The Giver: Graphic Novel by Lois Lowry, adapted/illustrated by P. Craig Russell

The GiverI often credit one of my adjunct professors from grad school, Joyce Laiosa, with helping me discover my love for YA books.  Every book on her syllabus was carefully chosen to represent its genre so that we would have an appreciation for the depth and breadth of YA Literature.   In fact, I routinely tell people that I consider Joyce to be my Fairy Godmother in Libraryland because she is also the person who first got me involved with the Youth Services Section (YSS) of the NY Library Association (NYLA).  And though she has technically retired from librarianship, Joyce remains active in YSS/NYLA (and ALA), and I do my best to attend all of the webinars and local workshops she teaches because I want to soak up everything she has to share. I am definitely more of a novel reader, but I appreciate the need to be aware of graphic novels and do my best to stay aware of popular titles and publishing trends, so I recently attended Joyce’s continuing education workshop about graphic novels.  I am so grateful for the extensive list of graphic novels she provided and will do my best to work my way through that list over the next year.  I am happy to report that this graphic novel, the first I chose from her list,  was simply amazing.

Not only did the artist, P. Craig Russell, do a wonderful job of staying true to the original story, but his artwork was absolutely stunning.  There is a note at the end of the book that explains the very conscious choices he made with regard to color palette and style, and I think these choices, though seemingly subtle, made a huge impact on his telling of the story.  The way that he gradually introduced colors, for example, was a great visual representation of the way that Jonah’s perception changed as a result of receiving memories.  This was a fantastic way to revisit the story, and I think it is so well fleshed out that readers who haven’t read the novel will still be able to immerse themselves in the story without missing anything Lois Lowry intended.

Happy Reading!

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

fountains of silenceAlthough this book was only published about a month ago, it has already received a Listening Library Earphone Award for the full cast audio recording.  And I am going to assume that there are all sort of awards that just haven’t been given yet, because Sepetys has received over 40 awards for her other books, like Between Shades of Gray and Salt to the Sea.  Set in Madrid in 1957, this books tells the true story of Spain under the fascist dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. After the Spanish Civil War, many Spainiards were living in both poverty and fear, especially those whose family members had been outed as Republicans, aka Reds.  The American tourists either turned a blind eye or simply didn’t even notice the disparity between their lavish lifestyle, full of parties and shopping sprees, and the abject poverty and subsistence living of the locals.

Daniel Matheson traveled to Spain with his parents; his father, who was a Texas oil tycoon hoping to make a deal with Franco, and his mother, who had grown up in Spain and wanted to visit her home country. Daniel, a photographer and aspiring photojournalist, hoped he might use this opportunity to get some photos that could help with a contest entry. Though his mother supported his love of photography, his father refused to pay for journalism school and insisted that he go to business school instead.  If he won this contest, though, he could win enough money to attend j school without his father’s help. Little did Daniel know the opportunities he would find…

Once again, Sepetys has taken a time and place in history that oft goes neglected in US history classes and written a novel that will stick with readers far better than any simple lesson. Interspersed with vintage media reports, oral history commentary, photos, and more, this book is sure to both educate and entertain.

Happy Reading!

Eight Will Fall by Sarah Harian

eight will fallIn Demura, using magic is against the law.  So, when Larkin ends up arrested for using her magic, she fears she will be imprisoned for life or even put to death.  Why couldn’t she just listen to her brother and *think* before she acted sometimes?  Yes, it was frustrating being a miner who barely earned enough to help her family survive.  And, yes, it was infuriating that a shop keeper would refuse to sell her goods when she clearly had the money she needed to make the purchase… but it certainly wouldn’t help her family if she ended up in jail, or put to death, instead of continuing to make what little she could with her work in the mines.  And while it was a slight relief to learn that the queen didn’t intend to kill her, it was a bit unsettling to hear of the alternate plans. Although Larkin always thought the stories of ancient magic and evil forces trapped far below ground were myths, it seems they must have been based in reality — because the queen was sending a party of Empaths (including her) deep underground, into The Reach, to battle an ancient power.  Can you even imagine growing up with the belief that magic was wrong and never learning to use your magic only to be sent on a mission that would *depend* on using magic to survive?!?

Aside from the fact that this is a standalone story [hallelujah!], there were a couple of things about this story that really spoke to me.  One was the fact that it was reminiscent of The Goonies, which was one of my favorite movies growing up.  I wondered whether I was silly for thinking this, but then I saw that even the author said, “For movie geeks, The Descent meets a high-fantasy version of The Goonies.”  [Awesome!  I’m not crazy!]  The other thing that I really loved was that there was so much power derived from emotion.  Too often, it seems that people think of emotions as limiting or even crippling, so I was really pleased to see a world in which magic could be fueled by emotions.  This book is due out in only 5 days, so you can probably even place a request for it at your local library!

