This One Summer

This One Summer is a graphic novel by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. It’s a coming of age story about two tweens who have spent the summer together for years but are at an awkward age where the things they used to do aren’t “cool” enough anymore. First conversations about sexuality are handled well in the novel- I think the mix of curiosity, disgust and longing was right on. The girls get emotionally invested in the lives of the clerks at the video store. Eavesdropping, spying and renting movies that are too mature for them for a chance to speak to the older boys become as much a part of their summer as their usual beach time.

The book also focuses on how the problems the parents are going through impacts the kids. Depression, tension and grief experienced after a miscarriage aren’t communicated well with the girls and they are confused about the one girl’s mother distancing herself from the usual family fun.

The art did a great job of portraying emotions. Ranging from realistic facial expressions to an awesome panel with a symbolically twisted up stomach twitching nervously. I liked that despite their conversations about sexuality the young girls were not portrayed in a sexualized manner. They were curious about what others were doing and what they’d be like next summer but they were drawn like children, and not in an exploitative manner. The author and illustrator collaborate really well together. The words and images meshed so well I could have believed the same person did both. This is a complement because I think they communicated well about the tone and characterization.

This is the winner of the CLA Young Adult Book Award for books published in 2014. They have done a fantastic job of showing us how profound graphic novels can be, while still being fun and accessible to youth.


The Night Wanderer

I enjoyed this graphic novel. It had nice art, that was stylistic but clear. The story incorporated first nations legends, giving it a Canadian feel that I think earns it bonus points for a Canadian award. It deals with guilt, prejudice, and family conflict. It was a very quick read that could appeal to fans of paranormal comics. I didn’t feel struck by a new concept or fantastic character development but it was an enjoyable enough book.


War Brothers

war brothers cover art

This graphic novel deals with the very difficult subject of child soldiers. I find the topic  both upsetting, and important to share. I think the author did a great job of showing that these soldiers are victims. Even the ones who commit atrocities do so under such duress that they feel they have no other option. That loss of innocence is mourned in the comic and beautifully illustrated through facial expressions and body language. Unlike many graphic novels, this one has a narration that I think of like a voice-over to a documentary. It works for me personally as a reader but I wonder if teens who read more comics that I do would prefer it to be more dialogue based.

I think this is something that could potentially be used in a classroom. It deals with history, social studies, art, and literature. It could spark a lot of discussion. It is mature subject matter, and I can see young teens becoming upset as they read it. I got emotional and frightened as I did. This is the point though, and I think it is essential that Canadian teens be aware of what goes on in the world. That it is in graphic novel form makes the story more accessible to youth, and I was relieved it wasn’t as gory as I feared while maintaining the serious nature of the story.



The Guild

I think I’ve mentioned my love of Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog before on the blog. Whenever I mentioned this, or purchase something related to it (like the comics) people suggested I check out The Guild. This partly because Felicia Day who played Penny is the writer/actress, partly because it’s another web-based video series, and partly because it’s awesome geekyness that Dr. Horrible nerds are likely to appreciate.

I watched 4 seasons of The Guild in 2 days (the episodes are REALLY short) and loved it so much that I immediately ordered the graphic novel, which is what I’m really here to talk about.

This graphic novel is perfect for anyone who fits in one or more of these categories:

  • gamers (gamer girls will love it the most, but it’s not exclusively feminine)
  • anyone who knows people who play MMORPGs and/or knows enough about them to get jokes relating to them
  • neurotic people with social issues
  • fans of The Guild (obviously)
  • Felicia Day groupies

I enjoyed seeing Codex as a newb! I’ve tried a couple free MMORPGs, and honestly I’ve never gotten past the newb stage. In the LOTR MMORPG I got slaughtered by bears so often I just quit (I also had the bad habit of jumping off cliffs that were higher than I realized and breaking my legs)  so I sympathised with her during her first few adventures in the game.

Marveling at the cuteness of the cartoon animals and then reluctantly slaughtering them for quests was a very girly reaction to this type of game that I shared, so her reactions felt real to me.

I like that it’s half real life view and half in-game views. It makes for some amazing visuals, although very cleavage heavy as these things often are. The boys comment about how rare it is for the girls to be girls in the game to be girls in real life. One thing I thought the graphic novel was missing was characters who made their avatars very different from their physical selves. I know in the show one male character has female avatars but I’d be interested in more about people reinvent themselves in the game. The section when she’s considering this before making her avatar is one of my favourite parts.

 I’m glad I bought it, I really enjoyed the writing (Felicia Day is my new hero) and the art (yay Jim Rugg). With things like this I’m tempted to get two copies, one to keep as a book and one to cut images out of and make crafts (ya I’m that cool, stay tuned this week for a post about all the star wars jewelry I’m making).  

 This book is aimed more at ages 18-35 but I can see teens enjoying it.