Review: Heartstopper Volume Four by Alice Oseman

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Heartstopper: Volume Four
Author: Alice Oseman
Series: Heartstopper #4
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Graphix
Release Date: May 6, 2021
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: eating disorder, self harm, mental illness, homophobia

SYNOPSIS

Charlie didn’t think Nick could ever like him back, but now they’re officially boyfriends. Charlie’s beginning to feel ready to say those three little words: I love you.

Nick’s been feeling the same, but he’s got a lot on his mind – not least coming out to his dad, and the fact that Charlie might have an eating disorder.

As summer turns to autumn and a new school year begins, Charlie and Nick are about to learn a lot about what love means.

MY THOUGHTS

This series has my whole heart. This volume addresses heavier topics and depicts some dark struggles with mental illness. Despite the difficulties life throws at them, Charlie and Nick’s relationship remains sweet and supportive. This series is so pure and wholesome, and even though this volume is darker than previous books, it is still a beacon of light and hope and love with incredible representation.

Review: Heartstopper Volume Three by Alice Oseman

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆.5
Title: Heartstopper: Volume Three
Author: Alice Oseman
Series: Heartstopper #3
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Graphix
Release Date: February 6, 2020
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: eating disorder, homophobia, self harm, bullying, biphobia

SYNOPSIS

Charlie didn’t think Nick could ever like him back, but now they’re officially boyfriends. Nick has even found the courage to come out to his mom.

But coming out isn’t something that happens just once, and Nick and Charlie try to figure out when to tell their friends that they’re dating. Not being out to their classmates gets even harder during a school trip to Paris. As Nick and Charlie’s feelings get more serious, they’ll need each other more than ever.

MY THOUGHTS

Nick and Charlie are just the best. I love seeing their relationship develop to deeper levels. Even when they are awkward and shy, they support each other 100 percent. The Paris setting was wonderful, and I enjoyed how this story developed the side characters as well.

This volume also addresses some heavier topics like anxiety, depression, disordered eating, estranged parents, and excessive teen partying & drinking. While characters face more difficult personal struggles in this book, they all have incredible support systems to help them through.

I didn’t love this installment quiiiiiiiite as much as others in this series, but it still clearly exceeds four stars!

Review: Batman: The Killing Joke

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: The Killing Joke
Creators: Alan Moor and Brian Bolland
Series: Batman: One-Shots
Genre: Superhero
Audience: Adult
Format: Comics
Length: 96 pages
Publisher: DC
Release Date: November 16, 1988
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: gun violence, sexual violence, torture, blood

SYNOPSIS

Critically acclaimed author Alan Moore redefined graphic novel story-telling with Watchmen and V for Vendetta. In Batman: The Killing Joke, he takes on the origin of comics’ greatest super-villain, The Joker, and changes Batman’s world forever.

ONE BAD DAY.

According to the grinning engine of madness and mayhem known as the Joker, that’s all that separates the sane from the psychotic. Freed once again from the confines of Arkham Asylum, he’s out to prove his deranged point. And he’s going to use Gotham City’s top cop, Commissioner Jim Gordon, and his brilliant and beautiful daughter Barbara to do it.

Now Batman must race to stop his archnemesis before his reign of terror claims two of the Dark Knight’s closest friends. Can he finally put an end to the cycle of bloodlust and lunacy that links these two iconic foes before it leads to its fatal conclusion? And as the horrifying origin of the Clown Prince of Crime is finally revealed, will the thin line that separates Batman’s nobility and the Joker’s insanity snap once and for all?

Legendary writer Alan Moore redefined the superhero with Watchmen and V For Vendetta. In Batman: The Killing Joke, he takes on the origin of comics’ greatest super-villain, the Joker–and changes Batman’s world forever.

Stunningly illustrated, Batman: The Killing Joke The Deluxe Edition has been lushly recolored by artist Brian Bolland, presenting his original vision of this modern classic.

This new edition includes Batman: The Killing Joke and stories from Batman: Black and White #4 and Countdown #31, along with numerous Batman and Joker covers and sketches by Brian Bolland, including artwork only previously published in the Absolute edition!

MY THOUGHTS

The Killing Joke is one of the most influential comics of all time, exploring the origin story of Batman’s archnemesis The Joker. The story and artwork are very dark, chilling, and disturbing. This is not for the faint of heart, but it leaves a powerful impact on readers. I can see how this story is considered a classic that helped to usher in a new era of graphic novels.