Happy Reading!

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

43263520._SY475_Finishing this book on Halloween was definitely a good call. Just the right kind of creepy for me, since I’m not so much of a horror fan but love me some dystopian fiction!  And the best news of all?  Elizabeth Banks and Universal have already optioned the movie rights!!!!!!!!

You probably want to know what this book is actually about, though, right? Well… In Garner County, people believe that young women have magical powers.  Powers that can corrupt even good men and drive other women insane with jealousy.  In a place where women are supposed to be humble and subservient, that just won’t do. So the girls are sent off for their 16th year — the grace year — to burn off that magic in the woods. After that year, they are supposedly cleansed of their magic and ready for marriage, but not everyone survives. And though none of the girls knows what to expect, since it is forbidden to discuss the grace year, Tierney isn’t so sure she believes in these so-called powers. This story felt like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, and The Lord of the Flies joined forces to explore the transition from girlhood into womanhood. In a word? Amazing.

Happy Reading!

Girls Like Us by Randi Pink

girls like usTeen pregnancy is not anything new.  Things have changed quite a bit, though, since teen moms now don’t tend to get shipped off to finish their pregnancy and give birth in secret.  Can you even imagine being uprooted from your home, taken away from your support system of friends and family, and then being expected to give birth and give away your child only to pretend it had never happened in the first place?  This story takes place in 1972 and features four different teen girls dealing with unplanned pregnancies before Roe v Wade.  Izella and her older sister Ola are trying to hide Ola’s pregnancy from their mother when Izella comes up with a plan to “take care of things.”  Their young neighbor, Missippi, is also pregnant and is sent off to Chicago to be cared for by a woman who shelters pregnant girls and helps them when the time comes to give birth.  While in Chicago, she meets several other pregnant girls including Susan, the daughter of a prominent anti-choice senator. Their stories are all heartbreaking, though in very different ways. And, though I don’t like to give spoilers, I don’t think it will spoil too much to admit that there are bits of tragedy thrown into the mix.  Definitely not a “feel good” story, but a very important story to be told. Add this one to your #TBR list for when it comes out at the end of the month.

Happy Reading!

Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Odd one outBeing a teenager in the 90s provided me with more openness about sexual orientation than previous generations had been afforded. Still, questioning one’s sexuality, and especially gender identity, was somewhat taboo. When I was questioning, I could have really used a book like this to show me that I was not alone. Eventually, I came to realize that I identify as bisexual, though I am a partner in a heteronormative marriage and, to outsiders, I can easily “pass” for straight. I try to remain vigilant in both my advocacy for all people in the GLBTQ+ community and to specifically counteract bi invisibility, and I am extremely grateful to authors like Nic Stone who use their platform to do the same while also embracing and guiding the next generation.

There are three “books” in this story, each narrated by one of the three main characters — Courtney “Coop” Cooper, Rae Evelyn Chin, and Jupiter “Jupe” Charity-Sanchez.  “Jupe-n-Coop” have been best friends for nearly forever and are so close people might assume they were deeply in love if not for the fact that Jupiter has always been an out and proud lesbian.  But, is she?!?  Both Jupiter and Rae find that there are *so* many shades of gray in the middle and that labels can sometimes be restrictive.  While trying to negotiate friendships and romantic feelings can often be confusing, this little triangulation was particularly fraught.  I absolutely loved this story and thought it was the perfect book to review on #ComingOutDay. Hope y’all enjoy it too.

Happy Reading!

Rebel Girls by Elizabeth Keenan

rebel girlsIt’s crazy to think this book was both a blast from the past and also felt so current, since the debate and activism around abortion hasn’t changed much since 1992.  And while I won’t hesitate to call this book contemporary, there are probably teenagers who would argue that it is historical fiction based on the mention of bands like Bikini Kill and mentions of mixed tapes.  But, I digress…

I think Keenan did a great job representing both sides of the abortion debate without disparaging anyone’s beliefs, though the book did lean a little bit more to the pro-choice side of things. And while I appreciated that Athena was brave and ambitious enough to stand up for her pro-choice beliefs, despite living in the deep south and attending an all-girls Catholic school, I feel like the title led me to believe she would be far more rebellious. It is not a judgement, though, because I am more than happy for readers to see that you can be active and passionate about something without getting yourself into tons of trouble.  I especially liked the fact that this book was a decent primer on the Riot Grrrl movement (basically a culmination of feminism and punk rock).  We need all the help we can get spreading the message that non-conformity is OK and self-love is important.

Happy Reading!