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Graphic Novel Threefer: Level Up, Friends With Boys, & Stuck Rubber Baby

May 8, 2013

It’s a graphic novel threefer today! I don’t have a ton to say about any of them, so I’m going to do three mini-reviews instead.

25. Level Up by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham (2011)

Length: 160 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Started / Finished: 14 April 2013

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I recognized Yang’s name from American Born Chinese.

Summary: Dennis Ouyang just wants to play video games. But after the death of his father, four adorable angels appear and force him to take control of his life: clean up, study hard, finish college, and go to medical school. But the angels are rather jealous of his time, and Dennis doesn’t think they’re going to take it well when he decides that med school is just not for him.

Review: This was a fun little book. It had its serious moments, for sure – a book about expectations and being who you want to be vs. who you were meant to be is not going to be all laughs all the time – but it had its fair share of cute and funny and sweet moments as well (I particularly liked Dennis’s interactions with his friends once he started med school). I don’t know that what it had to say about what parents want for their kids vs. what kids think their parents want, and what kids want for themselves was anything particularly original, but it was presented smoothly and in a very relatable way. The art in this book is simple – pen drawings with not-always-in-the-lines washes of watercolor – but cute, and fits the tone of the book well. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: This book is maybe a little odd in its audience – it’s about 20-somethings, but seems like it’s geared towards younger readers. But it’s a solid coming-of-age story that should be relatable to all ages, particularly if they like video games.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: The Book Pirate, The Literary Omnivore, Waking Brain Cells, and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: I saw my first arcade video game when I was six.

26. Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hickman (2012)

Length: 224 pages
Genre: Technically Fantasy, Young Adult

Started / Finished: 16 April 2013

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Picked it up at random off the library shelf.

Summary: Maggie’s been homeschooled her entire life, but on the first day of ninth grade, she’s going to high school – just like each of her three older brothers did before her. High school’s tough enough to navigate for anyone, but for someone like Maggie – who has never really been around kids other than her brothers – it’s pretty overwhelming. Her brothers are technically there to look out for her, but they’ve got lives and friends and activities of their own, leaving Maggie to make friends – and navigate the treacherous waters of teenaged social life – more or less on her own. Oh, and also, Maggie’s haunted by a ghost from the local graveyard.

Review: The cover copy of this book makes it out like the haunting is a major part of the story, so I was expecting something along the lines of Anya’s Ghost. But as it turns out, the ghost is probably the least-important element of the story, and I would not have missed it had it been cut. The heart of the book, for me, was the wonderful, wonderful characterization. Maggie, her three brothers, her new friend Lucy and her brother Alastair, all feel like real people, and are all immensely likeable. The story itself is somewhere between a coming-of-age story and a slice-of-life of Maggie’s first year of school, but it’s thoroughly charming, and I found myself just wanting to hang out and spend more time with Maggie and her family. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It’s similar in a lot of ways to Raina Telgemeier’s Drama, and well worth a read for anyone who likes charming coming-of-age stories with sweet but realistic sibling dynamics.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Bart’s Bookshelf, GOod Books and Good Wine, Waking Brain Cells and more at the Book Blogs Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “First day.”

27. Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (1995)

Length: 210 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, technically

Started: 21 April 2013
Finished: 22 April 2013

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Ana’s fault.

Summary: Toland Polk is a young man growing up in a Southern city (called Clayfield, but clearly modelled on Birmingham) in the middle of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Toland becomes part of the fight to end segregation and battle prejudice, in a time and place where even white sympathizers could be the targets of racially-motivated violence. Toland, however, has another secret, one he’s keeping even from himself: he is gay, and the movement for racial equality and acceptance becomes part and parcel with Toland’s struggle to accept himself.

Review: I lost the preconception that graphic novels had to be funny a long time ago – I’ve read enough of them in enough different genres, including serious fare like Persepolis, Maus, and Fun Home, to know better. But I can’t help but being a little struck every time I read a graphic novel that attempts to tackle a story of this scope and magnitude. Even though it’s not an autobiography, this is clearly a very personal story for Cruse, and that raw emotion shines through the pages. But for some reason, I didn’t get as involved in this book as I might have expected. I think that part of the reason is that there’s a large cast, and the storyline is not particularly straightforward, so I wound up feeling a little scattered. And the artwork, though meticulously done, is very dense, and I often had a hard time telling the male characters (other than Toland, who was the only one with straight blond hair) apart. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Although this is fiction, I think it would probably appeal most to fans of graphic memoirs, particularly those interested in LGBT issues or the civil rights movement.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Largehearted Boy, Things Mean a Lot
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: “Looking back, I didn’t see all that many dead bodies when I was a kid growing up down South… but the ones I saw stuck in my mind.”

© 2013 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. May 8, 2013 9:21 am

    I enjoyed Friends with Boys. Stuck Rubber Baby appeals to me – I’m adding it to my wish list.

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