Transcendent storytelling meets dark and detailed illustration, all folded up into a Canadian suburban landscape. Skim captures the awkwardness, the iTranscendent storytelling meets dark and detailed illustration, all folded up into a Canadian suburban landscape. Skim captures the awkwardness, the isolation, and the crush of new feeling connected to adolescence and spins it into graphica gold. Written from Kimberly Keiko Cameron's perspective, readers are invited into the internal space of the character known as "Skim" through her cutting journal entries and her often strained interaction with parents, her best friend, Lisa, and the enigmatic English teacher, Ms. Archer. She is a beautiful mess of teenaged angst and anxieties and offers a stunning portrait of a young girl negotiating the complex network of first love, depression, friendship, and alienation.
Readers new to graphic novels will find an absolute gem with Skim, one that will form the (unfair) basis of comparison for all other works produced in this medium. Serious, it will take a stunning duo to overwhelm the story contained in these pages. It's the graphic novel I wish I wrote.
Ideal for: fans of coming-of-age narratives; newbies to the graphic novel universe; readers who love confessional, intimate prose from their first-person characters; kids who came of age in the 90s in Canada....more
Epic in scope though intimate in its details, A Drifting Life offers an impressive and immersive experience of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's formative years, deEpic in scope though intimate in its details, A Drifting Life offers an impressive and immersive experience of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's formative years, depicting that elusive time before he revolutionized the world of manga with his gritty, cinematic style. Clocking in at a staggering 800+ pages, this illustrated memoir introduces readers to the initial inspiration of the young mangaka in post-WWII Japan and documents his initial success as a grade school artist and his first experiments with manga. We see the young man transform his initial passion into a paid profession and witness his creation of a new school of manga known as Gekiga.
Throughout the piece, Tatsumi takes great effort with his cultural and historical context, often striking new scenes with a tour of Japan's development at the time and locating his personal growth within the greater evolution of his home nation. This is necessary reading for all fans of manga as an expressive medium and offers a nod to the great talent surrounding Tatsumi and his close friends/fellow mangakas in the 1940s and onward.
Ideal for: Manga-obsessed readers who need an education on the roots of this medium; Readers who gravitate toward memoirs; Individuals with an eye toward Japan and its mid-20th-century cultural revolutions....more
Where We Have To Go sparkles in its sad revelations on the life of one young girl stuck in one dysfunctional family. Lauren Kirshner marks her debut wWhere We Have To Go sparkles in its sad revelations on the life of one young girl stuck in one dysfunctional family. Lauren Kirshner marks her debut with a fine-tuned novel filled with ample quirk, a touch of spunk, and a whole lot of tragic circumstances. As the novel opens, the eleven-year-old Lucy dreams of freedom in the shape of a bicycle. Her vision dissipates when she receives a pair of second-hand roller skates for her birthday, and when she becomes conscious of her parents' marital troubles. Lucy then embarks on an odyssey toward adulthood, an adventure riddled with toxic friendships, anorexia, and anxieties connected to her changing environment. Even as she wades through her own confusion, Lucy maintains her charm and presses on.
Set in Toronto in the nineties, the novel invites young readers to re-live their past through a literary lens. Kirshner adds delightful touches of pop culture to her text, most notably in little Lucy's admiration of ALF. Sweet, complicated, and entirely addictive -- finish the novel in one sitting, then repeat.
Ideal for: Toronto high schoolers needing proof of literature's relevancy; Twenty-somethings needing a hit of nostalgia; Coming-of-age junkies.
Lemon pits one girl against a world of unreliable parents, irreparable environmental damage, children suffering from cancer, and a collection of deadbLemon pits one girl against a world of unreliable parents, irreparable environmental damage, children suffering from cancer, and a collection of deadbeat, hopeless high school peers bent on making her life a spiraling vortex to hell. Our heroine, Lemon, is a rootless wonder -- her time is divided between her adopted father's suicidal ex, brief glimpses of the biological mother who Lemon has never met, and Drew, a school principal afraid to leave her house after she was stabbed by a student. At school, Lemon distances herself from her over-sexed, drug-addled peers; however, the self-imposed exile tends to draw more attention than she desires. She splits her time between a thankless part-time job at a mall ice cream parlour and a volunteer job on a cancer ward for children where she acts as a full-time caregiver for a quick-witted protégé. To escape the increasing disappointments of life in general, Lemon turns to critiques of classic literary heroines (eg. Jane Eyre, Tess of the d'Urbervilles) and stories of great tragedy for comfort. But life cannot be ignored, and the going gets worse before it can ever get better.
