Powerful Graphic Novels

Last year during NaBloPoMo, I posted about feeling a bit lost when it came to the graphic novel genre. I’m intrigued by graphic novels. I want to like them. But I hadn’t really found a graphic novel that felt like it fit me.

So I kept trying.

I finally found several graphic novels that impressed me, so much so, in fact, that I now own a box set! And I would like to own a copy of the other great book, too.

Powerful Graphic Novels to Add to your TBR:

March, three book series by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell 

John Lewis – yes, the congressman from Georgia – shares his story of how he became a key figure in the civil rights movement. Book One covers John Lewis’s early life and how he became involved in the movement, including his meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr. The novel shows how the student movement began as they carried out nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins. While Lewis reflects back on how the movement began and changes he helped bring about, he’s also preparing for the inauguration of history-making President Barack Obama. Book Two is a bit darker, following Lewis as he and the Freedom Riders board a bus headed to the deep south. The riders are faced with violence, imprisonment, and arson. Book Three covers the Birmingham Church Bombing and how activists attempting a nonviolent march across a bridge in Selma were beaten by state state troopers.

  • March is a powerful series that should be read by everyone. The Civil Rights Movement often gets boiled down to the basics in school, but I learned so much about other important leaders and organizations during the 1960s, what went into the planning of the March on Washington, and how dangerous it was for people to protest – even peacefully – and especially in the south. John Lewis is incredible and, as he points out near the end of the book, is the only one left of the “Big Six.” At only 23 years old, Lewis participated in sit-ins and peaceful protests, was a freedom rider, witnessed police brutality, endured jail time, met with President Kennedy to discuss the Civil Rights Bill, and spoke at the March on Washington before Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. We could all use a refresher on our recent past, and this book provides that information in a very accessible way. The comic book format makes it more dynamic and emotional than a history book. Great storytelling and great illustrations. I read March: Book One on my kindle fire and really liked how I could double-tap on a picture and the frame would enlarge on the screen. Then, by swiping, it would switch to the next frame in a really cool way. By double-tapping again, it would zoom out so I could see what the entire page looked like. I sometimes find reading graphic novels a bit confusing, so this feature was really great. The next book, I checked out from our library, and by the time I got to the third book, my husband bought me the three-book series because I talked about how well-done this series was. I’m glad that I own these. They are worth rereading. Five stars and beyond!

Speak: The Graphic Novel, by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll 

Melinda is just starting her freshman year of high school and she’s already an outcast. That’s because she called the cops on the big end-of-summer party – though no one is interested in her reasons for doing this. Struggling through a rough school year without her friends, parents who don’t pay attention, and teachers who are clueless, Melinda turns inward and mostly silent. Thanks to a passionate art teacher, time, and a need to protect others, Melinda finally reveals that she was raped by an upperclassman from her school.

  • If you see this book in the library or at a bookstore, pick it up because you need to read it. Laurie Halse Anderson’s original novel Speak is the quintessential text on sexual assault for teens and young adults. It is a must-read because it’s so honest and real and poignant. Melinda’s voice – though she doesn’t say much – has so much to tell the reader. And in this version, what she doesn’t say is filled in by the expressive illustrations. This graphic novel, published almost 20 years after the original book, is a refreshing and relevant update, and just as important now as it was then. It’s not just important for teenage girls either – it is important for teen boys, college-age students, teachers, and parents. And even if you haven’t experienced sexual assault or harassment yourself, there is something for everyone to gain, whether it’s simply awareness or empathy. I don’t think you can walk away from this book without feeling something. Emily Carroll’s illustrations match perfectly with the text – it’s almost like they were always meant to be this way. I loved how the images stirred up feelings of sympathy, frustration, anger, and hope even though there’s not as much text to read as a full novel. Every few pages I found myself going “mmmm” – which meant, “Wow, Laurie and Emily, you just made an amazing point.” Even though I’ve read the original book multiple times and watched the movie, this still left an impression on me. Until women’s voices and victim’s voices are believed, until there’s no longer a need for #metoo and #timesup movements, until there is a belief that women’s rights are human rights, Speak will continue to be a necessary text. So read it. You won’t regret it.

Have you read any graphic novels this year? Tell me about them!

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A Thanksgiving for the Books

Since my husband, daughter, and I are flying to Mexico very early tomorrow morning, we weren’t able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family members who live hours away.

So instead, I decided it would be fun to imagine a Thanksgiving table filled with some of my favorite authors. Here are my self-imposed rules. Feel free to play along and post your guest list in the comments.

1. Guests have to currently be alive. It has to have some sense that this could maybe possibly happen!

2. My dining table can hold 8 people. Minus my “1-2-3 family” (as my daughter likes to call us), that leaves room for 5 guests.

