Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

October graphic novels have something for everyone!

There are some solid graphic novels hitting shelves in October: LGBTQ+ positive stories and a dystopian adventure for tweens and teens, and for tweens and teens, Art Baltazar’s adorable artwork for kids are just a few of the books you can look forward to. Let’s dive in!

 

Gillbert, Vol. 1: The Little Merman, by Art Baltazar, (Oct. 2018, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781545801451

Ages 6-10

If you have readers who get a kick out of Joey Weiser’s Mermin books, they’ll love Art Baltazar’s Gillbert: The Little Merman! He’s the son of King Nauticus and the prince of Atlanticus, and he’s surrounded by cool friends, like his turtle buddy, Sherbert, and his starfish buddy, Albert. One day, he meets playful mermaid named Anne Phibian, who takes him to a rocking party at WeWillRockTropolis. Meanwhile, aliens invade Earth, but quick action by Queen Niadora and her alien friend, Teeq, save the day.

Art Baltazar creates art that kids love: Tiny Titans; Grimmiss Island; DC Super Pets, and countless more comics have his signature bold, bright artwork and zest for zany adventure. He’s got kid-friendly artwork, storylines, and humor that kids eat up. When my library kids are too young for the DC comics on “the other side of the library” (the teen collection), but still want superheroes, I give them Art Baltazar’s books, and they’re thrilled.

Gillbert’s first outing looks like it’s the start to a fun new under-the-sea series. Papercutz won’t steer you wrong; add this one to your graphic novel shelves.

Lost Soul, Be at Peace, by Maggie Thrash, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick), $18.99, ISBN: 9780763694197

Ages 13+

Acclaimed Honor Girl author Maggie Thrash’s latest book is a continuing memoir with a touch of fiction. A year and a half after the events of Honor Girl, Maggie is spiraling into a deep depression. She’s failing 11th grade; her stuffy, image-consumed mother is baffled, and her workaholic father, a federal judge, pays no attention to her. The only thing Maggie cares about is her cat, Tommi, who seemingly disappears in her rambling home. While searching for Tommi, Maggie discovers a ghost named Tommy, who leads her to peel back layers of her father’s life and see him through new eyes.

Maggie Thrash beautifully captures the tedium and angst of adolescence and the hopelessness of depression. The feeling of shouting into the void is poignantly captured when she opens up about coming out… and being ignored, regardless. She maintains a bitter sense of humor through her journey, making her likeable and relatable, and her watercolor artwork intensifies the feeling of being not-quite-there.

Lost Soul, Be at Peace is a beautifully thoughtful graphic memoir and a must-add to upper middle school and YA collections. Download an author note (also included in the back matter) and Maggie Thrash’s Top 10 Songs for Lost Souls playlist here; view a sample chapter here. Lost Soul, Be at Peace has starred reviews from School Library Journal and Kirkus.

 

Last Pick, by Jason Walz, (Oct. 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728912

Ages 10+

Last Pick is the first in a new dystopian trilogy. Three years ago, aliens invaded earth, taking everyone between the ages of 16 and 65: everyone they deemed “useful”. The survivors left behind live under cruel rule. Too young, too old, too disabled, they’re seen as worthless, receiving slim food rations and living under constant threat. But Sam and Wyatt, a twin brother and sister, are about to change all that. Sam’s the rebel, distributing food and fomenting revolution; Wyatt, her special needs brother, is the brains of the operation: he’s cataloging the aliens, and knows how to work with their technology. They start disrupting the aliens’ plans and making themselves a general nuisance until the aliens decide they’re too much of a threat, right on the eve of their 16th birthday.

