Read in November 2014

3 12 2014

I didn’t read as much as I would have liked to in November. I also don’t have the time right now for more than sketchy impressions of the books I read, rather than the full reviews they rightfully deserve. So here goes nothing…

Power books by power women, or also: books that will kick your ass as they rightly should:

GloryOBrien

 1) Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future (by A.S. King aka the most missed author at NCTE/ALAN 2014)

I really hope to write a longer review of this, because this book and this author so deserves all the praise! This is a veritable horror story too. And can I be shallow and say how much I love my signed copy? Look at it!! But seriously. Read this!ASKingNCTE2014

4 stars (but really, it already has 6 starred reviews!)

2) The Truth about Alice (by Jennifer Mathieu)

There’s definitely an overarching theme in my November reads and that is cruelty. In this particular case, it’s cruelty in the guise of ‘slut shaming’. The Truth about Alice is Jennifer Mathieu’s debut YA novel and I was completely and shamelessly sucked in by it.

I “loved” every bit of this book: the multiple perspectives, the ruthless investigation of stereotyping people (and characters in a book), the way it unflinchingly shows how boys and girls are seen and judged in a completely different light. I also “hated” everything about this book: the way the boys and girls are shown and how stereotypes are reinforced. How some people have (too) loud voices and others don’t have a voice at all.

This is such an important book. For boys and for girls. And not in the least: for the adults raising those boys and those girls.

4 stars

3) Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (by Meg Medina)

This is a book from the heart. It’s not a ‘nice’ story, though. On the contrary, Meg Medina wrote a harsh psychologically layered story about bullying and female relationships. It’s edgy – and I’m not even talking about that title (which, by the way kicks so much ass 😉 – and I’m sure not just girls will identify with Piddy Sanchez or possibly even the mysterious Yaqui Delgado. If there’s one thing that’s abudantly clear after reading this provocative little book then it’s that everyone has a story: the victim, but also the bully, even if we don’t know what that story is, as is the case with Yaqui Delgado. And more than being ‘just another bullying book’, what really stands out is Medina’s great rendering of female relationships.

3.5 stars

Power books by power men

1) Knockout Games (by G.Neri)

Based on true events, comes G. Neri’s Knockout Games. I read this one right before Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass and what the two definitely have in common is the violence. This one is a ruthless book. Set in St. Louis it’s all about a knockout club, a group of middle and high school kids who basically get into random violence (knocking out random people on the street for the fun and thrill of it). When Erica is uprooted to St. Louis after her parents’ divorce, she gets mixed up with the game (she’s good with a camera) and its leader, K (Kalvin), the Knockout King.

The narrative and the language are very straightforward. There’s no needless fancy talk, which wouldn’t really fit with the book’s topic anyway. Also like Yaqui Delgado, I see this being liked by a younger audience (Yes, yes, I know: there’s violence. And sex. Bite me). There’s also the same trope of the outsider trying to fit in, which that age group really seems to appreciate a lot. In this case, the protagonist is the white Erica who moves to a predominantly African American neighborhood and who’s trying to keep her head above water after her parents’ divorce.

3 stars

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2) He Said, She Said (by Kwame Alexander)

This is described as a ‘hip hop’ novel and the language use of esp. the male protagonist Omar or T-Diddy (I did the same eye-rolling as the female protagonist!) in the book also reflects this. However, I can’t really say I was into it all that much. I also don’t like hip hop, so maybe it’s that. The story is too stereotypical for my taste: a good looking star football player (a real “player” too, of course) and a studious and responsible girl. Of course they’re destined to meet. Mixed in with this tale of destined yet too good to be true romance is a fight for social justice at the local high school.

I don’t know, it’s all very much in your face. I just couldn’t see past the shallowness of it all (maybe that’s the point?) and I just like my stories more nuanced and my characters with a lot more depth.

2.5 stars

Graphic novels:

1)  The Silence of our Friends (by Mark Long)

This graphic novel – also drawn by Nate Powell – is another (historical) graphic novel/memoir in the same vein as March Book One. It’s not quite as powerful as March Book One, but I can see this being liked a lot by my reluctant readers who’re really into history and the Civil Rights Movement.

