Review: Laura Dean Keep Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki

Laura Dean Keep Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki

Laura Dean Keep Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell (9781250312846)

Freddy is dating the most popular girl at school. She is exactly the person you want to date, pretty, sexy, charming, and makes you feel like the center of her world. Until you aren’t, which happens pretty often. Laura keeps on cheating on Freddy, breaking up with her, and then asking Freddy to get back together. Freddy knows that it’s not ideal and so do all of her friends. When the two girls break up again, Freddy’s best friend Doodle encourages her to see a medium (who is also a great dungeon master too) to get advice. The medium agrees with all of Freddy’s friends, break up with Laura Dean. But it’s not that easy and as their relationship heats up again, Freddy risks her friendships to continue to be with the intoxicating Laura Dean.

This graphic novel beautifully captures a captivating but toxic romantic and sexual relationship. Tamaki has created several brilliant characters who avoid any kind of stereotype and are written as individuals. In particular, I appreciated Doodle, one of the only teen characters I have seen in a novel that avoids using a cell phone. As a parent of this type of teen, it is refreshing to see a character do this so organically. Fans of Dungeons & Dragons or other tabletop gaming will love the DM as a medium and the use of gaming as a way to connect on multiple levels.

The art is a great complement to the story line. Filled with touches of pink, the art takes small moments and tiny focal points to tell a robust story. Just the images of Freddy’s shoes walking alone after a break up speak so beautifully of loneliness. The characters themselves are also vividly depicted in the art, from Freddy alone on her rumpled sheets to Doodle’s body language when she is being neglected.

An exceptional LGBTQ graphic novel that talks openly about toxicity in relationships and the importance of friendships. Appropriate for ages 15-18.

Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.

 

Review: Your Turn, Adrian by Helena Oberg

Your Turn, Adrian by Helena Oberg

Your Turn, Adrian by Helena Oberg, illustrated by Kristin Lidstrom, translated by Eva Apelqvist (9781773061498)

Adrian doesn’t fit in at school. Bullied by some of the kids in the schoolyard, he spends his time in class hoping not to be called on. When he is, his heart pounds and his mind goes blank. He can’t answer even the easiest of questions out loud. He spends lunch alone and his recess dangling from tree branches. On his way home, he does head stands and walks on his hands. At home, his father works early and his mother works late, Then Adrian meets Heidi, a large wolfhound, who bonds with him immediately. The two of them spend all of their time together, she even goes with him to school. With Heidi at his side, Adrian doesn’t need to worry about bullies and he can focus in class and answer questions. But Heidi was someone else’s dog, and eventually Heidi found her owner again. Adrian was left alone again, missing Heidi dreadfully. Until Heidi found him again too. Adrian got to meet Heidi’s owner, and discovered a world of tightropes and performances.

This unique and fascinating book explores the life of a lonely boy who is different than the other children. He is quiet, unpopular and prone to anxiety, and yet he is also brave as he swings from tree branches and does hand stands on ledges. The text in the book is minimal with many of the pages showing only the illustrations and not having any words on them. The words often downplay the emotions that Adrian is feeling, though after he loses Heidi, his grief is palpable in both words and illustrations.

The illustrations are truly the heart of the book. They move from multi-paneled pencil drawings to full two-page paintings. The pencil drawings show Adrian’s everyday life while the large illustrations capture his emotions with a lush clarity. The small moments captured in Adrian’s day make up his life, one after another, small and yet also meaningful.

An incredibly moving graphic novel that invites readers to see beyond a person’s surface. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley provided by Groundwood Books.

2019 Eisner Award Nominees

The Eisner Award Nominees for 2019 have been announced. Here are the nominees for the categories that are specifically for children and teens. Explore many of the other categories for great picks for young readers who love comics!

