled through the story. I had a few issues with continuity or flowing storyline, particularly the moment of their first time together. I felt like a couple pages were missing, as they went from insanely awkward to french kissing to clarifying that Rui was still good to be bottom. I missed any conversation about that, and I went back to make sure I had not accidentally flipped pages to quick or something. So I did enjoy the story, I did see many tropes and stereotypes, but for the most part I was happy with the read.

Dekoboko Sugar Days is a read that hit some good points, and a few head scratching moments. However, overall I enjoyed the read. 

Early Book Review: Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh is a magical realist graphic novel about a young girl who befriends her town’s witch and discovers the strange magic within herself. It is currently scheduled for release on February 4 2020. 

Snap's town had a witch. At least, that’s how the rumor goes. But in reality, Jacks is just a crocks-wearing, internet-savvy old lady who sells roadkill skeletons online—after doing a little ritual to put their spirits to rest. It’s creepy, sure, but Snap thinks it’s kind of cool, too. They make a deal: Jacks will teach Snap how to take care of the baby opossums that Snap rescued, and Snap will help Jacks with her work. But as Snap starts to get to know Jacks, she realizes that Jacks may in fact have real magic—and a connection with Snap’s family’s past.

Snapdragon was so much more than I expected. When I first started reading I thought I was going to get a typical story about a young adult dealing with fitting in and finding friends, with a dose of not judging a book by its cover. That is all there along with so much more. Snapdragon is trying to find her place in a new school and makes a friend that is struggling to find their place just as much as she is. Being yourself and standing up for yourself and others is fully in play here and very well done. I was worried that the town witch story line was going to by typical, but I should have known better. Jacks is different, no question about that. I loved watching Jacks and Snap forge a connection and each get more out of the friendship than they expected.  I really enjoyed how frank and openly the LGBT aspects of the story were handled- it was refreshing. I loved the art style, and think that the colors and motion on each page added a great deal to the feel of the story. I just really enjoyed this read and already have a few young readers that I would like to recommend it to.

Snapdragon is a great graphic novel for middle grade and older readers. I love the way a variety of subjects were covered and blended together. It is a wonderful read.

Book Review: Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, Wendy Xu

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, Wendy Xu is a graphic novel for young adults. It is a story of love and demons, family and witchcraft. Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers' bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town. One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home. Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

Mooncakes grabbed my attention quickly and kept it. Nova is a sweet girl, honest and a bit reserved except for those she is close to. Tam is clearly struggling with family issues and I enjoyed seeing them reconnect with Nova and found their personal strength. Their battle together against a demon was very well done, and I had trouble stepping away from the book when I had to. The conflict and resolution was well written, and I would be happy to see Tam and Nova's story continue on. I thought the art work captured the mood, emotion, and themes of the book quite well. It was visually attractive and added to the story consistently. I also like how simply and honestly all of the relationships are handled. No one makes a big deal out of pronoun choice or who anyone love- because it should not be a big deal. I wish this level of simple acceptance was more prevalent in the real world. I also love that none of the relationship aspects were played up as a qimick- which happens was too often. It was just pure and organic. 

Mooncakes is a lovely graphic novel that kept me interested and engaged for the entire read. My only disappointment is that I had a digital copy rather than a paper copy because I really wanted to get a closer look at some of the pages without the distortion that comes from zooming in on a digital page. 

Early Book Review: The Clothesline by Orbie

The Clothesline is a picture book written and illustrated by Orbie. It is currently schedule for release on October 15 2019. This is a story about a little boy who lives above a convenience store with his mom. When he goes to spend his pocket money on candy—only when Mom’s not looking—he gives the knot on the clothesline by the outdoor stairs a good yank (it makes the best sound). One day, he tugs a little too hard, and takes the stairs a little too fast, and—whiiiiiz!—gets stuck hanging smack in the middle of the clothesline. He cries for help, but Mom doesn’t hear. He waits for someone to save him, but only a black cat slinks by. His arm gets tired—but if he hangs on with both hands, he’ll risk dropping his coins! It’s a true dilemma. Finally, he cries out so loudly that he tumbles to the ground. He still spends his pocket money on candy. But he NEVER touches the clothesline again. 
The Clothesline has simple text and the images tell as much of the story as the words. It is in the style of a graphic novel, complete with sound effects and sequential storytelling. The illustrations show the fear, worry, and indecision of the young boy in trouble quite clearly, and his problem is one that most young readers could see themselves falling into themselves fairly easily. I am sure I would have done something similar in his position. The young boy is a good sympathetic character, gets himself into trouble doing something he knows is wrong but is very tempting and learns his lesson. I think I would have liked to see him a little braver when it is time to come down from the clothesline- but I was a tree climbing and jumping sort of kid.  I liked the story, and the illustrations, and think that it could spark interest in graphic novels in young readers. However, it just did not wow me are strike the chord I was hoping for as I read.

