Wednesday, January 27, 2016

YA Graphic Novels

I've read several young adult graphic novels this month, so I figured I'd review them all at once.

A Brave is Brave (Junior Braves of the Apocalypse, book one)
By Greg Smith and Michael Tanner, illustrated by Zach Lehner
Published 2015 by Oni Press
Tribe 65 has just returned from their camping trip, but the world is not as they left it. They can't find their parents and the adults they do run into have gone a bit...weird.

Well, I mean, how could I resist a series called Junior Braves of the Apocalypse? Obviously, I could not. So I picked up this first volume when it arrived at the library. It was very reminiscent of The Walking Dead and I won't be surprised if it continues that way. Actually, most zombie apocalypse lit is pretty similar, moving from one safe space to the next as new challenges and problems arise. I found the panels a bit difficult to follow at times, but overall, this was a pretty fun read. I'll be looking for book two.

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir
By Maggie Thrash
Published 2015 by Candlewick Press
Maggie has spent every summer at the same camp but the summer she is fifteen, one unexpected moment changes her life forever.

I'd heard a lot about this graphic memoir in the weeks leading up to its publication and immediately after, so I was definitely interested in checking it out. Since I've been reading so many graphic novels lately and it happened to be on the shelf when I picked up a few new ones, I figured now was a good time to read this one. I really enjoyed it. I liked the simplicity of Maggie's story and I sure related to it. I think many teens will be able to relate to Maggie and her story. I liked all the people we meet throughout as well. I wasn't as crazy about the art style, but as the story progressed, I thought it suited the tone of the book well. Definitely recommend this one.

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
By Prudence Shen, illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
Published 2013 by First Second
Charlie and Nate are unlikely friends, but their bond is tested when Nate declares war against the cheerleaders and Charlie is unwillingly thrown into the war. With funding for school groups on the line, both sides have something to lose.

Well, honestly, for something with this title, I really expected more to go wrong. This was fun enough, with some legitimate laugh out loud moments as well as some heartfelt ones. But, as a whole, nothing about this story really struck me as extraordinary or outstanding. As I said, I expected more to go wrong - the stakes never really felt that high and I never really believed that everything wouldn't work out in the end. I just expected more from this one.

By Ayun Halliday, illustrated by Paul Hoppe
Published 2012 by Schwartz & Wade
When Sadie transfers to a new school, she has what she thinks is the perfect plan for making friends - she'll make a peanut allergy. It's interesting enough that people will want to know more, but not dangerous enough to worry about. Or so she thinks, because Sadie is about to discover it's a whole lot more complicated than she planned on.

I remember being intrigued by this one way back when it was released and it gets read enough every year that it's still kicking around our heavily weeded teen section, so I picked it up recently when I spotted it on the shelf. I did not enjoy this one. I couldn't ever get over how selfish and naive Sadie was by pretending to have this allergy - yeah, it's not the worse illness she could have faked, but it can still be life-threatening. Really, I spent most of my time reading this waiting for Sadie to get her comeuppance. And, to that end, I found the bit at the end with Zoo extremely unsatisfactory. Just did not like this one.

Level Up
By Gene Luen Yang, illustrated by Thien Pham
Published 2011 by First Second
Dennis loves nothing as much as he loves video games, but when four cute but intimidating angels show up to point him in the right direction, he finds myself in medical school and on the way to living up to his dad's dreams for him.

By this point, I think I've read pretty much every graphic novel that Yang has published (at least those for young people and excepting Avatar). I never picked this one up when it was released but when I spotted it on the shelf, I figured it was overdue. I didn't get this one. The implication was that it would be about video games, but it's really not. Yes, Dennis plays video games in the beginning and again at the end, but in the main section in the middle, he really doesn't seem to care that much about them. Mostly, he seems to just care about doing something other than gastroenterology. And that moment when he controls the camera during an endoscopy? What is the point of that if he's still going to choose something else? The story just didn't add up for me. Disappointing.

Will & Whit
By Laura Lee Gulledge
Published 2013 by Abrams
Will is trying to overcome a family tragedy that has left her afraid of the dark. Will a blackout caused by a huge hurricane force her to deal with both things?

Another graphic novel I remember hearing a lot about and neglecting to pick up in a timely manner, I really enjoyed the art style of this one. The story was a bit less cohesive than I hoped - the hurricane was really nothing more than a plot device and didn't seem to effect the characters in a way that felt realistic. I liked the idea of Will dealing with her grief in a very specific way - through art - and I also appreciated that it manifested in a very specific way - her fear of the dark. It's a small but eye-opening fact to anyone who thinks that grief largely looks the same on everyone. But, as I said, the hurricane seemed like nothing more than something to advance Will's story - I wanted it to have even more of an impact. The other characters were fun, but still mostly felt like set decorations to Will's story.

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