3 stars

2) The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil (by Stephen Collins)

GET THIS BOOK NOW. GET IT! NOW! Absolutely brilliant graphic novel. What can I say? There’s the neat and orderly island of Here. The threat of a chaotic There. And there’s a *gigantic beard*. I repeat: there’s a gigantic beard. What more do you need? Brilliant artwork? It’s all there.

Gigantic Beard 1

Gigantic Beard 2

It’s the ultimate surrealist and eerily honest truth metaphor about the state of man in our current society (unfortunately it’s probably also the ultimate hipster book). This book is  awesome. Did I mention there’s a gigantic beard? That is evil?

5 stars

 

Up next: photo impression of NCTE/ALAN 2014





March: Book One (by John Robert Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell)

21 03 2014

March Book One is a gorgeous piece of art and tells the incredibly inspiring story of Congressman John Lewis, one of the pioneers in the Civil Rights Movement.  The first installment of this graphic memoir focuses on the nonviolent actions of the younger John Lewis, especially hightlighting the desegregation of lunch counters. This is obviously a really important and inspiring story, which is already reason enough to buy this book, but phew… Nate Powell, man… he did such an awesome job: enormously evocative.

Too bad this was published as “Book One”, because I’d much rather have seen a big bulky memoir rather than (3?) separate little books. In any case, this is a book that deserves to be bought, read, told and shared. Get it now!

 

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The Year of the Beasts (by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell) – ARC

4 04 2012

In classical Greek mythology, anyone looking directly at Medusa would turn into stone. In most versions of the Medusa story, Medusa was originally a beautiful maiden until the goddess Athena punished her (because Athena caught Medusa being ravished by Poseidon – for feminists a cause of obvious outrage!) and turned her lovely long hair into snakes. The Medusa figure has been used (Versace!) and analyzed in many ways throughout Western cultural history, with psychoanalytical and feminist interpretations obviously taking the forefront here.

Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell have also drawn on the Medusa story in their upcoming collaboration The Year of the Beasts, but they have reinterpreted the Medusa as a symbol of grief and loss in a much more contemporary way than could have been expected from this age-old myth.

Tessa, along with her younger sister Lulu in tow, goes to the annual summer carnival un-chaperoned for the very first time. Any carnival brings with it limitless possibilities for the summer, and this year especially there will be new experiences for the girls in the form of…boys. Tessa has her eye on Charlie, but it’s her younger sister Lulu who comes out the curiosity sideshow tent as Charlie’s girlfriend. Who knew that the darkness inside the tent, which all the girls initially perceive as a good thing, because darkness mixed with boys would obviously lead to handholding and kissing, would actually be the beginning of a life-changing event for Tessa?

In two different storylines – one told solely in words, the other in both word and image – Castellucci and Powell weave together a story about betrayal, jealousy, guilt and grief. It’s great and refreshing to see how Cecil Castellucci’s words are taken to a new level by Powell’s graphics about a girl with snake-hair, a minotaur and a mermaid! Nate Powell’s images and his light/dark play are indeed very evocative and even enhance the feeling of not quite belonging, which is exemplified in Castellucci’s part of the book by the character of Jasper. Because both storylines are at first somewhat confusing to the reader, you get an almost unheimlich feeling until towards the end, the storylines form a unified whole. I am not familiar with Powell’s previous work, but to me, this book seems like Castellucci’s boldest move yet.

Ultimately, this is a story about feeling lost – for whatever reason, because you live in the shadow of your sister like Tessa does in the beginning the story, or because you are or just feel different from the rest of the world like Jasper, or because you have literally lost something or someone – and consequently the Medusa myth is an apt point of reference, of course (what hasn’t Medusa lost … hair, honour, beauty, virtue?). As such this is also a book that can be read by both the young and the not so young as they will each realize what it is they regret having lost.

The Year of the Beasts comes out on May 22nd, 2012.

Review based on ARC received on NetGalley.








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