BEST PUBLICATION FOR EARLY READERS (up to age 8)

Johnny Boo and the Ice Cream Computer by James Kochalka

Petals by Gustavo Borges

Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable

This Is a Taco! by Andrew Cangelose and Josh Shipley

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri

 

BEST PUBLICATION FOR KIDS (ages 9-12)

Aquicorn Cove by Katie O’Neill

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

Crush by Svetlana Chmakova

The Divided Earth by Faith Erin Hicks (also nominated for Best Coloring)

 

BEST PUBLICATION FOR TEENS

All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Gumballs by Erin Nations

Middlewest by Skottie Young and Jorge Corona

Norroway, Book 1: The Black Bull of Norroway by Cate Seaton and Kit Seaton

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (also nominated for Best Writer/Artist)

Watersnakes by Tony Sandoval (also nominated for Best Writer/Artist and Best Painter/Multimedia Artist for interior art)

Review: Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable and Ellen T. Crenshaw (9781250196934)

Mads has two best friends, Cat who drags her to hear bands that she’s never heard of, and her father. Every Sunday, Mads joins her father for minor league baseball games and other evenings they watch their favorite TV shows together. Mads’ mother is often left out of their father-daughter time together and as the book progresses, it looks like Mads may be headed for her parents divorcing. But it’s all about a secret that her father is keeping from her, something to do with a large check sent to Mads and a grandfather she never met. As the secrets start to be revealed, Mads begins to learn more about herself as well and just who she really wants to kiss.

This graphic novel is amazing, particularly when one sees it was written by one person and drawn by another. The entire book is one cohesive whole with art that is both playful but also emotionally rich when the story calls for it. The writing is strong and the story is complex. Venable includes religion throughout the book, allowing space for questioning beliefs, particularly around LGBTQ issues. Those themes enrich the entire graphic novel, creating tension in the family, offering honesty to replace secrets, and giving sources of pride rather than disdain. Venable doesn’t offer easy resolution to these issues and the way that they impact generations of a family.

A stellar graphic novel for teens that is filled with LGBTQ pride. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.

 

Review: Cicada by Shaun Tan

Cicada by Shaun Tan

Cicada by Shaun Tan (9781338298390)

Cicada has worked for seventeen years in a high rise office. He isn’t given any benefits, because he’s not human. He can’t use the office restroom because it’s for humans. He works hard, finishing people’s work for them. He lives in the space between the walls, since he can’t afford rent. The company knows about this but ignores it. Sometimes humans beat him up because he’s different. Finally, it comes time for Cicada to retire. There is no party or fond farewell, just clearing his desk and leaving. Cicada heads up to the top of the building and….

I can’t ruin the ending of this book for you. Just know that it is incredibly moving and powerful. This is a book that is impossible to categorize. It comes closest to being a picture book for teens, since it doesn’t really have a graphic novel feel. In libraries, I’d put it with the graphic novels for teens though, because those young adults will enjoy it most. Tan speaks directly to those in soul-killing jobs, who work day after day for a pay check that isn’t enough. Cicada’s voice is particularly haunting. Written in abruptly disconnected sentences that are distinctive, Cicada also ends each page with insect noises that create poetry.

Tan’s illustrations are very effective. With gray layered on gray, the world is washed out and faded. Walls, floors, cubicles, furniture. Everything is despairingly monotone. But then you have bright-green Cicada, wearing his fitted gray suit and trying not only to fit in but to help out. The final images in the book stick with you too.

An incredible book for teens, this one is sad, surprising and uplifting. It’s my new choice for graduation gifts. Appropriate for ages 14-18.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: New Kid by Jerry Craft

New Kid by Jerry Craft

New Kid by Jerry Craft (9780062691200)

All Jordan wanted to do was go to art school, but instead his parents decided to send him to a private school full of opportunities for his future. Starting the school in seventh grade on financial aid, Jordan is also one of the only students of color there. Jordan is soon trying to figure out how to navigate from his Washington Heights neighborhood to the Riverdale Academy Day School. As he travels to school, he steadily changes his outfit to fit in more. He also does code switching to fit in better. Still, with some teachers it doesn’t work at all and they continually get his name wrong as well as that of other kids of color. As Jordan’s frustration grows, it shows in his art as he creates pointed social critiques of a school he is starting to really enjoy though he wonders if he will ever fit in.

This is one of the best books for middle school age that deals with microaggressions, bias, privilege, and racism. Given that it is a graphic novel too, that makes it all the more appealing as a source for discussion. Craft takes on all of these issues with a forthright tone, frustration and a willingness to engage. He doesn’t make all of the white people clueless, but many of them are just like in real life. Jordan’s struggle to codeswitch and fit in is beautifully conveyed in the art and story line.

