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Showing posts from July, 2014

Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition - Katie Rain Hill (with Ariel Schrag)

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As a scholar working on young adult literature for and about transgender teens, I was beyond thrilled when a friend at Simon & Schuster informed me that two new memoirs were coming out from Arin Andrews and Katie Rain Hill (If you've read my review of Some Assembly Required already, I apologize for some repeats in the intro!). There is a history of memoir being used as a tool for self-expression, self-exploration, and a platform through which to inform a larger population, so to see two young people using just such a form to express themselves and engage young people in thinking more about gender and sexuality was a huge thrill.

When I get this excited, I inevitably start creating HUGE expectations in my head, and sometimes that means disappointment (until I remind myself that it was my own fault for creating expectations in the first place.) This, I am happy to say, is (much like Some Assembly Required) not one of those cases! 

Rethinking Normal, along with Andrews' Some As…

The Rise of Aurora West (Battling Boy) - Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin

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The Rise of Aurora West is a prequel or companion to Paul Pope's Battling Boy, a new graphic novel series set in a world of monsters and villains, that is short on heroes to save the day. In this prequel, readers are given the opportunity to learn about one of Battling Boy's allies, Aurora West, the daughter of talented scientist Haggard West.

Pope, Petty, and Rubin pack a lot into this slim companion volume. We are introduced to new heroes, new villains, and a mystery involving the death of Aurora's mother. Not only is the story itself fast-paced and intricately illustrated, but the characters are fully constructed and complex.

I found myself getting pulled in from the first page, with Aurora and Haggard attempting to foil a plot masterminded by an unknown figure shrouded in darkness. After following some random minions/monsters, Haggard and Aurora are led to Medula, a rather menacing and disturbing-looking character, but one who is still working for someone else. Someone t…

Some Assembly Required - Arin Andrews (with Joshua Lyon)

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As a scholar working on young adult literature for and about transgender teens, I was beyond thrilled when a friend at Simon & Schuster informed me that two new memoirs were coming out from Arin Andrews and Katie Rain Hill. There is a history of memoir being used as a tool for self-expression, self-exploration, and a platform through which to inform a larger population, so to see two young people using just such a form to express themselves and engage young people in thinking more about gender and sexuality was a huge thrill. Of course, when I get this excited, I inevitably start creating HUGE expectations in my head, and sometimes that means disappointment (until I remind myself that it was my own fault for creating expectations in the first place.) This, I am happy to say, is not one of those cases! 

Some Assembly Required and Hill's companion memoir, Rethinking Normal, should be incorporated into as many high schools and gender studies classrooms as possible, as far as I'…

One Death, Nine Stories - Edited by Marc Aronson & Charles R. Smith

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Nicholas, Kevin. Age 19. Died at York Hospital....

There are a lot of short story anthologies out there for young adults these days. And they're all very different. Usually they revolve around a particular theme (Geektastic, Losing It, etc.) or they centre on a particular pair of opposing themes (Zombies vs. Unicorns, for instance.) In this particular case, the book focuses on nine people who knew and were in some way affected by Kevin (Kev) Nicholas.

I like to think that when a body is dead it can't lie anymore and all that is left is the truth. So I make up stories as I am filing the nails of stiff-fingered dead people, putting on foundation or lipstick, or combing their hair. I try to imagine who they were and if they can (or should) be forgiven for what they did in their lives. I want to believe there are good people and bad people and that in the end we all get what we deserve, but the dead always remind us that is not true.Each story focuses on one character in Kev's l…

Poisoned Apples - Christine Heppermann

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Not only am I a fan of feminist retellings of fairy tales, but when these tales are brought into a contemporary context, looking at gender equality, eating disorders, body image, and other such (sadly) relevant themes, I can't help but get sucked in.

The Woods The action's always there. Where are the fairy tales about gym class or the doctor's office or the back of the bus where bad things also happen? Pigs can buy cheap building materials just as easily in the suburbs. Wolves stage invasions. Girls spit out cereal, break chairs, and curl beneath covers like pill bugs or selfish grannies avoiding the mess. No need for a bunch of trees. You can lose your way anywhere.
While I understand that not everyone is a fan of poetry (and I often find myself wondering about the genre at times), the topics being examined in these poems overshadow quibbles I might have with the art form on a larger scale. As E. Lockhart states in her cover blurb, these poems are "a bloody . . . attack on the bea…

Undead with Benefits - Jeff Hart

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I must begin this review by acknowledging that I have not read Eat, Brains, Love. While this doesn't seem to affect the enjoyment of Undead with Benefits, there were a number of references to events in the first book that may have enhanced my understanding of some of the events in the sequel. That being said, I quite enjoyed this novel and I think it will find an audience with those who enjoy zombie books with a twist.

