Devoured this absorbing and beautifully illustrated graphic memoir in one big Saturday night reading binge and throughly enjoyed it. Until her early a...moreDevoured this absorbing and beautifully illustrated graphic memoir in one big Saturday night reading binge and throughly enjoyed it. Until her early adulthood, Nicole Georges believed her father had died when she was a baby. In fact, that's what everyone in her family told her and she had no reason to doubt them. Then she visited a psychic who told her that her father was still alive -- and unlike all the psychic's other predictions, it turned out this one was true.
For those not already familiar with Georges' work as an independent cartoonist and zinester, I might describe this book as Fun Home set in a episode of "Portlandia" -- the vegan-friendly, lesbionic version of "Portlandia," to be precise. But that flippant categorization doesn't do justice to the real emotional impact of the book -- Georges is very honest about her feelings of confusion, fear and paralysis after learning from her older half-sister that the psychic's revelation was indeed true and her entire family had concealed the truth from her for years. In some ways, the book is less about the search for her father than her complex and fraught relationships with her mother and her girlfriend Radar, who encouraged Nicole to seek the truth about her dad. I really love Georges' drawing style which is very lush and atmospheric, kind like a more sedate Dame Darcy, when depicting her current life in Portland. There is a great panel of her sitting in a hammock in her backyard, flanked by chickens and holding a broom, with a pensive expression on her face that nicely encapsulates the yearning, slightly overcast mood of the whole book. In a particularly effective illustrative technique, Georges switches to a simpler, more cartoonish drawing style when she recounts scenes from her childhood, some of which are very painful and revealing. It's a perfect example of how comics can evoke a feeling or mood through drawing style alone. The stark simplicity of these drawings mirrors the way childhood memories sometimes feel, the granular details of important events often erased, leaving only lines that have etched themselves on our consciousness and profoundly shaped our self-conceptions.
Full disclosure: I know Nicole through our mutual friends in the PNW zine/comix and queer indie/punk scenes. That world is lovingly and vividly depicted in this book, and it all rang very true to me. It was fun to recognize many familiar PDX haunts in her illustrations. Yet I can see how people with no familiarity or interest in those subcultures might not find those details so captivating. I'm not sure that this book will resonate as deeply with all readers, but I would recommend it those who enjoy memoirs about unraveling family secrets and stories featuring unusual female characters who aren't afraid to share difficult personal truths. A must read for fans of Allison Bechdel and Michelle Tea.(less)
Yet another disappointing Seattle Reads selection. In 2013, only a few months after gay marriage was legalized in Washington, it feels really retrogra...moreYet another disappointing Seattle Reads selection. In 2013, only a few months after gay marriage was legalized in Washington, it feels really retrograde to read the story of a closeted gay man filtered through the voice of his self-righteous, self-pitying straight adult son. The author was clearly hurt by his father's deceptive behavior and the pain it caused his mother and their family, and he certainly has a right to those feelings. But hurt feelings alone do not make a compelling narrative. Indeed, this book read more like a series of personal journal entries haphazardly strung together than a memoir. The father's story (a gay man who was sexually abused by his father as a child and spent most of his adult life in the closet, slipping out of the house at night to cruise for anonymous sex) was much more interesting than the son's, but we only catch it in glimpses, through the searing lens of the son's harsh judgment of his father. I think that judgmental, hectoring tone was what bothered me the most about this book. Not only is Martin angry at his father for betraying his mother and his happy childhood memories, he is angry at his father for not displaying his queer self (once he is outed) in a way that suits Martin's smug liberal self-satisfaction. Martin is extremely annoyed with his father's evasiveness concerning his sexual partners, his dating activities, and other aspects of his personal life once his father is separated from his mother and is technically "out of the closet." He is constantly pushing his father to acknowledge his sexuality as a crucial (perhaps the crucial) piece of his identity -- but it is not clear from the snippets of his father's emails and dialogue that are included in this book that his father necessarily regards that part of himself as the key to who he is. We will never really know the father's story, however, since as Martin acknowledges in one chapter, this is not his father's memoir. Too bad, because that story, fully told, would have been much more memorable than the one contained in this slight, self-indulgent, and heterosexist book.(less)
Read for Banned Books week. I can see why this one has been challenged so much; not many teen books openly and honestly portray gay male sexuality wit...moreRead for Banned Books week. I can see why this one has been challenged so much; not many teen books openly and honestly portray gay male sexuality without judgment. And the fact that they're teens makes it all the more provocative. (less)
3.5 stars. I almost gave up on this book about 15 pages in because of all the gratuitous Neutral Milk Hotel fanboy wankery at the beginning. I absolut...more3.5 stars. I almost gave up on this book about 15 pages in because of all the gratuitous Neutral Milk Hotel fanboy wankery at the beginning. I absolutely LOATHE it when teen fiction authors try to score hipster cred points by namedropping indie bands in their books. David Levithan is a notorious repeat offender of this sort of literary crime (see Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist & Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List) so I was kind of shocked when it turned out that NMH-worshiping character was written by John Green.