3. Guests have to be authors, but they could have written many books or just one.

My Lit Thanksgiving Guest List:

  • Sarah J. Maas: I have read nine or ten of her books and I adored them all. I want to hear her talk about the characters. I would also love for her to bring along a copy of Kingdom of Ash because I haven’t read it yet and I’m dying to find out what happens.
  • Victoria Aveyard: I know from hearing her speak at the War Storm tour that Victoria is smart and interesting to listen to.
  • Jenny Han: Her books are adorable, so she must be too, right? Maybe she’s also a baker like her character Lara Jean? She can bring dessert!
  • Steve Berry: His books are full of history and conspiracy theories, so I think he’d be a good guest. Plus, my husband would probably appreciate having another guy at the table!

Ok, next, I wanted to pick queen J.K. Rowling because who doesn’t love Harry Potter?! And it’d be lovely to have someone at the table with a British accent, but really? Getting her to my house seems unrealistic- even for this made up scenario!

  • Laurie Halse Anderson: Laurie’s book Speak has been on my mind a lot lately because of its relevance. I recently read the graphic novel version and loved it. She’s also just released a very personal book of poetry. I think she sounds like she has a lot to say, and she really gets YA.

There you have it! I hope you’ll share your guest list with me. Happy Thanksgiving!

(P.S. I’ve been busy packing for our trip all day today, so this post is seriously lacking in images. Please picture a cleverly photoshopped image with all the authors sitting at a dining room table! Thanks!)

So, everyone has perfect memories now?

So, everyone has perfect memories now?

I’m really struggling with the reason why some people aren’t Team Blasey Ford: the lapses in memory. They claim that since she doesn’t know how she got to or from the party or where the house was, her story doesn’t add up. But I can’t understand why this is the sticking point for people. Not the fact that she remembers the laughter from two boys who were having a good time at her expense, not the fact that she remembers she was wearing a one-piece bathing suit because Kavanaugh struggled with it, not the fact that she remembers making eye contact with the other boy, pleading with him to help her out. It’s the missing details that people are caught up on.

Just a few weekends ago, I got together with a friend and we talked about a trip we took in high school (I don’t know when exactly, but I think we were juniors). She and I had very different memories of the trip. I felt confident that we were at one hotel and she thought it was another. I hadn’t remembered that she spent the night throwing up over some bad KFC chicken! I didn’t remember taking an old-timey photograph. I don’t remember the vehicle that we took to get there. The only thing I know for sure is that we took a LOT of shoes! I know this because we have a picture of all the shoes lined up.

Now, we can keep track of our lives easily with social media and camera rolls on our phones, but in the ‘80s? Or even in 2002 or 2003 when this trip happened? That wasn’t a thing. Today, if I don’t write something down on a post-it note or journal, I’ll forget it in 30 seconds.

Shame on people for discounting Ford’s words because of the things THEY think she should remember.  

And how dare President Trump mock a sexual assault victim. Did you see the video of that rally in Mississippi? Did you see the people – men and women – laughing along with him? That is not the professionalism that I expect from the President of the United States. Say what you will about Obama, the Bushes, or Clinton, but I never worried about their intentions. I felt they were basing their decisions on whether it was best for the greater good (in addition to also listening to sound counsel). Trump, on the other hand, cares only for himself.

While I haven’t personally experienced sexual harassment or assault, I have:

  • Paid attention to my surroundings and had my keys out and ready while walking through dark parking lots
  • Only clicked “unlock” once on my key fob and quickly gotten into my car so that no one else could enter my car
  • Texted my husband to let him know I’m leaving a place so that he knows when I should be home
  • Asked friends to text me so that I know they got home safely
  • Walked home from evening college classes with other girls so I wasn’t alone on a dark campus
  • Worried about friends when they disappeared at a college party
  • Left notes of what I was wearing and where I planned to go before going on a walk when I lived in an apartment by myself
  • Changed clothes so that I didn’t leave the wrong impression – as if my clothing has anything to do with what another person chooses to do
  • Both laughed at Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality and took her defense advice seriously in case I would ever need to get away from an attacker (SING: solar plexus, instep, nose, groin)

It’s these little things that I don’t think men ever think about.

It’s time to start talking about why that is.

It worries me that this situation may somehow cause other survivors to not report because they’re afraid they haven’t remembered the right details. Personally, I don’t think there was anything Dr. Ford could have said on the stand that would change the Republicans’/Lindsey Graham’s minds.

Let’s just imagine:

     Ford: Here’s the one-piece bathing suit I wore that night.

     FBI/Forensics: Yes, that is Kavanaugh’s DNA on the swim suit.

