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Book Review – I Kill Giants

51hXui6krmL._SX370_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve been having issues lately when trying to read Young Adult books. I don’t love teenage protagonist, in books or movies. I find the range teenage characters have for drama, when written for a young adult audience, to be limiting or, more often than not, dull. It’s very relationship based, which I don’t mind a sampling of, but, when it’s the main course, I’d rather skip it all together. And the teenage introspection! The narration! I can’t do it! Not anymore! Adults writing teenagers think they’re so darn clever and relevant because they mention last years movies or say “legit” or something like that, I can’t do it anymore and I won’t!

This has been a quick review for John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down.

Here’s the twist, though. Graphic novels fix this for me. There’s less inner monologues and more visual cues. Blankets or This One Summer nail the melancholy existentialism because they create mood in the art, not just through dated dialog. When we see how young a character is, they feel more real as a teenager because we’re not being told by a thirty-five year old how “legit” young they are. Also, I’m not sure if “legit” is something I’ve read people writing or just a new thing I’m doing now?


Also, I should stop judging, because the book I wrote has teenage protagonist and they’re mopey and monologuey and now I’m legit worried I can’t stop saying legit…

I Kill Giants is written by Joe Kelly, whose always been one of the better writers in the world of Marvel comics. It tells the story of a girl who doesn’t fit in at school, who’s going through some heavy stuff in her family life and who might also fight giants. The giants thing is up in the air, but there’s a good chance it’s real. Or maybe it’s all in her head. Or real.

This self-contained graphic novel is sneaky. You go in expecting a certain type of story, maybe similar to Anya’s Ghost or In Real Life and, while there’s fantastical elements, you get something more akin to This One Summer. I Kill Giants is lighter on it’s feet than Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s novel, all while dealing with loneliness and loss without bringing down the party. J. M. Ken Niimura’s art could be described as big, similar to Ed Mcguinness’ style of comic art, but the black and white illustrations stand without the need of bold colors. The lack of color even makes the beach seem more lonesome and magical. There’s a pacing in this book, with the writing and art, that matches superhero comics, but this is completely accessible to people who dislike capes and masks.

18888318It’s hard to talk about I Kill Giants without giving away important moments. The ending is reliant on the book’s whole concept of truth vs. fiction, of dealing with problems or ignoring them. I could tell you about the book’s bullying or the friendship that forms, or the only guidance concealer that I’ve ever wished was real, but there’s too much that should be read without knowing the truth out the gate. I will say this book made me cry, and it might have been a while since a young adult title had that effect on me.

This seems to me like it’s been a badly written review. Take it as more of a recommendation wrapped in some rants. This book is great and should be considered essential reading for the young adult graphic medium. With a movie coming out this year, hopefully more will discover this book, because it shouldn’t be missed.

All the Books Show: Episode 128 – YA Book Anticipation 2018!

2018 is a new year with new possibilities! Like books!

Normally, Nic and I will do one episode covering the most anticipated books of the year. This year, however, there seemed to be too many to cover in just one episode. So, we split it up and here’s our look at the young adult books coming to shelves this year.

My most anticipated is the YA Jurassic World prequel novel about Claire and her rebuilding the park. That’s the only book I want to read this year.

You can follow us on SoundcloudYoutube or iTunes and even Twitter! I’m sure there’s another, cool platform I’m forgetting but you can follow us on that too!

See you next week, podcats!

All the Books Show: Episode 104 – Hugo Awards 2017

It’s that time of year again! Where Nic and I talk about the Hugo Award winners! I guess it’s a seasonal thing. Maybe, even, a fifth season of sorts.

It’s nothing like a fifth season.

26228034We talk about the Hugo Awards, looking at the winners of most categories. Nic was correct in the movie, so he has that to boast about now. I was surprised by the winner of Best Novel, but that’s because I didn’t like the first book in the series and I didn’t expect a sequel to take home the top award. It’s happened before, yes, but it’s not super common. N.K. Jemisin joins a very short list of authors who won two years in a row. Congratulations N.K. Jemisin! I wish I liked your book!

I tried to stay out of the politics of this year’s award and after the winners were announced, I went back to see if there were any. It seems like most of the shouting has died down. I hope it’s for the better. The Sad and Angry Puppies made something I thought was fun not fun. But, now, I think there’s a bit too much “We shut them the hell up!” from the other side. I just want science fiction and fantasy to be fun for everyone involved. I hope we can just move on and enjoy good writing and interesting ideas.

You can follow us on SoundcloudYoutube or iTunes and even Twitter! I’m sure there’s another, cool platform I’m forgetting but you can follow us on that too!

See you next week, podcats!

Book Review – Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

me_and_earl_and_the_dying_girlI think I’m learning I don’t care for Young Adult books. Which is too bad, since I’m in Youth Services at the library I work at, but books are like, twenty percent of my job. Math is even less.

The amount of YA books I’ve liked is not large. I Am Not a Serial KillerCinder and Adrift are the only ones that pop into my head. The rest have been fine, but not for me. I don’t think that’s a rag on the world of YA. I mean, I’m in my thirties. Some people love Young Adult books as they get older, some don’t. I’m in the “don’t” category.

I say all that to preference my dislike of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. But, on the other hand, I don’t think I would have liked this as a teen. I would have found it pretentious. I was a wise soul, as a teen. That’s why I didn’t date a lot. That’s the only reason I didn’t date. The. Only. Reason.