HOWEVER: I'm glad I stuck with this one, since the rest of the book turned out to be kind of fabulous. I completely agree with JB that Tiny Cooper literally steals the show; he's a fantastic character and his relationships with the two Will Graysons evolve in really touching and believable ways. There aren't many books that portray friendship between two straight teen boys with such honesty and authenticity, let alone a friendship between a gay and a straight one. A funny, smart, true book that's a little sad but mostly hopeful about the randomness of the world and how sometimes chance encounters between strangers can change everything. Especially if they have the same name. (less)
Originally published in 1982, this British gay teen coming-of-age story was way ahead of its time in its depiction of young queer characters who aren'...moreOriginally published in 1982, this British gay teen coming-of-age story was way ahead of its time in its depiction of young queer characters who aren't in the least bit conflicted/ashamed/scared of their sexuality. In fact, it's still more matter of fact about the character's sexual identity than most queer teen books out there today -- rather than making that facet of their identities (and society's response to it) the focus of the novel, Chambers simply allows the story to unfold through the perspectives of Hal, his social worker, and the occasional news clipping. The cultural references are probably bit dated for today's teens but I think any readers who have ever experienced (or wanted to experience) an all-consuming love will relate to Hal's obsessive love for Barry and his struggle to find himself. (less)
3.5 stars. "Wicked Lovely" meets "Cinderella" with a lesbian twist. A fun, well-written, and fast read. The fairies in the book are much more of the H...more3.5 stars. "Wicked Lovely" meets "Cinderella" with a lesbian twist. A fun, well-written, and fast read. The fairies in the book are much more of the Holly Black than Disney variety, and frankly, in my opinion, less compelling than the love story between Ash (the Cinderella figure, obviously) and Kaisa, the King's Huntress. Also, the final face-off with the fey folk was rather anticlimactic. But overall, an enjoyable, evocative story that I'd recommend to fantasy fans of all ages, especially those who love fairytales retold. (less)
Another collaborative effort from teen fiction authors Rachel Cohn & David Levithan that I did not particularly enjoy. In fact, I found this book...moreAnother collaborative effort from teen fiction authors Rachel Cohn & David Levithan that I did not particularly enjoy. In fact, I found this book just as grating as Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, if not more so. For one, the two main characters (privileged NYU sophmores and best friends who grew up in the same West Village co-op) are pretty damn irritating and unlikable, especially Naomi, whose speech is peppered with icons (a visual tic that I found incredibly annoying). Second, Naomi, an otherwise worldly teen, is completely in love with Ely, even though she's known he's gay since they were tweens. She honestly believes that they will get married someday. Her undying love for Ely is the shaky premise on which the book's dramatic arc rests, and it's pretty hard to swallow. Maybe a few decades ago Naomi's unswerving belief that she and Ely will some day get married would be believable; today it just seems pathetic. Oh, and if I read one more teen book that includes a playlist designed to show off the author's hipster cred, I will throw it across the room. Even if it is a library book. (less)
A great social misfit teen coming-of-age story -- James, the mannered, bookish and withdrawn narrator is an 18-year-old working at his mother's NYC ga...moreA great social misfit teen coming-of-age story -- James, the mannered, bookish and withdrawn narrator is an 18-year-old working at his mother's NYC gallery and dreading going to college in the fall. Not much happens in this book, but you don't care because James is such a captivating unusual (especially for a teen book) and slightly exasperating character. It's not a book that will appeal to everyone, but I would recommend this to fans of "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" and sophisticated teens that feel out of step with their peers and who are yearning for a earlier era. (less)
A fun, super-quick read with a great twist at the end. . .Gold takes place in a seaside Welsh village, where the reader meets the regulars at the loca...moreA fun, super-quick read with a great twist at the end. . .Gold takes place in a seaside Welsh village, where the reader meets the regulars at the local pub, as well as our story's heroine, Miyuki Woodward, a young lesbian interior designer who regularly holidays solo there. With small but telling details, Rhodes draws the reader into the daily rhythms of life in this sleepy town and slowly reveals the odd histories of its idiosyncratic residents who sport nicknames such as Septic Barry and Tall Mr. Hughes (yes, there is a short one!). Although she's vacationed there for many years, Miyuki remains an outsider until an impulsive act of public art produces unforeseen consqeuences, and she is drawn more deeply into the lives of those who she's only observed in the past.
This book manages to be funny, sweet, and thoughtful on matters of love, life, and death without ever becoming maudlin or cutesy. And it is short (less than 200 hundred pages!). I had to read the ending several times because it left me with so many unanswered questions. I definitely recommend to anyone who is looking for a fun book but wants something a little more substantial and better written than your average paperback. A good summer read.(less)
A great teen coming-of-age/crush story graphic novel written & illustrated by 2 cousins, Marikio & Jillian Tamaki. Skim (Kimberly Keiko Camero...moreA great teen coming-of-age/crush story graphic novel written & illustrated by 2 cousins, Marikio & Jillian Tamaki. Skim (Kimberly Keiko Cameron) is an overweight teenage half-Asian aspiring Wiccan at a Catholic girls' school. Not surprisingly, most of the other girls think she's pretty weird and basically shun her and her best friend Lisa, with whom she reads Tarot cards and practices rituals.
But when the boyfriend of one of the most popular girls in school commits suicide, the reigning clique starts a "Girls Celebrating Life" club (think Heathers), and suddenly Skim is viewed as the next potential suicide. It doesn't help that she's fallen in love for the first time (with a teacher) and is rapidly retreating into a world of her own.
The drawings are beautiful -- fluid brush strokes and grey washes accentuate Skim's moodiness and her disconnection from everday events. I could spend hours going back and soaking in every line on every page -- there are a few full-page spreads that are just stunning. But even better is the dialogue: Skim's voice is pitch-perfect -- a slightly sardonic, disaffected teen whose terse, funny observations ("my school = goldfish tank of stupid") punctuate her diary and conversations with others.
In short, if you like graphic novels with excellent writing & illustration go read this book NOW. (less)