Review: Batman: A Death in the Family

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆.5
Title: A Death in the Family
Creators: Jim Starlin, Marv Wolfman, Jim Aparo, & George Perez
Series: Batman #426-429 and #440-442; The New Titans #60-61; Batman Annual #25
Genre: Superhero
Audience: Teens-Adult
Format: Comics
Length: 272 pages
Publisher: DC
Release Date: August 25, 1988
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Titans
Content Warnings: child death, death, violence, child abuse, death of parent, murder, war

SYNOPSIS

Batman readers were allowed to vote on the outcome of the story and they decided that Robin should die! As the second person to assume the role of Batman’s sidekick, Jason Todd had a completely different personality than the original Robin. Rash and prone to ignore Batman’s instructions, Jason was always quick to act without regard to consequences. In this fatal instance, Robin ignores his mentor’s warnings when he attempts to take on the Joker by himself and pays the ultimate price. Driven by anger with Superman by his side, Batman seeks his vengeance as he looks to end the Joker’s threat forever.

MY THOUGHTS

A Death in the Family is remembered as an iconic Batman arc because readers voted on the fate of Jason Todd, the second Robin, after he was attacked by the Joker, ultimately choosing for Robin to die. Jason Todd’s search for his birth mother was emotional with its tragic timing; however, the story was a bit over the top (even for a comic book), and the political subplots did not age well for modern readers.

The trade collection also included the A Lonely Place of Dying arc, where Batman meets Tim Drake, who becomes the third Robin, and reunites with Dick Grayson in a crossover with The New Titans. I enjoyed this storyline much more than the titular arc.

This storyline was a major inspiration for season 3 of Titans on HBO Max, so I was curious how the source material compared to the screen interpretation.

Review: Maus II by Art Spiegelman

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began
Creator: Art Spiegelman
Series: Maus #2
Genre: Non-fiction Graphic Novel
Audience: Adult (appropriate for teens and up)
Format: Print
Length: 144 pages
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Release Date: September 1, 1992
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: war, death, genocide, anti-Semitism, racism

SYNOPSIS

Acclaimed as a quiet triumph and a brutally moving work of art, the first volume of Art Spieglman’s Maus introduced readers to Vladek Spiegleman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son, a cartoonist trying to come to terms with his father, his father’s terrifying story, and History itself. Its form, the cartoon (the Nazis are cats, the Jews mice), succeeds perfectly in shocking us out of any lingering sense of familiararity with the events described, approaching, as it does, the unspeakable through the diminutive.

This second volume, subtitled And Here My Troubles Began, moves us from the barracks of Auschwitz to the bungalows of the Catskills. Genuinely tragic and comic by turns, it attains a complexity of theme and a precision of thought new to comics and rare in any medium. Maus ties together two powerful stories: Vladek’s harrowing tale of survival against all odds, delineating the paradox of daily life in the death camps, and the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. At every level this is the ultimate survivor’s tale – and that too of the children who somehow survive even the survivors.

MY THOUGHTS

Maus II continues to explore Art’s contentious relationship with his elderly father Vladek while recounting Vladek’s experiences during the Holocaust. Volume 1 explores more of the lead up and early days of the Holocaust; in Volume II, Vladek recalls how he survived his time in a concentration camp. Everything about the way this graphic memoir is told through text and visuals and story devices is complex, emotional, and impactful.

Review: Maus I by Art Spiegelman

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History
Creator: Art Spiegelman
Series: Maus #1
Genre: Non-fiction Graphic Novel
Audience: Adult (appropriate for teens and up)
Format: Paperback
Length: 159 pages
Publisher: Pantheon Books
Release Date: November 1, 1991
Source: Personal collection
Content Warnings: war, genocide, anti-Semitism, child death, suicide, mental illness

SYNOPSIS

The first installment of the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel acclaimed as “the most affecting and successful narrative ever done about the Holocaust” (Wall Street Journal) and “the first masterpiece in comic book history” (The New Yorker).

A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author’s father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats.

Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father into an astonishing retelling of one of history’s most unspeakable tragedies. It is an unforgettable story of survival and a disarming look at the legacy of trauma.

MY THOUGHTS

This is such a powerful story. I knew that Maus was the author’s father’s story as a Holocaust survivor, but I did not realize it was also a memoir of the author’s complicated relationship with his father later in life and how the loss of his mother affected him. The simple black and white illustrations and the visual metaphor of Jews as mice and Nazis as cats (with bystanders and other animals) were an effective way to portray the horrors of the Holocaust in a visual medium. Stories like this are important for empathy and education, and this graphic novel is in no way “inappropriate” for middle and high school students.

Review: Heartstopper Volume Two by Alice Oseman

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Author: Alice Oseman
Series: Heartstopper #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Graphic Novel (paperback)
Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Graphix
Release Date: July 11, 2019
Source: Personal collection
Recommended for fans of: Simon vs., The Extraordinaries
Content Warnings: homophobia, bullying

SYNOPSIS

Nick and Charlie are best friends. Nick knows Charlie’s gay, and Charlie is sure that Nick isn’t.