Again, I didn’t like it. Andrews writes in a knowingly subversive style that is never as clever as he thinks it is. The main character, Greg, is constantly giving asides about the story, the structure, the roles of cliques in high school and it never worked for me. When Greg is recruited to hang out with Rachel, a former friend who is diagnosed with leukemia, the story wants to prove it’s not a meaningful one. Greg tells us he didn’t learn anything from Rachel’s leukemia. “This is not your typical teen drama!” the pages scream. Unfortunately, Andrews goes out of his way to remind us of this throughout the book that it becomes true.

As the story takes more series turns, I found it hard to care because I was told so many times to not care. Greg is an unlikable character, one that characters find funny but never translated to a laugh from me. Greg will make a joke or say a line and the characters in the book will lose their minds with laughter. Without having any of it be actually funny, it just comes across as fake and that I can’t trust the judgement of any characters.

meearl-finalGreg and his friend (but not really), Earl, make movies. That’s a thing in the book too. At least, the book says it is. Really, their bad movies are regulated to a chapter of terrible movie title puns that make me feel like Andrews doesn’t have much of an imagination. The description of the movies aren’t funny, they’re boring and don’t create a sense of style, good or ill. Maybe Andrews is trying to show how bad these movies are by how not funny they are, but it comes across as page filler without purpose.

The book ends in cliches, reminding us how effortless The Perks of Being a Wallflower made it look. It also goes for a realistic ending that throws away any growth the characters should have gained. That’s Andrews’ point as well, showing us how it would really happen. But truth doesn’t always make for satisfying fiction. If the book had been more clever throughout, if it’s insights had been thoughtful, if the rest of it had worked in any capacity, it might have earned it’s subversive ending. Instead, it just makes for a dull read. The honesty and pain of The Fault in Our Stars seemed to rub Andrews the wrong way, making him jump and down yelling, “No, this way is better!” The movie might be better, if it takes out the inner monologue and brings any sense of humor to Greg’s bad films. I doubt I’ll be testing that theory any time soon.

Maybe I don’t like Young Adult books. Maybe that is the problem. But when I can read The Outsiders and Salt to the Sea and find them entertaining, I have to believe I can still tell a bad book from a good one, no matter the age range. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl did nothing for me and I don’t think there was a time when it would have ever worked for me. Non-dating teen or adult.

Book Review – Star Wars: Lost Stars

Or Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray. But that title is too long, too stupid and come December 19th, 2015, too dated.

I’m not using that Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens tag ever.

Lost Stars is, as far as I know, the first Young Adult Star Wars book in this new line. The new line being since Disney bought it, threw away the Expanded Universe and started fresh. So while there have been YA Star Wars books before, Lost Stars does feel like an event because of its timing and it’s quality.

I’m not incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to the Expanded Universe. A lot of my time in that part has come from video games and comics, not so much the books. What I’ve read has been decent but not mind blowing. I know people will stand by how great The Thrawn or the Jedi Acedemy, trilogies are but neither of those series have clicked for me. Kenobi by John Jackson Miller has been my favorite novel so far, being a one-shot and simple story, but also absorbing. Nothing I’ve read has topped Star Wars: Legacy by John Ostrander, but that’s a different blog (but go read it).

What I’m trying to get at is, though there are aspects of the EU that I like and have affection for, if a book like Lost Stars makes any changes, I’m not aware of them. So there won’t be many complaints about that here.

Still my favorite EU tale… That and Knights of the Old Republic.

Lost Stars is about two kids from different worlds who become friends and stay friends their whole lives. Thane and Ciena help each other train and prepare for the imperial academy and become ace star pilots. Now, this books starts close after Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, so as far as our characters are concerned, the empire is alright, the jedi were no good and the rebellion is non-existent. As the characters grow up, the make it through school, get jobs aboard ships and start finding themselves in the middle of important events.

The book was doing a great job standing on it’s own for the first part, focusing on what the empire’s training would look like with little opposition. When we start getting to the movies, it loses some uniqueness but doesn’t drop off in quality. From here it becomes a greatest hits of Star Wars moments, with Thane and Ciena being involved with the Death Star, the Battle of Hoth, Cloud City, the Battle for Endor and the second Death Star.

But the twist is in the love story. Of course we know these characters are going to start feeling for each other, but when one of them leaves the empire and joins the rebellion, that’s when the friction hits. I don’t want to go into extreme details, but I will say that the reason for the one leaving and the other staying is pretty solid, at least for a Star Wars book.

I have this and A New Dawn on my Kindle to read…

The ending is where the book drops the ball. Set up for a sequel (or soon-to-be-released movie), it’s not nearly the satisfying conclusion the story deserves. There’s no real resolution between the two characters, there’s lots of hints about other stories waiting to be told, and for a book that focused so intently on two characters despite franchise-building, it feels like a cheat. A don’t want a happy ending, just an ending. Now, if the movies eventually deal with this, it might not be so bad, but the book won’t get to be complete stand-alone tale like Kenobi.

Would I recommend Lost Stars? Yes. To those who like YA fiction but not Star Wars and to those who like Star War but not YA fiction. Sure, it has the same fan-fictiony feel that a lot of the EU has, but it works. Plus, with Disney making the books official cannon, it’s a little easier to get invested with new characters and that’s something the previous EU didn’t have.

Claudia Gray, who also wrote A Thousand Pieces of You, has done a great job of transferring Star Wars into a YA book and while I haven’t read the rest of the new Star Wars books (I plan on it), from what I’ve heard this might be one of the best books to come out the new change. It got me pumped for the new movies and the characters of the book.

Check it out.