     Republicans: The Democrat’s planted it there.

 

     2 more accusers: He raped me too.

     5 more accusers: He raped me too.

     10 more accusers: He raped me too.

     Republicans: You have him confused with someone else. This is all a set up by the Democrats to block the confirmation process.

 

     Time Travelers: We went back in time and observed the party in question. What Dr. Ford says is true. We couldn’t tamper with the situation, or risk changing all of history, but it’s true.

     Republicans: Science isn’t real. This is all a set up.

 

     God: My children-

     Republicans: Is that God?

     God: Yes, my children, it is I. Yes, this horrific thing really happened to Christine. Wrap her in your loving care.

     Republicans: Why does it matter what happened 30 years ago? He was just a kid. This is a job interview NOW.

 

I know it’s unfair to group all Republicans this way, but it is certainly what it feels like at the moment. We’ve all chosen sides and there’s no wiggle room. But how anyone could want to move forward with a confirmation on Judge Kavanaugh is beyond my understanding. Is it more important to feel like the winners than to address very serious concerns? I’d really like an answer to that.

Ok, this rant is finally coming to a close. I want to leave on a positive note, so let’s bring it back to books, shall we?

This is a book blog, after all, so it feels fitting to share some books I highly recommend for anyone looking for a way to learn more about sexual assault victims and gain some empathy and maybe even a new perspective. These are all Young Adult books, but that doesn’t mean adults should shy away from them.

  • Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – both the original text from 1999 and the newly released graphic novel. There’s also a 2004 movie version starring Kristen Stewart. High school freshman, Melinda, is raped at an end-of-summer party but doesn’t report it. In fact, she goes through much of the school year without speaking. She loses her friends and her grades suffer, meanwhile, the person who raped her walks the halls and eventually dates her former best friend. I just read the graphic novel last week and was blown away by how the pictures and text interacted. This book should be on everyone’s reading list.  

 

  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston – Hermione Winters, captain of her cheerleading team, is raped while at a summer camp. But what is really interesting about this book is the way that the main character’s situation is taken very seriously. A cop handles her case with care, her parents support her and her decisions (what if she’s pregnant?), her pastor says the right things, a therapist takes the time to get to know her, and her friends stand fiercely by her side. I wish everyone was given the kind of respect and support that this character receives. Don’t let the odd title of this book fool you – this is another book we should all be reading.

A Wrap-Up of Recent Reads #3

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon:

I picked up this book at my grandma’s house and was instantly hooked. The main character is a fifteen-year-old boy named Christopher. Although not specifically stated, Christopher seems to be somewhere on the autism scale. He knows all the countries of the world and their capitals, the chapters are labeled by prime numbers, and he has no understanding of human emotions. If he sees five red cars in a row on his way to school, it’s going to be a Super Good Day, but if he sees a bunch of yellow cars—watch out—it’s going to be a bad day. At the beginning of the novel, Christopher finds his neighbor’s dog has been killed. Christopher puts his detective skills to the test and attempts to solve the mystery.

The book is a fast read, and I finished it in just two days. Christopher’s voice really comes through the novel and I found him very relatable. He reminded me of students I had worked with in the past. The book was unlike anything else I had read and I would highly recommend this novel.

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson:

When I saw that Laurie Halse Anderson had a new book out, I was interested—but not interested enough to pay for it! So when I saw it on the New Releases shelf at the library, I snatched it up. Laurie Halse Anderson has been a leader in YA fiction with her novels Speak, Twisted, and Wintergirls, so I knew I was in for a good read. What I wasn’t expecting was how fast I was drawn into the novel and how fast I finished it. I had to know what would happen to the narrator and her father. This would be a great novel to use in a high school English class—it’s relevant and would spark some good discussions.

Senior Hayley Kincain is back at a public school after traveling the road with her dad and his semi for the past five years. They were constantly on the move as her father struggled with the memories and nightmares of his time serving in Iraq. Her dad wants to give her a normal life and decides they’ll move back to his hometown, but their life is anything but normal. He can’t hold a job, abuses alcohol and drugs, has a violent temper at times, and refuses to get help for his PTSD. In the meantime, Hayley struggles with memories of her own. She finds out that while her life isn’t perfect, neither is the life of many of her classmates and friends.

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Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore:

This book was popping up on summer reading lists, so when I found out that the price had been reduced on Amazon, I quickly bought it for my kindle. While I wanted to like the novel, it was unsettling and I don’t know how I really feel about it! I feel pretty confident that I wouldn’t recommend it to any of my friends though. One problem I had with the novel was the setting: when does the story take place? Judging from the character’s names (Mabel and Genevra), the fact that they attend a posh, East Coast school, and go to an event where a Degas painting is gifted to the school (and they have dresses made for it), I thought the book was taking place during the 1950s or ‘60s—like Mona Lisa Smile era—but then one of the girls mentions her cell phone and the fact that they won’t have cell or internet service up at their summer cabin. Wait, what?! Cell phone! That totally threw me for a loop. You’ll have to take your chances with this novel.

