Monday, January 26, 2015

Seconds: A Graphic Novel by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Write down your mistake, eat a mushroom, go to sleep, wake up anew with your mistake erased. If only it were that easy. First, the mushrooms are special. Second, the mistake must have taken place on the premises (in this case, the Seconds restaurant).

Katie is a talented young chef trying to open a second restaurant while not quite able to step aside at the first one - in other words, the staff thinks she's bossy and wishes she would go away.  The construction on her new restaurant is not going smoothly, causing her much stress. In the middle of this, she starts seeing a strange girl sitting on her dresser in the room where she lives above the Seconds restaurant.

In the dresser, she finds a mushroom and the instructions to erase mistakes. An accident in the kitchen that burns one of the servers causes Katie to follow the instructions for a 'revision'. A run in with her ex-boyfriend prompts her to do it again. The mysterious girl on the dresser warns her that she is only entitled to use the power once, but life is full of mistakes so if you have a chance to correct them...

Needless to say, things get out of hand for Katie. What life does she really want for herself? Does she want her ex-boyfriend back? Does she want to renovate the old building for her new restaurant or should she have chosen the other one at better location?

The author/artist (who also gave us the Scott Pilgrim series) has created vibrant graphics to tell this intriguing story. The manga inspired characters inhabit wonderfully detailed panels that only add to the enjoyment of this story.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

I have great respect and admiration for those who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. I am awed by their courage to stand up and say "No more" to laws and people and attitudes so ingrained in society and everyday life. I cannot imagine what it was like for those who marched and boycotted; those who sat at lunch counters and at the front of buses; those who protested peacefully and practiced non-violence; those who fought in the courts and in the streets to obtain the basic rights and dignity that we all deserve.

This story follows the first African American students to attend an all white high school in a small Virginia town. Ten students are finally allowed to go years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of it. The governor and parents fought it. The school closed down for months to prevent it from happening - better for no one to go to school than to let 'them' go.

Sarah Dunbar and her sister are among the ten. Through Sarah's voice, we experience her life. We hear the racist chants by students and adults. We feel the spit on her clothes. We see teachers acting indifferent to the bullying if not expressing their own distaste of her presence in their classroom. We feel the ugliness of racism.  Sarah is a senior and one of the top students at the all black school. Her parents moved to Virginia to be part of the movement, but it is Sarah and Ruth who must face daily onslaught and threats.

Had we just had Sarah's voice, the story might have become overwhelming and desensitizing but we also hear from Linda Harrison whose father runs a newspaper and is one of the most vocal opponents to integration. She spouts the same hateful things her father has been saying her whole life about black people. She tries to defend segregation as Southern tradition. She believes it is unnatural for races to mix and be together in the same places. She knows God never meant for that to happen. Linda also blames the ten for messing up her senior year - if they had not riled things up, she could go to prom.

It is only when Sarah and Linda are put together for a school project that Linda begins to see Sarah differently and Sarah gets the opportunity to tell a white person how she truly feels.

This story takes the reader right into the minds of these brave students. We see all they see and hear all they hear. We know the excruciating reality they face every day. It is unpleasant and shameful. The story did go in a direction I was not initially expecting. If the author was trying to draw parallels with today's issues, I don't believe it was necessary. Nonetheless, this is a compelling read.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Can rumors destroy you? Can your reputation be so ruined by others that you can no longer function? Alice was popular and now she is called a slut and shunned. One party started it all and the death of the star quarterback made it worse.

Alice lives in a small Texas town where football is everything. So when there is no game, what else is there to do. Parties are not those huge deals you see in the movies where hundreds of teens pack a house. Mostly, people (the popular upperclassmen and a select few of younger teens) hang out and drink. Occasionally, something big happens like at Elaine's party where Alice had sex with two guys in the same night. Brandon, one of the guys himself, said it, so it must be true.

Kelsie didn't go to the party (she was ill), but she has been Alice's best friend for...well, since she moved to Texas from Michigan. She was such a nerd back then and decided to start over in her new home. Alice was the first one to speak to her and they have been friends ever since - until the party. How could she risk losing her semi-popular status by staying linked to Alice the town slut?

Josh is Brandon's best friend. He was in the car when Brandon crashed and died. It was Alice's fault. She kept sexting him. It was that distraction that caused the crash. Josh can't keep that kind of info to himself, so now everyone in town knows (including the adults).

Kurt has been crushing on Alice for a long time. He is very smart and keeps to himself. Yes, he lives next door to Brandon, but Brandon would never admit to speaking to Kurt civilly (like he sometimes does when they are by themselves). And that's just fine with Kurt. He doesn't care about the rumors or whether they are true. He just wants to help Alice.

Through the alternating voices of Elaine, Kurt, Josh and Kelsie, we learn about the events leading up to the party and the accident. They each have their own motives and perspectives. What do they reveal and to whom? And is it too late for Alice.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince

Liz knew at young age that she did not want to dress like a girl. She hated wearing dresses and all the frilly-ness associated with being a girl. She never identified with things that girls liked.

This autobiographical tale follows Liz's journey as she deals with her unorthodox feelings. She is bullied by other kids and dismissed by adults. She faces down the cultural norms dealing with confusion, sadness, and frustration. For many years, she wishes she could be a boy. Puberty is rude awakening for her (although not really unexpected).

Fortunately, Liz has an incredibly supportive mother. She gives Liz the strength to be who she is without compromising. Imagine having that support throughout your life - knowing that no matter what others say or do, you the blessing from someone who loves you unconditionally to be who you are.

The black and white illustrations are are simple, but convey the emotions perfectly.

We often think of kids being bullied for being gay or unathletic or smart. This particular gender issue is not one I have ever given much thought to. I am glad the Liz Prince choose to write her story and do so in such an accessible form.

For more info, check out the Indianapolis Public Library catalog and the author's site.