Despite the bleak content, Cordelia Strube's prose proves addictive and dazzling. Lemon's perspective leans toward the dark, brooding side of adolescence with good cause, but Strube compels readers to hitch themselves to the young girl's happiness. We want the best for Lemon, and it is hard to ignore the internalized protective parent who wishes to pull Lemon out from the tragedies gathering around her. Strube's first person narrative lends great believability to the character, and the artful integration of classic literary heroines adds greater depth to the novel's themes overall.
Ideal for: Coming-of-age junkies who will not shy away from troubling, upsetting events; English majors looking for a thesis topic comparing modern literary heroines with the girls of Austen; Readers who root for the underdog....more
The Complete Persepolis presents a candid, stark, and emotionally overwhelming account of a young girl's comiOriginally posted on Across the Litoverse
The Complete Persepolis presents a candid, stark, and emotionally overwhelming account of a young girl's coming of age during Iran's Islamic Revolution in the late twentieth-century. As a young girl attending a secular French school prior to the revolution, Marjane Satrapi offers a chilling account of her sudden switch to a state-occupied education system, and showcases her family's efforts to teach the young girl to question her educators while still taking utter pleasure in attaining knowledge and guarding her dignity as a human being. As an adolescent, Satrapi was then sent to Vienna in a bid to gain a secularized education unavailable to her in Iran; however, once there, her devotion to her homeland is tested in the face of racism and outsiders who would deny her experiences of war. In the end, Satrapi returns to Iran only to find she must exile herself in order to attain the life she desires.
Satrapi's use of black and white inking was an excellent decision on her part—I often found the stark contrast between the two heightened the tension of certain moments, in particular the scenes depicting the most violent moments in her childhood (e.g. representations of massacre, the bombings of her home town, images of young boys sent to die with plastic "keys" to the afterlife, etc.) Also, I found Satrapi's paired-down language and blunt sentences were perfect throughout Persepolis. I was surprised how often a simple phrase could prick the tears from my eyes—I'm not one to cry over books, but I was nearly set over the edge a few times there. For instance, in the first part of Persepolis, the dual presentation of Uncle Anoosh's "bread swan" (literally, a swan fashioned from a piece of bread) gift to Marjane is heartbreaking: first, upon his release from prison, and once again as a memento given before his execution (70). Never have the words "star of my life" brought me so close to the waterworks… Definitely, Persepolis is a remarkable work with haunting moments that are bound to sit with readers for a long time coming.
Ideal for: Readers with a penchant for memoir-ish graphic novels and real life comic works; Scholars with a background in Middle Eastern studies who need a fresh perspective on Iran's Islamic Revolution; Fans of book-to-film adaptations; Teens in need of an eye-opening on the world out there....more
Meiko Inoue is a small town girl and recent college graduate who works as an average drone in the heart ofOriginally published on Across the Litoverse
Meiko Inoue is a small town girl and recent college graduate who works as an average drone in the heart of Tokyo. She fetches tea, photocopies reports, and resists the urge to fall asleep at an office that manufactures office equipment. She lives with her boyfriend of six years, Naruo Taneda, who works nights as a part-time freelance illustrator for another nameless design company. With his pittance of a paycheque, Naruo relies on Meiko for shelter and sustenance. But, after two years of working in the same stifling office space, Meiko decides to quit her job without warning—and with nothing more than one year's worth of savings to support her.