Mabel Dagmar, a scholarship student at an East Coast college, finally befriends her wealthy roommate Genevra (Ev) Winslow. Mabel is thrilled to be invited to Ev’s summer cottage in Vermont, but she soon finds that this charmed life isn’t quite what she had pictured. There seem to be a lot of secrets surrounding the Winslow family. Why are there heavy locks on the doors? How did the Winslow’s come into so much money during the Great Depressions? Why does Ev’s aunt want Mabel to look into the “blood money” and expose the truth? Are any of the Winslow’s trustworthy? Mabel must choose whether to expose the family or keep their secrets and become one of the Winslow’s.

What books have you read lately?

A Box of Books

box_of_booksI recently mailed a package to the school I worked at for four years. Inside the box was a stack of books that I had picked up at the Half Price Bookstore, read, and wanted to share. Mind you, I bought these books months ago, but I couldn’t bear to part with them! I almost decided not to mail them at all. Then I looked around at our apartment (which is bursting at the seams already) and decided that since I had read the books, I could live without the physical proof. Here’s what I sent and a review in fifteen words or less, plus some notes to help you decide whether or not you should add it to your summer reading list:

  • Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson: Average teen pulls prank, earning a reputation. He then deals with rumors and ruined reputations.
    • Read Twisted if you like realistic characters and situations, and topics that are relevant to today’s teens. Also read if you liked Anderson’s other novels, like Speak.
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman: Accident lands a girl in a coma. She must decide to live or let go.
    • Read If I Stay if you saw the movie preview and thought it looked interesting, or if you like teenagers put in difficult situations that they must overcome. This one’s a bit of a tearjerker.
  • The Future of Us by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler: 1996 teens access their future Facebook pages through AOL CD. Their choices affect their futures.
    • Read The Future of Us if you enjoyed Asher’s 13 Reasons Why, or if you are interested in how technology has changed our lives in a relatively short time, thanks to the internet and Facebook.
  • Starters by Lissa Price: Elderly rent out teenagers’ bodies for fun, but teens soon become mindless weapons.
    • Read Starters if you like YA dystopian novels with strong female leads like The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched. This novel has a sequel titled Enders, which I picked up from the library this week, but haven’t started yet.
  • Burn for Burn by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian: Lillia, Kat, and Mary help one another seek revenge, but maybe they go too far…
    • Read Burn for Burn if you are tired of YA dystopian novels! This novel has three girls from different social cliques working together on revenge plots. There is also a bit of the supernatural involved. This book is followed by Fire with Fire, which I also read and enjoyed, and I’m interested to see what will happen in the third book in the series.
  • Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer: Meteor pushes moon closer to earth and family must survive with stockpiled food and wood-stove.
    • Read Life As We Knew It if you’re interested in finding out what life would be like if a global natural disaster really happened and you were forced to survive without grocery stores, water, heat, electricity, cell phones, and the internet. The novel is written as a series of journal entries. It is followed up by three other books in the series (which I have not read, and I’m not sure that I will).
  • The Kill Order by James Dashner: Prequel to Maze Runner series. How it all started. Mutating disease released on innocent people.
    • Read The Kill Order if you read the Maze Runner series and are still confused! While this novel still didn’t answer all of my questions, it did help explain how the disease started in the first place. It also shows what life was like right at the time of the sun flares, which are discussed in the Maze Runner books.
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie: Kid leaves reservation school to attend a white school for hope of a better future.
    • Read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian if you have ever felt like you didn’t belong in your family, community, or school. Read this book if you’ve felt like there was more to you and your potential than everyone around you imagined. As the main character is a teenage boy, I feel like boys would be drawn to this book more than girls would. Read this book if you disagree with book banning/challenging and you want to see what all the fuss is about.
  • Brian’s Hunt by Gary Paulsen: Author of Hatchet and Brian’s Winter returns with more of Brian’s story.
    • This is the only book out of the bunch that I didn’t read. I just know that kids always like Gary Paulsen’s books. Students are captivated by Brian’s ability to survive in the wild on his own. I remember reading Hatchet and Brian’s Winter in elementary school and really enjoying them. I think I remember this unit in particular because we even got to build our own forts in the school forest. How cool is that?!

How did I do?  Do you think my box of books will be a hit with teenagers looking for something new to read?