This is a tough one to summarize, so I'll just copy the official synopsis here:
Jake and Amanda are in love, on the run—and undead. They've teamed up with Cass, who’s ditched her former job as shady government psychic zombie-tracker, and they're headed across the border into Iowa, where there’s rumored to be a zombie cure.Armed with a trunk full of guinea pigs (aka zombie snacks), they're ready to take on the Midwest’s first undead warlord, the psycho psychic out for their blood, and their own superawkward love triangle. But the virus is spreading fast…

The Wrenchies - Farel Dalrymple

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I was trying to figure out a good way to describe this graphic novel, but I'm having a hell of a time trying to make sense of the storyline, so here's my best attempt:

The Wrenchies are a group of ruthless children trying to defeat the shadowsmen, a race of demonic monsters who prey on anyone who grows out of childhood. In a parallel world, a young boy named Hollis is being bullied and ostracized, and he feels like couldn't possibly get better. But one day he finds an amulet that transports him to the world of the Wrenchies. There's also weird bugs, comic books, secret codes, a bionic scientist, magic, ghosts, and secret hideouts. Needless to say, it's a bit hard to explain in the end.

The illustrations are as disturbing and gory as they are beautiful (see below). Dalrymple is obviously a talented artist. There is no question that his art will appeal to fans of dystopia, thrillers, and science fiction. Images on various pages change between simplistic faces and still…

Lowriders in Space - Cathy Camper, Raul the Third

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It's not like the concentration on graphic novels and picture books was deliberate this month, but it's happening, and I'm not opposed! I didn't read enough graphic novels and comics as a kid, so I'll just consider this to be making up for lost time!

Lowriders in Space is just plain fun! In this story about a group of friends trying to win a car contest so they can get the prize money and eventually open up their own shop, Camper and Raul the Third combine humor and a unique illustration style to great effect. Young readers will enjoy the cast of characters—a mosquito (Elirio Malaria), an octopus (El Chavo Flapjack), and Lupe Impala. Together, the group can fix pretty much anything, and make whatever it is look brilliant at the same time. The three want to open their own shop, but without money, they are out of luck, until they notice a sign telling them about an opportunity to win some cash by building a lowrider car. The three agree to enter the competition, and t…

Sisters - Raina Telgemeier

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Let me begin with a little bit of back story. The first time I met Raina was during a conference in Vancouver, BC. She was one of our keynote speakers and at the time she was still raking in the acclaim for Smile. Only a short time later, I was serving on the Stonewall Book Awards committee for the American Library Association (ALA) when Drama came across my desk, and I found myself getting super excited as I read through. So, naturally, when I saw an ARC of Sisters at the most recent ALA conference, I did a little jig, giggled a bit, and drew more than a few stares. Needless to say, this will be a very positive review!

First of all, I love the cover, which mimics the comedy and tragedy masks, giving insight into the complexities at play within Raina Telgemeier's most recent graphic novel. In this book, Raina, her sister and brother, and her mother all get ready to go on a road trip to visit relatives. Her father isn't coming along, so it's just her and her sister in the ba…

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole - Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen

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Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen are already on my list of children's literature favourites (I'm going with the Canadian spellings here, in honour of Jon!), and this book only serves to increase my love of their collaborative dynamic (i.e. Extra Yarn, the gorgeous 2013 Caldecott Honor book!).

Like so much of Klassen's work, Sam & Dave relies on the use of a delicately balanced colour palette composed of tans, browns, and other neutral and warm hues. Colours such as peach and pink serve to draw the reader's attention to various components on each page that move the story forward. The clothing colours, as well, allow readers to keep Sam and Dave apart throughout. 

As Sam and Dave dig they come close to finding a number of large gems, though each time they are near, they decide to change course for various reasons (Barnett's crisp prose provide wonderfully ironic counterpoints to Klassen's imagery.) Each time they change direction, however, the dog serves as the eyes…

Otherbound - Corine Duyvis

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[Note: This review contains some discussion that some might feel to be spoilers]

This is a great book. There's no other way to say it, really. It's just great! I had the privilege of meeting Corinne in Las Vegas, recently, at the American Library Association Stonewall Awards brunch. It was a thrill, I must say! But now I should probably move on to the actual review instead of gushing.
In the world of the Dunelands, Amara was sleeping.Striding through the Walgreens aisles, Nolan wished he could do the same—just curl up in bed, shut his eyes, and see nothing but the insides of his eyelids.No: see nothing but the insides of Amara's eyelids. He hadn't seen his own in years.If he hurried, he could buy the notebooks and get home before Amara woke up.Otherbound opens with Nolan, a young man who can't seem to get a break from having his life interrupted whenever he closes his eyes. With each blink, and with each moment that he tries to sleep, his mind is invaded by another w…