Ms. Marvel Vol. 1

20898019I heard great things about Ms. Marvel and it lived up to the hype.

G. Willow Wilson  writes some of the best character development I’ve seen in a graphic novel.

This is a perfect comic for a book club because it opens up discussion about subtle prejudice, feminism, body image, religion and more. Even though it ties into the Marvel Universe readers don’t have to be familiar with previous comics to follow the story- it serves as an introduction.

I think this is particularly important in my community right now where I’m hearing a lot of negativity about Muslim refugees. The main character is a young Muslim girl with a strict but caring family. She wants to find a way to fit in while maintaining her culture and it is challenging for her to find acceptance.

I have already ordered Vol. 2 and look forward to reading it.

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Rabbit Ears

Rabbit Earsrabbit ears cover art by Maggie DeVries deals with mature heavy subject matter. The tales of child abuse, drug addiction, prostitution, and death are sad and will be disturbing to some readers.

I found the narration to be disjointed. Sometimes I would miss that the perspective had changed, which doesn’t make sense because the two characters who tell the tale are very different and should have more noticeably distinct voices. Things unfold in a way that is not logical or linear. Some novels make this work, revealing bits in flashbacks, but it doesn’t work well in this one. I only start really connecting with Kaya in the last quarter of the book, and feel like I would have gotten more out of the first half of the novel with the back-story we receive too late.

There were two parts of the narration that worked well. The dissociation Kaya experiences, referring to herself in an odd way, is appropriate for the trauma she has experienced. That Beth felt her father’s illness more through her treatment at school then his behaviour at home was also poignant.

Kaya’s revelations in therapy are important aspects of the story. Readers can see, through her responses to the therapist, how she never understood that her abuser was manipulative or unkind. She thought he was good, except for one flaw, and only in having her situation framed by another’s words does she see what really happened. I think understanding her thought process will instill empathy for abuse victims and maybe help some young people to be aware of unhealthy relationships.

I respect DeVries attempt to portray a survivor of a situation that a loved one did not survive. I think it is well-meaning, but not as well executed as it could have been. My colleagues loved it and didn’t agree with my criticism.

Read-Alikes

 

The Death Of Us

Alice Kuipers does something very well in The Death of Us that few authors succeed at in my opinion. She gives voice to several characters in first person narratives, and they each have a distinct and believable voice.

I adore Callie’s nerdy musings as she jogs “I feel like Odysseus travelling to exotic lands, and I wonder where the Lotus-Eaters are, or where the Cyclops lives” (29). The way phrases pop into her head, the way she struggles to write down her myriad of ideas, and almost everything about her resonates with me. The way she describes her surroundings and the people is so creative and observant that I want her to be real so we sit and people watch, because I think hearing her describe what’s around us would open my eyes.

cover artIvy isn’t someone I would be friends with but she still feels more real than someone like her usually does in the story. She may be the gorgeous, impulsive, center of attention but she also has a darkness in her, and an insecurity that Kuipers makes convincing. She does what she can to avoid becoming her mother, embracing life to the fullest. The wild streak this brings out in her leads her down her mother’s paths though.

I enjoy that each girl tries to emulate the other. When they get stuck they imagine what their friend would do and act it out. It’s interesting that it works both ways. There’s a strange bond between them, they are so different but fit well together. There’s also a sexual tension that is explored in a subtle way that I think demonstrates the difference between being sexy and being crude in literature for young people.

Kurt is in a unique situation of experiencing two worlds. He knows what it’s like to come from that dark place, like Ivy… but he also knows even more luxury and sophistication than Callie. He struggles with balancing these sides of himself. I think each of the girls represents a side of him, and his attraction to them both represents that inner struggle.

The novel is a tragedy, but despite my sadness at the events that take place in it-I am left feeling inspired. It’s the kind of novel that makes you want to hug someone you were angry at, to really live, to write poetry… I think Kuipers has done a fantastic job at creating realism. You can’t help but care about her characters. You can’t help but hang on her words.