Last Pick is SO GOOD. I tore through this one during a lunch hour; it’s compulsive reading with a tight storyline and characters you want to root for. Aliens appear to be enthralled with earth culture and are played in part as comic relief, from the overlord who seems to be influenced by American Westerns, affecting a cowboy-type flavor of speech, to the gooey creature that shares a love of Ultraman with Wyatt. There’s some intrigue going on among the aliens, too; I’m looking forward to learning more in the next installment. Sam and Wyatt are a solid sister-brother unit; Wyatt’s special needs appear to place him on the autism spectrum, and Sam acts as his partner and protector. An underground radio broadcaster, a Latinx who refers to herself as La Sonida, offers moments of retrospection and I hope we get more of her, too.

Adventure, science fiction, and dystopian fans are going to love this. If you have readers who love Spill Zone and Mighty Jack, hand them this one. Last Pick has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden, (Oct. 2018, First Second), $21.99, ISBN: 9781250178138

Ages 14+

Eisner Award winner Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam collects all the installments of her webcomic. It’s a science fiction adventure in a universe that embraces all relationships. Mia is a young woman on a reconstruction crew that travels through space, restoring buildings and structures. The narrative shifts between the present and Mia’s past, where she fell in love at boarding school with a girl named Grace; a girl who was taken away by her family before Mia could say goodbye. Mia learns more about her crewmates and their own stories as they travel through space, ultimately creating a family of their own.

The cast is incredibly, wonderfully, diverse. There’s Char, the co-captain; she’s an African American woman who shares captain duties with her Caucasian wife, Alma: “Char may have the degrees, but Alma knows how to yell”, according to one character, Jules. Jules should know: she’s Alma’s niece, taken in when her mother – Alma’s sister – died. Jules seems to be the youngest member of the crew; she’s most likely a teen, loves playing games, and is the happy optimist of the crew. Ell/Elliot is a Caucasian nonbinary person who prefers they/them/their pronouns – and the crew vociferously defends their right to those pronouns, as Ell is nonverbal. Grace, Mia’s lost love, is African American.

As the narrative shifts between Mia’s past and present, we see Mia and Grace’s relationship develop, right up until Grace’s departure from the school. The color palette shifts with the narrative: cooler colors like blues and purples dominate the flashbacks, while warmer colors creep during the present day. Mia is the central character, but every character in this novel has a story to tell. This is a book I had to move back and forth with during the first few chapters; not having read the webcomic, I wasn’t altogether sure I was reading a connected story until I got the hang of the shifts, and of Mia’s place in them. Stick with the story: it’s an wonderful work of queer speculative fiction that deserves a spot on your shelves. On a Sunbeam is good for young adult/new adult readers.

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Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Guest YA Review: Picture Us in the Light, by Kelly Loy Gilbert

My colleague, Amber, is back with another YA review! Enjoy as she talks about Kelly Loy Gilbert’s Picture Us in the Light.

Picture Us in the Light, by Kelly Loy Gilbert,
(April 2018, Disney-Hyperion), $17.99, ISBN: 9781484726020
Ages 13+
I picked up “Picture Us in the Light” as an ARC at PLA last March. The cover popped, and I grabbed. I’m so glad I did. To my delight, just as I finished reading it, the finished copy showed up from central purchasing, all laminated and ready for my teen shelves!
 
The plot: Danny Cheng is the son of immigrant Chinese parents. His best friends, Harry and Regina, are dating. It’s a tad awkward because Danny has a secret crush on Harry. His parents are thrilled because Danny got into a prestigious art school, but Danny hasn’t been able to draw in a year. He’s harboring major guilt over his role in a tragedy that affected his whole friend group.  When Regina asks Danny to draw a portrait for the school paper related to the tragedy, Danny worries that his inability to do so will be seen as insult to those affected most. Then Danny finds a mysterious box of papers in his father’s things and his parents clam up when he asks about it.
It’s Danny’s senior year. He might not see his friends again because his college is across the country. Will he tell Harry he likes him? What about hurting Regina? Can he break his dry spell? What’s with that secret box of his dad’s? Why won’t his parents tell him anything? 
 
