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.

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The Color of Silence

The Color of Silence

This novel has a unique perspective. It opens up the world of a severely disabled young woman to teen readers who may not have considered such a life. Giving words to a character who is trapped in a life without the ability to communicate raises important issues about how people with disabilities are treated, what makes a life worth living, and how small acts of kindness can transform someone’s existence. Liane Shaw succeeds in writing a compelling, heart wrenching story that could teach empathy, help people deal with grief, and maybe encourage youth to help others. She was wise to use two perspectives, because teens can relate to Alex and her friend Cali, whereas Joanie’s fascinating perspective would be too alien to them if it was the only one presented.

I was literally moved to tears. My mother worked in a group home for people like Joanie and I wonder what they would think of her story. The technology highlighted in this novel may give us the ability to truly learn their perspective and maybe this novel will help families struggling to communicate learn that there is a possibility for them to give the opportunity for their loved ones to express themselves.

My beating teenage heart

*I received my beating teenage heart by c.k. kelley martin as a submission for the YABA

I think this book was awesome but marketed all wrong. The cover and title give the impression of a love story, or maybe sappy vampire fiction. NOT what this novel is about. Even the quotes on the back are all about Ashlyn, whereas the greater part of the book is about Breckon. I think that guys could enjoy this novel but like so many YA books it’s packaged in a way that only appeals to girls.

This book is not for tweens, or the squeamish. It involves the death of a child, grief, self-mutilation, suicide, drinking, sex, the molestation of a child, and very mature themes. Despite the gritty reality of Breckon’s story it is framed by a fantasy POV- a ghost or angel depending on how you look at it, watching over him as he falls into a self-destructive spiral. This sometimes lightens the mood, and sometimes makes it more eerie. The spirit observing Breckon has her traumas come back to her in waves of repressed memory as she sees his pain.

It’s a very dark novel, but it offers some hope. There are bits of humour, and good friends that make the darkness tolerable. I think this is a book that will be challenged in schools and libraries for being too shocking but I stand by what I said before about the value of books that deal with these issues.