With no plan and no guidance, Meiko drifts through her days in search of what will make her feel happy and fulfilled. Meanwhile, Naruo senses the new pressure—in the absence of a regular, substantial income, he is forced to choose between longer hours at a frustrating dead-end job or a last shot at pursuing his music with the band. He must weigh his own confidence against his need to measure up to the world around him; however, the cost of both options turn out to be far too much to bear…
Inio Asano strikes a scene that's at once believable, palpable, and relatable—he captures the unfocused angst of the young adult and renders it both beautiful and tragic. Asano explains in his afterword that he wrote this manga as a twenty-four year old recent graduate who found himself debating whether he could make a decent go as a professional mangaka. His doubts about his artistic talent, his fears over risking his uneventful and good life for the sake of change, and his questions over what constitutes true happiness overwhelm the pages of Solanin, and I think these are universal issues among the twenty-something crowd out there. He handles his characters with great care and humanity, to the point where I could see reflections of myself and my friends within this group's dynamic. Excellent work overall, and a compelling read for folks in their late teens/early twenties.
Ideal for: Manga disbelievers who ought to be converted; Listless, fearful, or dissatisfied twenty-somethings in need of the reassurance that they're not alone in this; Readers who like stories about bands or that special band-induced camaraderie; Artists (in any medium) who need a shot o' inspiration....more
Under the Hawthorn Tree opens with Jingqiu, a senior high school student, who's travelling to the countrysidFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Under the Hawthorn Tree opens with Jingqiu, a senior high school student, who's travelling to the countryside with her Educational Reform Association to write a new textbook based on the testimonies of the lower and middling peasants of West Village. Jingqiu comes from an impoverished and politically questionable urban family, and her impressive writing skills coupled with her endurance allow Jingqiu to redeem what she views as her political shortcomings. She aims to fit in with her hosts and the rural way of life until she meets Sun Jianxin (a.k.a. Old Third), a man who had once lived with her host family as she is now. From the moment the two meet, an instant and impossible love blooms—Old Third comes from a powerful military family while Jingqiu's father was sent to a labour reform camp as a reviled landowner.
Once Jingqiu returns to the city, Old Third continues to pursue her at all costs. But Jingqiu cannot ignore her mother's warning: one slip leads down a road of hardship. One simple mistake—whether it be a misinterpreted letter, an overheard comment, or a neighbour who witnesses a her walking with an unknown man—can ruin a girl's reputation and damage her family's social standing. Even with those fears running through her head, Jingqiu falls further in love with Old Third, and approaches what will no doubt cause her a lifetime of heartache…
Ai Mi captures Jingqiu's suffocating anxiety with grace—she's a quick and clever girl, but sadly, she must redirect her energies into constant self-policing to avoid bringing greater hardship onto her family. Also, love during the Cultural Revolution speaks loudest through the small, secretive details (e.g. Old Third buying new boots for Jingqiu after she ruins her feet at work; Jingqiu sews Old Third's letters into her jacket to protect them from outsiders). I did find Jingqiu's fierce pride could get frustrating at times, though I understand why she would refuse to accept money and other gifts from her friends and from Old Third. Overall, a great addition to the reading list and an excellent representative of modern Chinese literature.
Ideal for: Readers who like their romances tragic, impossible, and a touch melodramatic; Folks with an interest in Chinese literature and personal stories from the Cultural Revolution; Readers who notice the small details in life and value the guarded gestures of two lovers living in bad times....more
At twelve, Hazel Grace Lancaster was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer and was prepared to die. At fourFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
At twelve, Hazel Grace Lancaster was diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer and was prepared to die. At fourteen, an aggressive, long-settled satellite colony of tumours was discovered in her lungs. As a last resort treatment, Hazel enrolled in a clinical trial for a new drug called Phalanxifor—and now, she's living on borrowed time.
As the novel opens, sixteen-year-old Hazel's closest "friend" is An Imperial Affliction, a novel written by the reclusive author Peter Van Houten. She re-reads the novel because of Van Houten's complex portrayal of a young girl's struggle with cancer and his careful understanding of what it means to be dying and to not have died yet. Her parents decide to send Hazel to a church-based Cancer Kid Support Group in an effort to get their daughter engaged with the world again—and there, her life is re-written by a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters.
Brilliant book that did, in fact, make me feel all of the things. ALL of them. John Green offers a multi-facted view of Hazel and Augustus, and reminds readers that every one of us cannot be reduced to a single condition or social label or whatever the case may be. Green doesn't humanize a social or health issue here—instead, he shows us the complicated lives of three kids who learn to live despite their cancer. A subtle shift, no doubt, but a remarkable one to witness on paper.