Review: This book made me feel so many ways. Kelly Loy Gilbert gets right to the heart of the teen experience. Her bio says she “believes deeply in the power of stories to illuminate a shared humanity and give voice to a complex, broken people.” That is certainly what happens here. While Danny is the center of the story, his parents are the heart. If anything, Danny’s position emphasizes how important he is to them and makes their sacrifices for him hit harder as they are uncovered.  Did they make the right decisions? Did their decisions hurt Danny? You decide. There are plenty of opportunities for debate in this book, which would make it a great choice for book club.  Here is a boy who deeply needs his parents’ open love and support, but because of secrets they are forced to keep from him, their relationship  with him, while loving and devoted, is not supportive in the way he needs.  Danny reflects that closed nature, keeping his own secrets from his parents and his friends. No one has any idea he hasn’t drawn in a year or why.
 
The best thing about “Picture Us in the Light”, in addition to the wonderful characters and how they are all real and recognizable, is the unfolding story. Mystery upon mystery come to light (yes, I did that, omg I just realized that ‘in the light’ here probably refers to the characters’ dawning awareness—look, I never claimed to be sharp about this kind of thing). OK, sorry. Had a moment there. I’m not going to name the mysteries because part of the joy is discovering them. If  you savor mysteries stemming from secrets so deep they can tear a family apart if they’re kept and might do the same if they’re discovered, you’re in for a treat. 
 
Recommended for teens 12 and up. Good for readers who enjoy: Mystery. Coming of age. LGBT. Personal relationships. Teen friendship issues.  Parent/child issues.  Chinese-American and Chinese immigrant experiences. Family secrets.
 
Posted in Science Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Mecha Samurai Empire – Crossover YA/Adult SciFi!

Mecha Samurai Empire (United States of Japan #2), by Peter Tieryas, (Sept. 2018, Berkley Publishing Group), $16, ISBN: 9780451490995

Ages 14+

This is a fantastic crossover novel for any sci-fi/fantasy fans, manga and anime fans, and alternate history fans out there.  I did NOT want to put this one down!

The backstory: The AXIS powers (primarily Germany and Japan, for purposes of this novel) won what we know as World War II. America is now known as the United States of Japan, and Germany shares control to some degree, of the American territories. It’s an uneasy alliance between Japan and Germany, and the terrorists known as the George Washingtons are always ready to fight.

Now: Makoto Fujimoto is a young man born and raised in California, orphaned by war and raised by an abusive foster home, now a student with one goal: to attend the Berkeley Military Academy and become a mecha pilot. His awful grades threaten his dream, but a chance to work as a civilian mech pilot gives him a chance to get into shape and learn some skills. When his squadron comes under attack by Nazi bio-mechs, he and his surviving squadmate land two spots at the Military Academy, just in time for tensions between the USJ and Nazi Germany to hit an all-time high. There are traitors everywhere… maybe even among Makoto’s old friends.

I LOVED this book. I haven’t read the first book, United States of Japan, and you don’t need to – this adventure takes place in the same universe, but Makoto’s story is entirely his own. (You can bet that I’ve just requested it for myself, and put both books in order cart for the library, though.) There’s fantastic action and world-building; gratuitous mech battles; intrigue, and strong characters. Peter Tieryas creates some wonderfully strong, intelligent female characters and gives his male characters empathy and feeling. Pacific Rim fans, Harry Turtledove fans, and Man in the High Castle fans will dive right into this series, and so will your anime and manga fans. I’ve already booktalked this one to a teen at my library; he fully expects this to be waiting here for him when it hits shelves on September 18th.

Get your geek on and booktalk/display with Garrison Girl and some gundam manga.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

When Elephants Fly digs deeply into trauma and healing

When Elephants Fly, by Nancy Richardson Fischer, (Sept. 2018, Harlequin TEEN), $18.99, ISBN: 9781335012364

Ages 14+

Lily is a high school senior with a plan: she’s going to avoid stress, drugs, booze, and romantic entanglements; anything that can trigger a stressful episode. She’s in a race against time, because the odds are against her: her mother, and women in her family, have all developed schizophrenia. Schizophrenia most commonly manifests between the ages of 18 and 30, so for the next 12 years, Lily’s on guard. She even has her best friend, Sawyer, give her psych quizzes to catch any developing symptoms. Lily’s mother stopped taking her meds when Lily was a child, and during one episode, tried to kill Lily; she later committed suicide in prison, and Lily, who’s still dealing with the trauma, is getting no help from her father, who won’t discuss Lily’s mother or the incident.