Age discrimination

I had an unpleasant encounter with a library patron this week that has me thinking about age (and perceived age) and how it influences the way people treat one another.

There was an unruly patron who was failing to respect personal space and privacy of another patron while also refusing to wait his turn in line. I stepped in and asked him politely to back up a bit and wait his turn. Not an unusual event really in a public setting. His response though, was to yell at me to “learn to respect my elders” and ranted extensively about how he would never take direction or criticism from someone who wasn’t born yet when he started using the library.

All of his hostile words were directed at my age. He felt I had no right to talk to him about his behaviour because I was younger than him. This is a faulty argument as far as I’m concerned. It’s not how long we are alive that matters but what we have done with our time and what we intend to do with the rest .

I find that as a young professional who sometimes may appear younger than my actual age, there are a lot of people who don’t respect my authority when I’m in charge, or question decisions they wouldn’t if I were older. I actually changed my name tag and title a couple of years ago from “Youth Librarian” to “Youth Services Librarian” because people kept thinking that the “Youth” referred to my youth- and that I was a librarian in training. I had a few elderly patrons ask me for the “real librarian” or “grown up librarian” before I even finished greeting them. Why is it that people are so distrusting of information learned from or discipline given from someone in their late 20s? I’ve been completely independent for more than 10 years, I have a Masters Degree, and I run a department- but to them I’m not old enough to count.

On the opposite side of spectrum the tweens in my Lego club think I’m ancient! One kid looked at me and said “Why can’t we have someone young and fun who will actually like Lego, and Star Wars, and Marvel!” which broke my heart because I thought I was young and fun and I DO love Lego, Star Wars, and Marvel movies and comics. Another young man last year asked me if I had grandkids his age, which shocked me because I’m not old enough to have a son his age never mind grandchildren. So you can’t get too wrapped up in how old kids think you are either…

All this has me thinking about the age discrimination kids and teens face. So many adults lump all kids together and don’t see how distinct and awesomely different they are from one another. I have completely lost count of how many times I’ve been asked the generic “What do 12 year-old boys like to read”. Sure I could give them the bestseller’s list, I know what’s borrowed the MOST but that’s not the right answer because 12 year old boys are not all the same. We need to take the time and make the effort to understand what that individual likes. You have to consider the tastes, interests, maturity, reading level, and more when helping someone pick out books.

Many adults have the idea that teens are problematic. They fear teens who are “loitering” . Teens are the first suspects of vandalism or theft. When I tell people I work with teens they groan and act like it must be horrible. That’s not the case at all, there are some fantastic teens in my community and I’m sure in most communities. We can’t let a few trouble makers colour our judgement of a whole generation when some people in our own generations are probably guilty of the same crimes. If we provide positive environments and activities for bored teens I really think we will have more positive interactions with them.

Kids are often dismissed as silly and frivolous. If you actually talk to them like people and listen to their observations you will often find they are thoughtful, observant, honest, and many other qualities I look for in adults. To lump all kids together and ignore their individuality would be a disservice to them and to society. By nurturing their unique quirks and passions we build a community with varied skills.

Seniors can be deceptive too. Some are a lot more up on technology than teens might think and there are actually quite a few older ladies I know who love to read novels from the teen section.

I think it’s important in libraries and in life to respect anyone, no matter their age- and to avoid jumping to conclusions based on appearances.

Life Cycle of a Lie

Life Cycle of a Lie is a novel that manages to be both entertaining and thought provoking. It deals with racism, prejudice about sexual orientation, domestic violence and environmentalism. It tackles all of these subjects in a thoughtful manner that isn’tcover art overly preachy but shows that the author has wrapped her head around the issues.