As well, I love that John Green expects more of his readers than the standard YA author. While Green writes for teens, he never writes down to them. And, when it comes to the emotional spectrum and the honesty written into The Fault in Our Stars, Green proves his work needs to be read by teens and adults alike.
Ideal for: Nerdfighters (or Nerdfighters-in-training); Clever teens who need a lesson on real-life romance; Adult YA diehards who don't mind crying openly on the morning/evening commute; Readers looking to remember the transformative power of the written world; You, if you're reading this....more
Joshua Joseph Spork vowed to live a quiet life. As the son of Mathew "Tommy Gun" Spork, Joe spent his youthFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Joshua Joseph Spork vowed to live a quiet life. As the son of Mathew "Tommy Gun" Spork, Joe spent his youth among the glamorous, self-made thieves of the Night Market and learned of London's mobster scene from the Dandy of Hoosegow himself. In the wake of his father's death, Joe renounced his title as the heir of crime and followed his grandfather, Daniel, into the honourable world of clockwork repair. Of course, Joe's business suffers under its anachronistic leanings, and he struggles to earn a living with his antique clocks and mechanical curios.
When Joe's mischievous pal, Billy Friend, offers him a glimpse of a clockwork "doodah", Joe takes the fate of the world into his very hands. His tinkering activates a contraption called the Angelmaker, a veritable doomsday machine commissioned by Shem Shem Tsien—the sadistic Opium Khan of Addeh Sikkim—and built by Frankie Fossoyeur, a Frenchwoman consumed by her own brilliance. With the clock running, Joe must call upon his thieving roots and put his street smarts to work in order to survive. At the same time, one woman named Edie Banister—a former British intelligence agent from the Second World War era—holds the well-guarded secret of the Angelmaker's origins, and only she knows how to stop the deadly clockwork swarm within…
Nick Harkaway captures a brilliantly gritty and violent world of organized crime, espionage, and government-sanctioned torture, while creating a vibrant cast of characters overflowing with amusing tics and cutting humour at every turn. He's got an excellent ear for dialogue as well, and he wields a dark, very British sense of humour in the most unlikely situations. I found I took an immediate shine to Joe Spork for his loveable, somewhat self-defeatist attitude at the start, and for his hesitant charm throughout.Readers are treated to a rare example of a coming-of-(middle)-age novel, which proves to be a delightful twist to a common generic convention.
Overall, Angelmaker proves an addictive read with a stinging sense of humour, and readers will find an eclectic blend of noir mystery, science fiction, and espionage action all in one shot.
Ideal for: Noir newcomers with a penchant for sci fi; Dark humorists craving the glitz and swank of London's underworld; Readers craving complex narrative puzzles within their looming-apocalypse books; Folks interested in coming-of-(middle)-age stories and their unpredictable outcomes....more
Maggie McKay hardly knows what to do with herself. After a lovely childhood of homeschool lessons with her mFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Maggie McKay hardly knows what to do with herself. After a lovely childhood of homeschool lessons with her mother and roughhousing with her three older brothers, Maggie's facing her toughest trial yet—her first year in public high school.
Behind this new, uncertain social terrain hides an unsettled domestic scene that distracts Maggie from her first September abroad. Her mother abandoned the family at the start of the summer for unknown reasons. Daniel, her eldest brother, has invested his free time in the school's drama club and has started the inevitable flight from home. Zander and Lloyd, her twin brothers, are fighting with unprecedented viciousness and are struggling to establish their identities apart from one another. Even Maggie's father is changing—after earning a promotion with the local police department, he's been told to cut his trademark long hair to fit his new station.
And, to make matters worse, Maggie's haunted.
By a ghost.
What is a girl to do?
Faith Erin Hicks takes those dreaded first-day jitters and adds an intriguing paranormal twist to the mix. Hicks establishes the tensions within the McKay clan from the start with a subtle hand—before Maggie reaches the front doors of her new school, readers know what's at stake for the young girl and understand the ways in which her familial bonds are splintering. Also, I quite liked the playful aspects of Hicks's artwork—it reminded me of Bryan Lee O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim series, though her dialogue is far more endearing and her characters are charming to boot. Overall, an excellent read from a rising star in Canadian comics. Hicks captures the wonderful, awkward moments of youth and creates a coming-of-age narrative fit for both girl and ghost.