Lily’s on a journalism internship when she witnesses the birth of a new elephant calf at the local zoo. When the calf’s mother tries to kill her calf, and a story goes out with Lily’s byline, she’s stuck with the story – and the fallout. A traveling circus enacts a claim on the calf, and the zoo director is furious with Lily’s betrayal. Swifty bonds with Lily, but the calf’s grief puts her health at risk. Lily’s determination to save Swifty is at odds with her resolve to stay away from stressful situations, but she’s committed to the calf.

Nancy Richardson Fischer brings together a fantastic amount of elements to create When Elephants Fly: trauma; mental illness; the animal captivity debate, and journalistic integrity, for starters. Lily is a fascinating and complex character; she may not always be sympathetic, but she is empathetic. She’s not always likable – she’ll admit it – but readers will always feel for her, because she’s facing down a very real monster and fighting it every step of the way. Swifty is as a strong supporting character in the book, too; she brings out the vulnerable, human side of Lily that she tries to push down. Before Swifty, Lily seems determined to barrel through the next 12 years as mildly and quietly as possible: Swifty makes her engage with her surroundings and with people other than Sawyer.

When Elephants Fly is a strong, moving story that allows for big discussions. A must-add to YA collections; a must-read for caregivers and educators that know tweens and teens dealing with trauma.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Toil and Trouble… Tales of witchcraft for YA and beyond

Toil and Trouble, edited by Tess Sharpe and Jessica Spotswood, (Aug. 2018, Harlequin TEEN), $18.99, ISBN: 9781335016270

Ages 13+

Did you love Radical Element, with its historical fiction tales of young women breaking conventions and being amazing? Then you’ll love Toil & Trouble, an anthology loaded with tales of women and witchcraft. And not the Hocus Pocus, “I Put a Spell on You” type of witchcraft, either: these witches are in touch with nature and themselves; they’re multicultural, they’re queer, they’re angry, and they’re very, very human. Wild Beauty‘s Anna-Marie McLemore weaves a story about faith in “Love Spells”; Brooklyn Brujahs author Zoraida Cordova writes about the wisdom of age and the passing of generations in “Divine Are the Stars”. Robin Talley’s “The Legend of Stone Mary” goes the historic route, with the legend of a dead witch haunting a local community. Elizabeth May’s “Why They Watch Us Burn” is a chilling companion story to readers of The Handmaid’s Tale, simmering with rage and rebellion. The women in these stories are never victims, even while others may try to victimize them: they own their power, no matter what the circumstances may hold.

Jessica Spotswood and Tess Sharpe have curated a strong collection of short stories written by strong authors here. There’s something for everyone in this volume, with strong, solitary characters who defend their homes to women who form a collective to survive. There are non-binary, LGBT, and cis characters, and there are characters from world cultures throughout. Characters confront big issues including sexual assault and emotional abuse. As Kirkus writes in its starred review, “No damsels in distress to be found here”. Toil and Trouble has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist.

Find more books about witches in this great BookRiot feature.

(Note: I watch Hocus Pocus every Halloween; nothing but love for my Sanderson Sisters!)

Posted in Historical Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

YA Alternate History: My Name is Victoria

My Name is Victoria, by Lucy Worsley, (May 2018, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0-7636-8807-3

Ages 12+

Lucy Worsley, British historian Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces and Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, creates an alternate history surrounding Queen Victoria’s ascension to the throne that YA fans, Anglophiles, and BritLit fans like me will LOVE.