This novel does what When Everything Feels Like the Movies failed to do in my opinion. This book is more likely to be relate-able to gay teens and to inspire empathy in straight teens. It has the sexual awakening of a young man, who develops feelings for a male friend. It has mature content, describing the physical effect of the feelings- but this is done in a tasteful manner. Jona is a well rounded character who isn’t defined by his homosexuality. He’s also intelligent, well read, kind, and talented. He is faced with prejudice, and has a bit of an identity crisis.

Linc is a First Nations character who faces prejudice because of his race. He is not defined by this struggle any more than Jona is by his homosexuality. Linc is open minded, athletic, compassionate, protective, and a bit naive. He is a lovable character who’s major flaw is he has trouble reading body language, or understanding what his girlfriend is upset about.

Victoria is a character worried about being defined by her dysfunctional family but there’s more to her than her abusive father. She is an environmental activist and more. She makes big mistakes because of her insecurities, but I think readers will forgive her.

Romance, suspense, and character based drama make up this wonderful book.

Rain

cover artRain is Amanda Sun’s sequel to Ink (I recommend you read that first).

Sun’s urban fantasy is exciting and different from any other series I’ve read. The Kami mythology is intriguing and it was great to learn more about the powers and history. The idea of drawings and words that literally come to life is fascinating. Add the angst of competition, identity crisis, and doomed romance and you have a great novel for teens.

Tomo’s drawings turning against him and those he loved seems like a metaphor that could be explored at length in a book club or essay.

The contrast of beautiful scenery and gang violence, and intricate art and monstrous ink creates amazing imagery. The characters ruled by their jealousy and fears have back-stories that make the reader sympathetic.

I sometimes struggled to keep track of who was who because of the cultural differences. Everyone calls people by different names because your relationship is reflected in the name you use. This would be really confusing for me and I’m glad Sun has Katie struggle with it too.

I actually found the chemistry between Katie and Jun more convincing than the chemistry between her and Tomo. I’m not sure he ever did or said anything that made me feel like he was worth all the trouble they go through. However, I think this was partly intentional because there had to be some distance between them to create the love triangle- or hexagon if you consider all the people competing for Tomo’s and Jun’s affection not just Katie’s.

Karma

I received Karma by Cathy Ostlere as a submission for the YABA and it was selected as an honour book.

This is one of the most beautifully written novels I’ve read since my undergrad. It’s in verse, with the narration and dialogue formatted in a unique and stylistic manner. If not executed correctly such a bold format would have taken away from the story, but Ostlere used it to enrich the text. In stark contrast to the last novel I read, Blood Red Road, the dialogue flowed naturally and it was always apparent who was speaking even without quotation marks.

This novel illustrates the difficulties of immigration from the perspective of a first generation Canadian. Maya is Indian to Canadians, and Canadian to Indians. She is always the outsider, and stands out in every culture she belongs to. Born to a Hindu mother and a Sikh father, Maya follows elements of both religions and cultures. Her mixed heritage puts her in grave danger when during her trip to India the Prime Minister is murdered, and the two cultures go to war on one another.

The book is marketed as a love story, and it does contain a compelling one,  but that is not what got my attention. The very nature of humanity is explored as Maya deals with survivor’s guilt. It not only places blame on the rioters who burn men alive and rape young girls, but on those who stand by and do nothing to stop it. Maya is justifiably frozen by fear as the horrors take place, but she later thinks about how many lives could have been saved if the bystanders spoke up. The denial of everything that happened by the government and so many people in the city is chilling, and leaves a lasting impression.

The snowball effect of hate, as the men fight an eye for an eye reminds me of the beautiful take on a nursery rhyme that plays at the beginning of the film Free Zone. Click this link and read the subtitles. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuBo5z0fr8A

This would be a fabulous choice for a book club, because it deals with so many great discussion topics:

-identity

-prejudice/acceptance

-depression/mental illness/suicide

-poverty/ class systems

-apathy/denial

-family

I think this novel has much wider appeal than it’s hot pink cover shows. I think the cover is beautiful with the swirly fonts, but there is plenty in this novel that would appeal to boys, and I don’t believe many would pick this up.