Ideal for: Kids prepping for their first year in high school; Graphic novel fans who'd like to explore the best of Canadian comics; Artsy kids who loved Bryan Lee O'Malley's style but weren't as keen on his characterization; Readers in need of more Halifax in their fiction....more
Winter break arrives with its usual patterns—snow drifts form on sidewalks, coloured lights brighten the eveFull review posted on Across the Litoverse
Winter break arrives with its usual patterns—snow drifts form on sidewalks, coloured lights brighten the evening hours, and Evan's Dad starts building his elaborate, mechanized winter town throughout the house. Upcoming papers and parental pressures are bearing down on Evan, but his routine's rattled after receiving a single text message from his childhood friend who's back in town…
Lucy moved south with her mother following her parents' divorce, and the last year has fostered nothing but silence between the two best friends. This time, the girl next door has morphed into New Lucy—a sullen girl with a nose stud, cropped black hair, and a strange Goth aesthetic. Evan dedicates himself to coaxing Old Lucy back into the world, even if it means pissing her off in the process. The two re-enter their fantastical childhood world, Aelysthia, and spin out new jam strips (one-page collaborative comics) to communicate where conversation fails. Slowly, the duo rediscover one another and fall into familiar patterns—until Lucy kisses Evan. Then, childhood friendship becomes ever-so complicated…
I was thrilled to find a North American example of a light novel—a YA book that incorporates original artwork and other graphic embellishments. I'm familiar with the Japanese conventions behind the light novel (which works as a wordier manga), but Emond creates a lively, indie-inflected work for all us North American kids. In particular, I loved the moment where Evan and Lucy create their first jam strip since Lucy's return home—the two sit in a diner, struggling to hold a decent conversation, yet their creativity and their comic panels allow them to speak where words won't form.
I also loved Aelysthia, the fantastical world the two created during their childhood. Each chapter ends with a fictionalized account of both Evan's and Lucy's current struggles, reframed through the elaborate lens of Aelysthia. Evan's comics were an excellent addition to the book and made for a lovely, multi-media reading experience overall.
Winter Town offers the perfect read for teens facing the crossroads of adulthood, and for childhood friends fighting to make their bonds stronger than before.
Ideal for: Comic book kids and manga fans who'd like a text-ier reading experience; Readers enamoured with pop culture shout outs, or folks who'd like to discover some excellent bands and fantasy books; Anyone with a childhood best friend they'd love to reconnect with in the future....more
Yuri fans, rejoice—it's time to clear some space on those shelves for a sweet, honest, and down-right adCheck out more reviews at Across the Litoverse
Yuri fans, rejoice—it's time to clear some space on those shelves for a sweet, honest, and down-right adorable depiction of two girls falling in love. For starters, I found the evolution of Mariko and Akiko's relationship had a natural pace to it, and the two girls played their doubts and insecurities off one another well. In the first collection, Mariko's narrative takes the lead, and we see how her admiration of Akiko becomes infatuation, which then matures into Mariko's first love. Throughout this section, readers follow the small, faltering steps Mariko takes before she's able to name her feelings for her best friend, and we're given a view of the unwitting attraction and initial self-denial that accompanies the first crush of an LGBTQ kid.
I also appreciated that Girl Friends doesn't follow a standard coming-out narrative. While the main audience of Girl Friends will likely be younger, queer-identified readers who might find themselves in the same situations as Mariko and Akiko, Morinaga doesn't turn the work into a Coming Out event. In the second collection, Mariko and Akiko do discuss their future, and the girls dream of a time when they'll share their relationship with family and friends—but for now, while the girls are still in high school, they choose to enjoy their time together.
Definitely a welcome addition to any yuri collection!
Ideal for: Yuri fans and queer-identified readers; Manga fans who like a well-crafted romance and the high school drama inherent to falling for a close friend; Folks who liked Sasameki Koto and Aoi Hana in particular....more