Eleven-year-old Miss V. Conroy, daughter of Sir John Conroy, wielder of the royal checkbook (aka, the comptroller), is headed to London to serve as a companion to the Princess Victoria. She’s not terribly sorry to leave home – her mother seems to have forgotten about her ages ago, and her domineering father insists that Miss V and her dog, Dash, are exactly what the young Princess needs. Or does Sir John need another set of eyes and ears in Kensington? That’s what seems to be the case, as Miss V discovers once she arrives at Kensington and meets Victoria, who’s an unkempt, rude girl prone to throwing temper tantrums. Sir John expects Miss V to keep him apprised of everything the young princess says and does, desperate to keep his oppressive hold on Victoria and her mother – a structure known as “The Kensington System” – and eventually, wield the power behind the throne. As Victoria and Miss V develop a close friendship, Miss V begins questioning her father and The System.

Originally published in the UK My Name is Victoria is a book that historical fiction fans will addictively read from start to finish. Miss V goes through major character growth, from a young girl in awe of her powerful father, to a jaded young woman who has seen and learned too much about the world, and her family’s place in it. Queen Victoria is a strong supporting character; at times needy and unpredictable, other times, aware and angry, striking out at the repressive Kensington System and John Conroy’s manipulation. There are complicated relationships, British politics, a little bit of intrigue, and a blend of fact and fiction to please. My Name is Victoria has a starred review from Kirkus. British history fans should check out Lucy Worsley’s webpage, and learn more about the real-life Victoria and the Kensington System at the BBC’s page. U.S. Publisher Candlewick Press has a chapter excerpt available.

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Guest Post: Sadie, Courtney Summers

Today, I’ve got a guest post from my colleague, Amber; she’s the teen librarian at my library, and we share a love of Marvel Comics and movies and good YA fiction. She recently read Sadie, by Courtney Summers, and was dying to talk about it. Take it away, Amber!

 

Sadie, by Courtney Summers, (Sept. 2018, Wednesday Books),
$17.99, ISBN: 978-1250105714
Ages 14+

Sadie Hunter, a 19-year-old girl, disappears after her 13-year-old sister is murdered. The girls’ surrogate grandmother contacts West McCray, an NPR-like radio host, to find her. Sadie, by Courtney Summers, flips between the script of McCray’s resulting podcast series and the POV of Sadie herself as she follows clues to track down the person she believes killed Mattie.
This is a dark story with few slivers of light to break the tension. You experience Sadie’s hungry, desperate, furious mindset firsthand. West McCray doesn’t want to get involved. “Girls go missing all the time.” But his producer pushes him, and soon he’s too involved to turn back. Sadie went through heavy things as a little girl. Be prepared for strong mentions of substance abuse (by mom) and parental abandonment. Child molestation is a heavy theme throughout. (Sadie is a survivor, and much of her actions are driven by her anger.)  Sadie intends to murder Mattie’s killer when she finds him. Along the way, her singular focus puts her into dangerous situations, made worse by her constant starving state and lack of sleep that affects her judgment and reactions. A scene when she goes “undercover” as a new teen in a town where she has a lead offers a view of the kind of popular teen she might have been if everything and everyone in her life wasn’t so messed up. In that short moment, she makes friends, but hours later destiny throws her another horrifying curveball.
There are many heartbreaking aspects of this story, but the idea that the sisters could have been saved if only someone had listened to Sadie when she was a young girl and taken her seriously is one that will keep readers up at night.
Sadie is a powerful book that teens who enjoyed Thirteen Reasons Why could get into easily. It doesn’t have a pat ending, and discerning readers may notice that some of the conclusions McCray reaches don’t line up with Sadie’s, which leaves the armchair detectives among us to draw their own answers. These moments help alleviate the few times it feels that McCray’s sections are repeating Sadie’s, especially as he gets closer to tracking her down.

Sadie has starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist. There’s also a chapter excerpt available on Bust Magazine’s website.