Early Book Review: Unplugged and Unpopular by Mat Heagerty Tintin Pantoja, Mike Amante

Unplugged and Unpopular is a graphic novel written by Mat Heagerty and illustrated by Tintin Pantoja and Mike Amante. It is currently scheduled for release on October 15 2019.  

Erin Song lives in a digital world. Everyone has a phone, a tablet, a computer—more screens than you can count. Even with a world of information at her fingertips, Erin can’t figure out the secret to popularity at her clique-y junior high school. So when uber-popular Wendy asks for help cheating on a test, Erin jumps at the opportunity. This could be her big break! Unfortunately, she gets caught, and her parents ban her from all her devices. Suddenly, Erin Song is the only girl in the world who’s not allowed to look at a screen. And that’s when Erin notices something funny: small, furry aliens making humans disappear with a weird device Erin’s never seen before. No one else notices them, though—except Erin’s grandmother and two old men who run the local library. They’ve discovered that the aliens are using screens to control the human race, tricking them into thinking they aren’t really there—and that anyone who’s been abducted never existed. Now it’s up to Erin and her grandmother to save the day! But without technology on their side, do they stand a chance?

Unplugged and Unpopular is a graphic novel for the tween set. Let's start with what I thought were the best aspects of the story. I thought the story was fun, and many readers will enjoy it. The desire popularity and discovering what is really important is a big part of Erin's story, andI thought that aspect was handle very well. Also, the way many people treat children and older adults was sadly a little too close to the truth for my peace of mind.  I liked the art style a great deal, it capture the intent and mood of the story well and frankly was the high point of the story for me.  It was similar in style to some of my favorite graphic novels, so it was familiar and comfortable to me. If I were reviewing only on the art the book would have gotten more stars.

Now, for the things that bothered me as I read. While I do think the dependence on technology is a good starting point, because it is clearly a large part of society right now, I thought it was a little heavy handed and frankly wrong on some aspects. I feel like the author has not been in a library for many years, because librarians tend to be on the forefront of tech- because patrons will have questions on how to use it and they need access to the more accurate and current information possible to do their jobs. Yes, there are librarians that are not well versed in tech, but I have yet to see a library with no computer screens or tech available for staff or patrons. Also, I found the no-screen thing extremely ironic as I was reading a digital galley rather than a paper one. 

Unplugged and Unpopular is a well drawn graphic novel with a fun story. I did not love it, but think some readers will enjoy it more than I. 

Early Book Review: The House at the End of the Road by Kari Rust

The House at the End of the Road by Kari Rust is a picturebook currently scheduled for release on September 17 2019. One summer, while exploring the town during their annual stay at Grandma’s house, two siblings and their cousin come across a creepy old house. The kids poke around, one of them causing mischief and tossing rocks at the window, until they glimpse a ghost through the glass! Later, Grandma reveals the house doesn’t belong to a ghost—just old Mr. Peterson.  After visiting again with better intentions, the kids discover Mr. Peterson’s great sense of humor and that his house is full of fascinating things: old toys, photographs, even a film projector. They become regular visitors, until one day, Mr. Peterson is gone: he has left for a retirement home, and his house sits empty. Using odds, ends, and gifts he gave them, the kids create mementos of Mr. Peterson’s home to give back to him. 

The House at the End of the Road is a picturebook that will appeal to older readers as well as the younger set because of the topic and the graphic novel elements and feel. I thought the story was very realistic, and is something I could see happening very easily. I liked how the kid's behavior is as flawed as you might find in any kid. Making mistakes, but almost as quickly making amends and finding out how they were wrong. I like that the cousin was afraid of owning up to his mistakes, as even adults are at times, but still did the right thing- eventually. I think the full story arc teaches young readers, and adults, important lessons in taking the time to look past the appearance and taking the time to know people. Forging a friendship across generational lines, and not just learning about each other but taking steps to help and care for each other was very well written. I loved the art style, and think it added a great deal of atmosphere and emotion to the story. 

The House at the End of the Road is a wonderful story that I hope inspires readers off all ages to reach out and make new friends  across generational lines (safely of course) and to take a bit more time to look beyond the rumors and appearance to discover the truth. I hope it will also encourage readers to explore graphic novels further.