But love works in surprising ways, and Nick is discovering all kinds of things about his friends, his family … and himself.

MY THOUGHTS

How is this so cute and wholesome and wonderful?? This depicts a really sweet and supportive romance and coming out story that is a great example for teens of the importance of finding friends who accept you for who you are and standing up to the jerks. This volume left me bursting with feels.

Review: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Cloud Searchers
Author & Illustrator: Kazu Kibuishi
Series: Amulet #3
Genre: Fantasy
Audience: Middle Grade
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 203 pages
Publisher: Graphix
Release Date: September 1, 2010
Source: Personal collection

SYNOPSIS

An impossible journey with danger at every turn…

Emily, Navin, and their crew of resistance fighters charter an airship and set off in search of the lost city of Cielis. There they hope to find help from the Guardian Council’s powerful Stonekeepers. It’s a mission that Alledia’s survival depends on, and time is running out–Emily’s got to find Cielis before the Elf King finds her.

MY THOUGHTS

It’s been about a year since I read Amulet #2, so I definitely had a few gaps in my memory of this world. I enjoyed this installment. We learn more about the stones and what they can do, as well as new stonekeeper lore. There’s some good character development in this book, but I didn’t think it had as much action as the previous one.

Review: Heartstopper: Volume One by Alice Oseman

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Title: Heartstopper
Creator: Alice Oseman
Series: Heartstopper #1
Genre: Romance
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Graphic Novel
Length: 278 pages
Publisher: Graphix
Release Date: October 2018
Source: Personal Collection
Recommended for fans of: adorable teen love stories

SYNOPSIS

Charlie, a highly-strung, openly gay over-thinker, and Nick, a cheerful, soft-hearted rugby player, meet at a British all-boys grammar school. Friendship blooms quickly, but could there be something more…?

Charlie Spring is in Year 10 at Truham Grammar School for Boys. The past year hasn’t been too great, but at least he’s not being bullied anymore. Nick Nelson is in Year 11 and on the school rugby team. He’s heard a little about Charlie – the kid who was outed last year and bullied for a few months – but he’s never had the opportunity to talk to him.

They quickly become friends, and soon Charlie is falling hard for Nick, even though he doesn’t think he has a chance. But love works in surprising ways, and sometimes good things are waiting just around the corner…

MY THOUGHTS

This is just a really cute love story with a unique monochrome art style. I found the story so wholesome and adorable and swoon worthy. I could gush on and on about how sweet this story is and I cannot recommend it enough for fans of YA contemporary romance and graphic novels!

ARC Review: The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor

BOOK STATS

Rating: ☆☆☆
Title: The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor
Writer: Shaenon K. Garrity
Illustrator: Christopher Baldwin
Genre: Humor / Gothic / Sci-Fi
Audience: Young Adult
Format: Graphic Novel (eARC)
Length: 224 pages
Publisher: McElderry Books
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Source: Netgalley
Recommended for fans of: classic Gothic romance novels, satire

SYNOPSIS

Nimona meets Paper Girls with a literary twist in this wickedly funny graphic novel about a teenager who is swept up in a strange new universe and must save it from an all-consuming evil in order to return home.

One dark and stormy night, Haley sees a stranger drowning in the river. Since her greatest passion is Gothic romance novels, she knows her moment has come. But when Haley leaps into the water to rescue the stranger, she awakens in Willowweep. It certainly looks like the setting of one of her favorite books: A stately manor. A sinister housekeeper. Three brooding brothers. There’s even a ghost.

Except Willowweep is not what it seems. Its romantic exterior hides the workings of a pocket universe—the only protection our world has against a great force of penultimate evil, and its defenses are crumbling. Could cruel fate make Haley the heroine that Willowweep needs?

MY THOUGHTS

This YA graphic novel was very humorous and enjoyable. Haley, a high school student obsessed with classic Gothic romance novels, finds herself transported to a world that resembles her favorite books after saving a stranger from drowning in a river. I do think that readers need to be familiar with novels like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre in order to fully appreciate the satire and jokes in the story.

I wish the plot was a bit more tight and focused. In addition to playing with Gothic tropes, the story also includes a sci-fi element with pocket universes and threats from another dimension. These different elements did not always come together cohesively. While many of the jokes had me laughing out loud, sometimes these humorous or melodramatic moments interrupted the pacing of the story.

I enjoyed this story and it kept me laughing from beginning to end, but I was left with a lot of questions about the internal logic of this story.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the eARC.

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