Jordan serves as a catalyst in the school, crossing lines to make new friends, avoiding the school bully, and having serious conversations with other kids. At the same time, the book is filled with humor, which offsets the serious tone about racial and biased incidents which are never laughed off.  The inclusion of all sorts of pop culture references makes the book all the more fun to read.

A strong and compelling work of graphic fiction. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

Review: Bloom by Kevin Panetta

Bloom by Kevin Panetta

Bloom by Kevin Panetta, illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau (9781626726413)

A sweet combination of romance and baking rises to perfection in this graphic novel for teens. All Ari wants to do is leave their small town and move to the big city with his band. Unfortunately, he has to stay and help with his family’s bakery which is struggling financially. Then Ari comes up with a plan, to hire someone else to help in the bakery so that he is free to leave. That’s when Hector enters his life, a big calm guy who loves to bake just as much as Ari hates it. The two of them slowly becomes friends with romance hanging in the air, and that’s when Ari ruins it all.

We need so many more books for teens that focus on life after high school, particularly ones where the characters don’t have any real plans of what to do and aren’t headed for college. The story line here is beautifully laid out, creating a real connection between the two main characters that builds and grows. Then comes the devastating choice that Ari makes to blame Hector for an accident that they were both involved in. Panetta again allows the story to have a lovely natural pace even in this disaster, giving the reader pause about whether this is going to be a love story or not.

The art by Ganucheau is exceptional. The two characters are drawn with an eye for reality but also romance. They could not be more different with Ari light and rather dreamy and Hector a more anchoring and settled figure even in their depictions on the page. The baking scenes as they two work together are the epitome of romantic scenes, showing their connection to one another long before it fully emerges in the story.

A great LGBT graphic novel filled with romance and treats. Appropriate for ages 15-20.

Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.

Review: A Story about Cancer (With a Happy Ending) by India Desjardins

A Story about Cancer (With a Happy Ending) by India Desjardins

A Story about Cancer (With a Happy Ending) by India Desjardins, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer, translated by Solange Ouellet (9781786039774)

As a teen heads to her doctor appointment to find out how much time she has left to live, she thinks about her path to this moment. Diagnosed with leukemia at age 10, she didn’t know anyone who had cancer. She thinks about the awful hospital decor done in colors meant to calm and soothe. She thinks about the hospital smell that seeps into her clothes and skin after a time there and how she begs for lavender to be sprayed all over when she gets back home. She thinks of her parents and their support for her, but also the difficult conversations she has had to have with them about losing her battle with cancer. As the book promises, it does have a happy ending, one that will be greatly appreciated by teens with cancer and those who love them.

Originally published in French in Canada, this graphic novel for teens has a unique feel. Not done in panels, but in more of a free-flowing form, this novel is a quick read that speaks about the process of fighting cancer, the deep emotions that come with your life being at risk, and the importance of family and hope to keep you afloat in the dark times. The voice telling the story is written with a ringing clarity that cuts through any sentimentality and speaks honestly to the reader.

The art in the book is touching and emotional. It captures what the narrator is feeling and their view at the time, often making the words all the more powerful as it gives an image to the emotion. There is a beautiful translucent nature to the illustrations, an ethereal feeling made all the more effective given the subject.

A vital book filled with hope and a happy ending. Appropriate for ages 12-16.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

2019 Great Graphic Novels

Young Adult Library Services Association

YALSA has announced their 2019 list of the best graphic novels and illustrated nonfiction for those aged 12-18. The full list can be found here. They also select a top ten which follows:

Anne Frank's Diary: The Graphic Adaptation Crush (Awkward, #3)

Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation by Anne Frank and Ari Folman, illustrated by David Polonsky

Crush by Svetlana Chmakova

Hey, Kiddo Illegal

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Adrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano

My Brother's Husband, Volume 2 On a Sunbeam

My Brother’s Husband, Volume 2 by Gengoroh Tagame

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden

Royal City, Vol. 2: Sonic Youth 銀の匙 Silver Spoon 1 [Gin no Saji Silver Spoon 1]

Royal City, Volumes 2 & 3 by Jeff Lemire

Silver Spoon, Volumes 1-4 by Hiromu Arakawa

Speak: The Graphic Novel The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, illustrated by Emily Carroll

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown