Jin Wang is the titular American-born Chinese boy that fights the (unfortunately) natural battle to fit into an All-American world when one is not Al Jin Wang is the titular American-born Chinese boy that fights the (unfortunately) natural battle to fit into an All-American world when one is not All-American. “Meanwhile”, Danny is an All-American boy that seems to be stuck in a twisted sitcom while his offensively stereotypical Chinese “cousin” who is quickly ruining Danny’s social life, one mispronounced syllable at a time. Then, there is the Monkey King, “the sovereign ruler of Flower-Fruit Mountain, “where the flowers bloom year-round and the fruits hang heavy with nectar,” who wants nothing more than to be seen not as a monkey but as a true king and deity worthy of heaven, and is willing to cast off everything about who/what he really is to do it. How these three stories intersect, what that means and the message it sends to the characters and the reader is what turns “American Born Chinese” from a unique YA graphic novel to an award-winning must-read.
Most would read “American Born Chinese” and instantly think that the most important theme discussed is racism. I disagree. This graphic novel focuses on something more fundamental and relatable to teens than racial prejudice. “American Born Chinese" is about self-acceptance, accepting all aspects of oneself including but not at all limited to race and ethnicity. Both Jin Wang’s and the Monkey King’s inability to come to grips with who they are “meant to be” mirrors many young people experience as they try to form their own idea of personal identity while not wanting to stand out too much from the crowd. This shown by the way Jin Wang avoided both Wei-Chen and Suzy Nakamura when he first met them, as well as his change of hair later in the book, as if either of these actions will make him more acceptable.
I was very impressed with the structure of this book. It is pretty profound and refreshing but so fast-paced that if you don’t pay attention you’ll miss it. It may be 233 pages but I literally read in one 30-minute sitting—while watching television! This is a near-perfect book for students to read in high school and middle school, not only because it is a graphic novel that has lots of “pretty pictures” and reads fast but also, as mentioned earlier, speaks to feelings that most teens have. Plus, it brings in the topic of immigration, racial prejudice, friendship and even throws in some Chinese mythology for good measure. I would highly recommend this to students or even casual readers who want a quick, unique read without having to compromise on its merit. ...more
Told without the use of words whatsoever, The Arrival tells one the most engaging and innovative immigration stories I’ve read in—forever. The readerTold without the use of words whatsoever, The Arrival tells one the most engaging and innovative immigration stories I’ve read in—forever. The reader follows the tale of a nameless immigrant (I named him “Olaf”) as he leaves his home for a foreign country, the emphasis being put on “foreign.” This country is beyond bizarre, filled with outlandish food, crazy animals, skyscrapers shaped like monsters and so many other oddities that the reader can barely process everything. This strangeness makes the first several pages or so a tad difficult to read because you’re left wondering just what the heck is going on, and without dialogue or exposition to explain things, you’re pretty much lost in the beginning. However, once you realize that all this extravagance and weirdness is designed to illustrate just how strange a new country (America) can be for an incoming immigrant, everything comes into place and the story becomes fantastic.
The charcoal style illustrations do well to convey the wonder, oddness, loneliness and menace Olaf and his fellow immigrants feel as they find their place in their new country. You as a reader find yourself deciphering and analyzing every image, trying figure out what each one means like one big game of “I Spy—for Metaphors.” From the serpentine shadows that plague Olaf’s home country to the sequenced panels describing and older man’s experience in a very WWII-esque conflict, the art drives the story effectively and, once you’re done reading, you realize that you’ve “read’ this entire narrative without a single iota of text. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. ...more
Nick has been kicked out of love by his ex, Tris. Norah is being strung along by her ex, Tal. Nick is trying to hold his band together at a nightclub’Nick has been kicked out of love by his ex, Tris. Norah is being strung along by her ex, Tal. Nick is trying to hold his band together at a nightclub’s concert. Norah is trying to keep her drunken friend, Caroline, together at a nightclub’s concert. Nick doesn’t want Tris to see him alone at this club (because he still loves her). Norah doesn’t want Tris to see her alone at the club (because she can’t stand her). Nick needs a five-minute girlfriend. Norah wants a five-minute distraction. Nick needs Norah. Norah wants Nick. So, hitched up in a tattered and temperamental Yugo, Caroline thrown in the back of Nick’s motley crew of queercore bandmates’ van, and their baggage dragging behind them, Nick and Norah head off on a New York “night/morning/whatever” that won’t soon forget.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is a snarky, charming, insightful and very realistic portrayal of teen life and romance that I would definitely recommend to older YA readers (Seventeen-years-old and up). As much as I enjoyed it, this is not a book one would put in the hands of younger teen or middle-grader because of the story’s more mature content. However, it is not the sexual aspect of it but the language that threw me. Granted, I applaud both Levithan and Cohn for their real-to-life way of showing how teens act, think and talk but guardians of younger ones should definitely be wary of this book. I, of course, loved the harsh language of the novel because that is exactly how my friends and I talked in high school and still talk (unfortunately), but still. Also, I do not feel that it is a “teachable” book because while it is a book that teens would certainly read and there are some very insightful points brought up regarding teens’ ideas on sex, love and self-esteem, I don’t think school boards will find enough literary content to justify the rest of the book’s racy content.
This isn’t to say the book is pornographic or titillating. There is, in fact, no sex in this novel (contrary to popular belief). There are references, jokes and allusions to the fact that the characters are sexually active but no actual “sex scene” is depicted; almost but it never goes “all the way.” The physical encounters that are in the story serve a thematic purpose. A point of some merit is that while the novel accurately portrays how teens talk and approach sex, the awkwardness and emotional inexperience of teens is also woven into the situations. The novel also doesn’t preach to the reader, telling of the evils or harsh consequences if teens have sex, nor is sex glamorized or overly romanticized. Realism is the basis of this novel’s themes and Nick and Norah/Levithan and Cohn definitely “keep it real.” ...more
**spoiler alert** “The time has come. You know it in your soul. For I AM your soul. You cannot escape me. You are puny. You are small. You are nothing**spoiler alert** “The time has come. You know it in your soul. For I AM your soul. You cannot escape me. You are puny. You are small. You are nothing—A hollow shell, a rusty trap that cannot hold me. Smouldering, I burn you—burning you, I flare, hot and bright and fierce and beautiful. You cannot stop me—not with wine or vows or the weight of age. You cannot stop me but still you try—still you run. You try to drown me out…but your voice is weak…”
So says the inner voice echoing in an aging Bruce Wayne’s mind. It’s been years since he has doned the cape and cowl. He’s gotten old. He’s gotten slow. He’s gotten fat—but around him, the world outside has only gotten darker, crueler and a lot more dangerous. Try as he might, he cannot deny the world’s needs (or perhaps his need) for a hero—and so the Dark Knight returns to find the world he is trying to save far less willing to be saved than he thought and the heroes and friends he once trusted to be far less heroic and friendly.
As a comic book “geek,” it will prove difficult to give a completely objective review of "The Dark Knight Returns" because this work is pretty much "The Great Gatsby" or "The Jungle" of the comic book industry. Written in the Eighties during the climax of the Cold War when The Clock was always only a couple seconds before midnight, this graphic novel includes a lot of the tone, attitude and the hopeless viewpoint of a global society that is waiting on “The End.” The story is filled with disappointment, false hopes, anti-establishment views and, in the end, the main antagonist isn’t a criminal or a supervillian, but the government itself with America’s poster boy, The Man of Steel, as its attack dog. I think a contemporary reader could relate to the story, despite the “BOOM”s and “POW”s because we live in a similar situation where the world seems to be on the brink of collapse and everyone blames the governments but no one can do anything about it. There is definitely that same sense of hopelessness in this graphic novel, and if you’re expecting a great triumphant victory by The Caped Crusader that puts the world back on firm ground again you WILL be let down (spoiler: Batman dies in the end).
I would be doing this book a disservice if I didn’t mention the art. It’s dark, brooding, incredibly detailed when it needs to be and perfectly simple and clean when it wants to be. The color scheme alternates between the almost monotone art direction of the more Batman-centric scenes (reflecting his character) and the far more colourful scenes featuring the faux-Utopia world-view perpetrated by the in-story media.
I was hesitant to review this for my class in YA fiction because I was unsure if it was YA or was it just a book that young adults usually read. Granted, one could argue that since it’s a “comic book” with superheroes, it is automatically for younger readers. Also, when I bought this at Borders (may it rest in peace) this book was in the graphic novels/comics section, which was strategically placed in/near the YA fiction shelves. Despite these signs, if one were to read this work, one would find the subject matter and tone quite mature, the action very violent, and the overall message bleak. However, there are plenty of YA novels that are mood-killers and happy-pill-grabbers ("Go Ask Alice", "Thirteen Reasons Why", I’m looking at you) but that doesn’t make them “adult.” So what is "The Dark Knight Returns?" Is it a YA book that’s really adult or an adult book that tripped and fell into YA? ...more
**spoiler alert** My rating of this book is currently in conflict with my personal reaction to it. I was very impressed by this book. I understood eve**spoiler alert** My rating of this book is currently in conflict with my personal reaction to it. I was very impressed by this book. I understood every metaphor, symbol and nuance of character. I enjoyed Cormier’s craft greatly. However, I don’t like it. I appreciate everything Cormier did in his novel but I don’t like it and my opinion has everything to with its ending. More on that later.
In short, “The Chocolate War" tells the story of a conflict that erupts over a chocolate fundraiser at an all boys Catholic school, although that summary does little or no justice to the full scope of the story. The novel focuses on no one character. Instead, the omniscient perspective splits its time between several characters: Jerry Renault, Archie Costello, “The Goober”, Obie, etc., alternating focus characters every other chapter, splitting chapters between characters or switching characters in the middle of a scene. Despite this vastly shared perspective, the story obviously leans more toward Jerry as the truest “hero” of the story and the person the reader should relate to. In the beginning of my reading, I also saw Archie as a secondary protagonist, something as an anti-hero/trickster character, especially since he “assigned” Jerry to refuse the chocolates in the first place to tick off Brother Leon. He definitely wasn’t a good guy but I didn’t see him as that bad of a guy either. Naturally, my opinion of Archie changed dramatically by the end of the novel. This is directly affected by Cormier’s stylistic choice. By giving glimpses into the minds of several characters, the larger view of the story the reader gets makes it harder to see things in black and white. Because of this, despite my seething hatred of Archie, I cannot deny the human emotions he obviously has. But maybe this wider perspective makes the crimes in this book that much more gross because they aren’t enacted for plain narrative benefit but speak to the darker side of human nature.
I could write a term paper (not that I want to) on some of the symbols and meaningful dialogue in the story like Brother Leon’s “moist eyes” or Archie’s repetition of “beautiful’ when describing certain characters’ actions. Jerry’s “Do I Dare Disturb the Universe” poster is a great symbol, provoking and motivating him during his “rebellion” and is then defaced right when his life is about to be destroyed by The Vigils.
It was interesting to see popular tropes used in modern YAL employed much earlier by “The Chocolate War” such as the multiple character perspective and the use of the high school as the main stage for a deeply layered. This is definitely a teachable book that would attract young readers and also features the very relatable issue of school bullying that is a major topic of discussion in today’s world. I could even see it as book that could be taught across a curriculum or at least in English, history, and/or psychology classes. I definitely saw the book’s conflict as something as an allegory for how a small country could operate: Brother Leon and The Vigils representing a corrupt government; or, in terms of psychology, how Jerry’s small act of defiance snowballed into a larger revolt against the chocolate sale and then the uber-violent mob mentality and took over the crowd in the end.
Speaking of the ending—it really showed me how, as a reader, I crave closure. If Archie would’ve been suspended or expelled I would’ve jumped for joy. Even if Obie would’ve just slugged Archie in the jaw at the end and taken away a little of his power for just a second, I would’ve been content. But to let the villains completely win, get off “scott-free” and defeat the good guy was more than I could stomach. I definitely applaud Cormier’s choice of a realistic, thought-provoking and controversial conclusion but my sense of justice just couldn’t take it. An interesting point is that the movie adaptation changes the ending so that Jerry fights Archie in the end and defeats him, giving the audience the righteous, “good” ending that it wanted. So if movie audience cannot accept the original ending, I wonder how high schoolers would respond to it. Even for me, to have Archie and Leon be so unrepentant and go unpunished for their actions threw me.
Perhaps I should be more specific. I love this book. It’s the ending and the main villains that I hate, though, if a novel can conjure such strong emotions from a reader, especially for people that don’t even exist, then it truly accomplished something. Even though this novel goes to some dark places, those are places that teen readers would understand and be intrigued by. Highly recommended; a victory for everyone—except for Jerry, of course.
My first reaction on finishing "The Outsiders" was: How exactly did a high school junior craft such a complex novel and what was I doing wrong when IMy first reaction on finishing "The Outsiders" was: How exactly did a high school junior craft such a complex novel and what was I doing wrong when I was a junior? This novel is a very appealing read, very dramatic and with relatable characters. However, underneath the drama and engaging storyline lies depth, themes and statements about human nature that link together to contribute to "The Outsiders" popularity and lasting impact.
An important feature to me was the inclusion of other influential works in the novel. The connection Johnny makes between the southern gentleman role in "Gone with the Wind" and The Greasers is an interesting commentary on how he views the group's behavior and place in the world. Adding in Ponyboy's interest in literature and how he and Johnny bond over it adds to one of the dominant themes in the book: the actual idea of an "outsider." There's the obvious meaning of The Greasers feeling like outsiders for being poorer than The Socs and feeling as if they are outside "the norm" because of thier unique identity and circumstances. However, I felt that the more important meaning was Ponyboy's feeling of being an outsider within his own social circle. His interests set him aside as a character within the story and even the way he narrates changes the reader's view of him. The conclusions and almost anthropological statements that compare The Greasers and The Socs set him apart as an outside observer of even his own group. He is set apart as a narrator (from the way he reflects and philosopizes)and as a character (because of his unspoiled innocence within The Greasers).
I feel that this book was so quickly adopted into high school curricula because the themes and lessons one can glean from it are there but aren't plastered across the novel like road signs. This makes the novel easier to read beacause students aren't constantly accosted by after-school special lessons but they are layered into the novel, giving an opportunity for students to learn how to analyze literature and pull meanings out of a piece. All these factors; the characters, the storyline, the sublty, the inclusion of extra texts and how it all comes together, causes "The Outsiders" to "stay gold."...more
As a person who watched the film adaptation of Holes long before ever reading the book, I was a little resistant to going through the story once againAs a person who watched the film adaptation of Holes long before ever reading the book, I was a little resistant to going through the story once again in print. However, it was still enjoyable. Sachar’s prose style and pacing definitely made it quick and easy to read. The third-person perspective delivers a very straight-forward, almost “bare-bones” form of exposition that keeps the narrative moving without taking breaks with long, tedious and flowery paragraphs of overly-detailed imagery that may be prevalent in more classical works. This style of storytelling would appeal to YA readers and students since it is so straight -forward and easy to understand. The storytelling for the chapters recalling the origins of Kate Barlow are told in an almost fairy tale or legendary tone that is fitting for the topic and stands out from the more traditional realistic YA style of the “present” storyline. The brevity of the chapters is also a clever way to hasten the pacing and adapt to a younger reader’s shorter attention span.
In retrospect, I am impressed that the movie stuck so closely to the original story. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that Louis Sachar also wrote the film’s script but the parallels are still surprising. The scenes, the characterizations and especially much of the dialogue were verbatim from the book. There are a couple noticeable discrepancies that I felt were important. Although the character of Stanley was more or less the same in both novel and film, I felt maintaining his weight issue would’ve added an extra layer to the movie just as it did the novel. Also, I felt that there was a more intense feeling of menace in the camp that was lost in the film’s comedy. I can imagine the book’s versions of Mr. Sir, The Warden and “Kissin’ Kate” as darker and more intimidating while in the film they were only as dark as the comedic tone would allow.
I would say that Holes is a YA book better suited for middle-grades (6th-8th) with its direct prose and overall swashbuckling/“feel good” tone. It does not tackle harder issues like gang violence, sex, drugs or identity that one would see in high school YA novels but it does touch on various important topics such as racism, homelessness and friendship. ...more
When you start reading Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, you might take the wonderful humor and cynicism of the main character, T.J., as a sign that thisWhen you start reading Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher, you might take the wonderful humor and cynicism of the main character, T.J., as a sign that this is going to be the usual coming-of-age, snarky-teen-protagonist tale common in YAL. The guy is named “The Tao Jones” for Pete’s sake; the jokes practically write themselves. However, some readers might glance over the very heavy and heart-wrenching back-story of T.J. because of his humor, but his tragedy is a better foreshadowing of the themes of this novel than anything else. This is a very dark book. Every character has some sort of harsh history or situation that definitely adds depth but also makes them all the more depressing.
Not to say that makes the novel unreadable. As mentioned earlier, the humor is the real saving grace of this work; without it the depth and hard-hitting issues would leave every reader reaching for the razorblades after the last page. Yet, it was not the darkness that I had problems with but my own personal preferences. Crutcher assimilates and uses sports very heavily as a metaphor and way of connection the various elements of the story. As a person who never participated in school sports, these references were both foreign and tedious to me and worked to push me out of the narrative. I appreciate Crutcher’s techniques and understand why he employed them. I also understand how and why many male readers would more easily identify with this story. If a teacher were looking for a book that might attract teen male students into reading, this would be very effective. Is it teachable? I’m not so sure. It could definitely be used for its school settings and its themes of bullying, being an outcast and teen pressures but the way those themes are handled may be “too real” for any students younger than a 12th grader.
Is this a (objectively) good book? Yes. Do I (subjectively) like this book? No. Would I recommend this as a “good read”? ….Eh. ...more
“ ‘It hurt a lot,’ Jonas said, ‘but I’m glad you gave it to me. It was interesting. And now I understand better, what it, that there would be pain.’ Th“ ‘It hurt a lot,’ Jonas said, ‘but I’m glad you gave it to me. It was interesting. And now I understand better, what it, that there would be pain.’ The man didn’t respond. He sat silently for a second. Finally he said, ‘Get up, now. It’s time for you to go home.’ They both walked to the center of the room. Jonas put his tunic back on. ‘Goodbye, sir,’ he said. ‘Thank you for my first day.’ The old man nodded to him. He looked drained, and a little sad. ‘Sir?’ Jonas said shyly. ‘Yes? Do you have a question?’ ‘It’s just that I don’t know your name. I thought you were The Receiver, but you say that now I’m The Receiver. So I don’t know what to call you.’ The man had sat back down in the comfortable upholstered chair. He moved his shoulders around as if to ease away an aching sensation. He seemed terribly weary. ‘Call me The Giver,’ he told Jonas.”
Jonas lives with his Father, Mother and younger sister, Lily. He lives in world with no war, no crime, and no hunger. He lives in a world where no man harms another, a world where no man is even rude to another. He lives in a world of equality and efficiency. He lives in a world where there is no “world”, only the community. The community is perfect. No one makes a wrong decision and no one makes mistakes.
I’ll admit that I only picked up this book at my library by mistake but that was one of the best mistakes I’ve made in recent memory. “The Giver” is an excellent, fast-paced, enigmatic and deceptively simple read that introduces some deeply philosophical and humanistic issues in the course of less than 200 pages. The story places the reader is the familiar setting of a dystopian/totalitarian society regulated by a rigid set of laws and where every aspect of life is controlled for the maximum productivity and (more importantly) complacency of the population. The setting comes off as somewhat foreign when compared to other dystopian backdrops. Whereas other works detail or at least hint at how the world came into its current condition (in the context of the novel. However, in the “The Giver” drops you right in the middle of this world still in motion as the protagonist, Jonas, approaches his twelve birthday. By explaining next to nothing about this “community’s” past, the story falls in line with other ideas within the narrative about the characters’ lack of a past or interest in it.
I was surprised at the depth of the book. Although it was rather when compared to other books, I could really believe the relationship that evolved between Jonas and The Giver, a relationship made all the stronger and believable by the experiences they literally share. The themes of memory and emotion stood out to me because of the scenes depicting the pain and internal turmoil The Giver and his former student endured caused by their responsibilities. This and the way the other citizens of the community were said to react to newfound feelings and memories brings up issues of how real people process emotion, would we be just as distraught by emotions as The Giver if we had to similarly bear the weight of them alone and what this says about the emotional interdependence of people.
I often saw this book at libraries and bookstores but passed it by, not thinking of it as YAL. Neither the title nor the cover has the eye-catching style of modern YA novels, which sets it apart and not in a particularly good way. Also, Jonas’ age could imply to intended age group as well. “The Giver” is also an example of how YA novels and overlap and/or transcend genres. This novel is most obviously a coming-of-age story but the apparent far-future setting marks it as sci-fi, although most of these sci-fi themes are only implied through dialogue and much of the technology mentioned is close to present-day standards. Plus, the process of “giving and receiving memory” in the story borders on the fantasy or magical realism genres. Regardless of its classification, I would highly recommend this to middle-graders, young adults and especially adults looking for novels to use in the classroom because of its length, subject matter and literary quality, all of which would appeal to middle and high school students. The one thing that some may have a problem with is the ambiguous ending, but I cannot imagine any other ending that could give more closure without compromising the “integrity” of the novel and still manage introduce one final and most important emotion to Jonas at the end of his journey: hope.
On the streets of floating Venice, Italy, the merchant Antonio makes a deal that will seal his fate and intertwine his with those of many others arounOn the streets of floating Venice, Italy, the merchant Antonio makes a deal that will seal his fate and intertwine his with those of many others around the city. As he signs his named on the dotted line for the sake of his friend, Bassanio, Antonio doesn’t think that his fortunes would be lost and he would have to pay the collateral forfeit of the contract: a pound of his flesh. Fatefully, it is only through Bassanio’s love interest, Portia, that Antonio is saved from the “villainous” Shylock the Jew. However, those reading this review of the graphic novel adaptation of “The Merchant of Venice” are probably already familiar with the original version and have come for answers to two questions: Is this an accurate adaption and will it add anything to my “The Merchant of Venice” experience? My answers are “yes” and “no”—in that order.
While the setting has been updated to a more contemporary setting, this adaptation remains faithful to the source material, even keeping the majority of the Shakespearean dialogue. However, the color palate used is a tad too monochromatic and, in my opinion, makes each scene and page look the same. Besides the modern backdrop, which doesn’t really play into the story at all, this adaptation fails to add anything new to the narrative but in fact seems to have taken away elements in the play—or at least that’s how it feels. Perhaps it is the medium that makes the play read faster but this isn’t a good thing as many of the themes get lost and you are left with only the surface story. After my reading, I kept having the feeling that there was something missing. While plays are meant to be a visual medium, comic art doesn’t cut it. The play is still better when performed. Yet and still, if someone just needs or wants to read the play, this graphic adaptation could be a suitable alternative.
Many high school students (myself included) have trouble reading Shakespeare directly from the text, finding it difficult to understand the language and visualize the action. This graphic novel would definitely help with the visualization and, by extension, help with understanding the language. While not a replacement for the original text by any stretch of the imagination, this adaptation is an interesting diversion that could also be used as a “gateway book” for strugglers into the world the merchant of Venice and Shakespeare. ...more
Quentin “Q” Jacobsen is in love with Margo Spiegelman. They used to be close friends in childhood but things change, as they often do, and Margo becamQuentin “Q” Jacobsen is in love with Margo Spiegelman. They used to be close friends in childhood but things change, as they often do, and Margo became less of Q’s friend from next door and more the ideal “Girl-Next-Door,” someone unattainable who was once so close but is now so far away—until she shows at his window in the middle of the night. After a whirlwind night of pranks, revenge, retribution and confessions, Q thinks that after years of hanging with the “cool crowd” Margo has finally come back to him. Imagine his surprise when she’s disappeared (almost) without a trace the next day. Yet, her disappearance is not without clues as to where she might have gone. While everyone else is content to just let Margo do her thing (this isn’t the first time she’s run away), Q is convinced that these “clues” mean something: that he’s meant to find—and save her (if he can).
I definitely got an old-style, Sam Spade-style detective feel from Q as he shanghaied his friends and consumed himself into this wild goose chase for Margo. It’s as if he was that one stubborn detective that won’t give up the search no matter how pointless it seems or how much the dame—er, I mean—Margo does NOT want to be found. In the end, with the way Margo and Q finally meet and conclude everything, a “Here’s lookin’ at you, kid” line would have fit right in. For Q, Margo was the thing “dreams are made of,” and that’s basically the point of this book.
Even with the whole mystery aspect of the narrative, the biggest mystery is that of who Margo Roth Speigelman really is. As Q finds out, who he thought Margo was has nothing to do with who she actually is and everything to do with himself. So the mystique transfers from Margo’s disappearance itself to the mystery of who she truly is to the mystery of Q’s own mind and, ultimately, the mystery of the reader’s mind. Do we assign characteristics that we admire onto others? What does that say about us? These are the real questions that come up in “Paper Towns.” Aside from the humour and realism, both of which are staples of John Green’s novels, I think it is this theme of projection (projecting your own desires onto other people) that readers will identify with most. Most teens and young people have had experiences where they’ve projected desirable traits onto others, such as “crushes” or people they look up to, and those experiences would be mirrored in Q’s journey. Like his first novel, “Looking For Alaska” (which had to do with death), “Paper Towns” puts into words a theme that all youths understand but have difficulty verbalizing. ...more
Mary has never known anything other than her village, The Village, the last refuge of mankind—or so The Sisterhood leads everyone to believe. But in TMary has never known anything other than her village, The Village, the last refuge of mankind—or so The Sisterhood leads everyone to believe. But in The Village no one questions The Sisterhood nor do they oppose The Guardians. They are, after all, their protectors and only defense against the Unconsecrated. And by “Unconsecrated” I mean “zombies!” Deranged, animalistic, flesh-eating, undead zombies that would overtake The Village if not for the thin fence standing between the villagers and The Forest filled with naught by writhing hands and dripping teeth.
This novel had a lot of potential. Teen angst and romance, religious zealots, zombies; what’s not to love? However, in my opinion, the novel spends a little too much time on the “teen romance” part and not enough time on the crazy religion or the zombies. To reference another popular title, this story veers a tad too “Twilight” for my taste, the narrative focusing on the rocky romance between the characters Mary and Travis, with the zombies apocalypse merely being the frame within which the romance is made more dramatic. While this is understandable and effective, and the dangers posed by the zombies/”Unconsecrated” certainly presents some very tense and action-packed sequences, the first 100 pages or so focus heavily on Mary’s love issues and can make this section rather slow and almost arduous to read.
This speaks to the new interest in the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre of YA fiction that offer an avenue through which to discuss hard-hitting, complex issues or just to energize more common ones. The main character interactions of this novel could just as easily be told in a realistic fiction novel and the scenario involving the religious manipulations of The Sisterhood which mirror the attitudes of are made exotic and fantastic through the lens of the zombie apocalypse instead of a realistic fiction scenario where this theme could be construed as preachy. ...more
Sometimes, life isn’t always what it seems. The most fundamental truths you take for granted, the very fabric of your reality, could be a lie. Is DuncSometimes, life isn’t always what it seems. The most fundamental truths you take for granted, the very fabric of your reality, could be a lie. Is Duncan really a great knight of a faraway land? Is Gran’Pa Greenbax the Frog really just a greedy, rich, anthropomorphic animal? Is the mystery Nigerian prince who Janet has been courting (wiring money to) really going to repay her with $350,000,000? For all three of these characters in three different stories, questions involving how we see reality are addressed. A reader could pull quite a bit of philosophical wonderings out of “The Eternal Smile.” It has a lot to talk about but not much to say.
I’ll admit, I may be a little spoiled from reading Gene Luen Yang’s “American Born Chinese,” which is more critically and popularly known, making my expectations higher than they should have been. While there is something deeper to the stories and themes presented in “The Eternal Smile,” everything doesn’t come together as smoothly or profoundly as they could have. The three stories give a good variety of aspects to the idea of questionable reality but they remain too disjointed to be as effective as the stories in “American Born Chinese.” Overall, there is less here: less depth, less complexity, less lasting effect. The premise of one or two of the stories are so outlandish or clichéd that the deeper meaning gets lost in the plot.
This isn’t to say there you won’t find anything good in this book. The last story involving the courtship of an office drone named Janet and her long-off Nigerian love interest is (in my opinion) the best story and summarizes all the thoughts brought up in the preceding stories into a more relatable narrative. In this way, “The Eternal Smile” brings up the idea of when and why we delude and lie to ourselves and how far we are willing to take that lie. Sometimes, life is so hard or mediocre that a little adventure, romance or extravagance (false though it may be) could save us. This is why we lose ourselves in fantasy worlds like Duncan, sell our souls for wealth like Gran’Pa Greenbax or knowingly fall for lies like Janet. In this way, teens could relate to the stories as video games and comic book worlds pervade their lives and their first steps into the “romantic world” will introduce the delusions that come with some “crushes.”
The art is a high point for this book. From the Anime-style of Duncan’s story to the old-school Looney Tunes vibe of Gran’Pa Greenbax tale to Janet’s story with his understated colors, the visuals play well with the tone and action of each piece. “The Eternal Smile” is not the best graphic novel out there or the best one written by this author. However, it is a quick thought-provoking read. ...more