book reviews 2022
Warning: This section contains mild spoilers.
Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Tags: Adult Fiction, Romance, Exisential, Depression, Self-Harm, Complicated Parent-Child Relationships, Diverse Cast, LGBTQ | Wow... there's so much that I relate to in this novel. Grace Porter is a recently graduated Astronomy Ph.D. who struggles to adjust to life now that her Big Plan has been derailed after an job interview that didn't go quite as planned... especailly after a bender in Vegas where she married a girl she had just met that night. As a semi-recently graduated Literature Ph.D., there was so much about the protagonist's struggle with "the real world" that I related to, especially when you feel like a token minority that gained your department some clout but the broader academic/research industry has little to no interest in supporting you beyond that degree. Rogers's writing style is marked by a few of my pet peeves (lots of repetition of key phrases, full names, etc), but I found the characters to be sympathetic and interesting.
Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Moving Away, Blended Family | In this story, Jen's mom moves out to the countryside to live with her boyfriend, Walter, and start a farm together. She has a garden and tasks Jen with raising chickens. Accustomed to the city, Jen starts off really disliking the move and struggling to find her place. This is complicated even more when Walter's kids start spending weekends at Peapod Farm. The story captures what it is like to move from the city to the country, being a creative-minded person in a world that tends to hold more value in physical capacity and business-mindedness. Walter is an absolute asshole and I expect there to be more tension with his role in the next book. The story is short, wonderfully drawn by Knisley, and there is enough depth in the main cast that I want to read more about where their story goes.
Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker with Wendy Xu
Tags: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Fantasy, Witchcraft, Werewolves, LGBTQIA, Disability Representation | I started reading Mooncakes back when it was still a webcomic and I'm happy to see its story finally told to completion as a graphic novel. There's a fantastic range of representation in the book (race, gender, sexuality, age, body type, ability - hearing) and the visual environmental storytelling lends well to the "show don't tell" approach to the narrative. This is a quick story about how the protagonist, Nova, a queer and hearing-impaired witch, reunites with her childhood crush, the nonbinary werewolf Tam, during a chance encounter in the woods. After catching up, they agree to combine forces to tackle a demon in the forest who can only be stopped with wolf magic. In the backdrop of the action plot is a story about grief, identity, and finding your path in the world. I love Nova's grandmothers to pieces and would love to read a sequel, but the narrative is solidly wrapped up as is.
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
Tags: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Slow-Pace, Poetic Language, Domestic Abuse, Death, Body Horror | I read this on recommendation from Free the Uglies on YouTube. This draws on similar speculative fiction novels like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984, but I appreciated that this story is told from the POV of a woman who is unable to rebel in the same way as those class male characters. We are called upon to empathize with a helpless situation and to bear witness to the stories shared with us. The book is a bit slow with small slices of the day-to-day lives of the three main leads all the while we barrel toward an inevitable conclusion. If you're into speculative fiction and want to read more of it from BIPOC, I'd recommend giving this one a go!
People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry
Tags: Romance, Friends to Lovers, Mutual Pining, Miscommunication, Past and Present| It took me a moment to warm up to Poppy, but I’m glad that I stuck through the first few chapters because by the time I learned the origin of her friendship with Alex, I was so much more invested in how they ended up not talking to each other for two years. Friends to lovers stories always get me in the gut. I’ve had my own life trials with losing friendships that meant a lot to me. And I’m also in the fortunate position of having married my own best friend. Henry is excellent at giving her central characters realistic flaws, letting them fuck up as a result of them, and then grow and heal. I think the ending of this one was a little rushed in the way that rom coms tend to wrap things up a little more tidily than I’d like. But there are so many sweet moments in this one that I had a blast reading it.
Blue Flag by Kaito
Tags: Manga, Slice of Life, Romance, Love Triangle, LGBTQIA | Such an incredible high school series. It’s not as over-the-top dramatic as some that I have read in the past. There’s something more quiet and pensive to the angst of our central protagonists. Love triangles are rarely my cup of tea, but this one feels done very well especially since no party is made out to be a villain. I’m genuinely surprised how many people knock the ending as well saying that it was rushed or came out of left field. Even though I would have loved more details and depth, I felt like this epilogue made a lot of sense from my reading experience and it brought me a lot of joy on a gray summer afternoon.
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
Tags: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Mythology | While I think they're fairly comparable in quality, I enjoyed Last Olympian a little more than this one. The introduction to New Rome took a good chunk of time and meant that the opening of the novel was a little bit slower for me as an adult reader. The transition to Hazel and her connection to Nico, however, was fantastic and the snippets of her and Frank's respective backstories were easily the most compelling part of the book. Some of the modern-fantasy elements like the Amazon warriors were a little too goofy for me, though.
The Heartbreak Bakery by A.R. Capetta
Tags: Queer/Trans Representation, Romance, Young Adult, Light Magic Usage, Dysphoria/Euphoria, First Person POV | Fast-paced, fluffy romance. The book blurb's sell this one short imo because Capetta's own writing about LGBTQIA community spaces is much more natural in the novel itself. It was a very "I feel seen" reading experience that depicts a variety of queer/trans characters. The main character is flawed and does need to work through those flaws before the end of the novel (so don't let it to deter you if you find it frustrating early on!)
Squire by Nadia Shammas and Sara Alfageeh
Tags: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Middle East/North Africa AU, Fantasy, Otherness, Discrimination, Disability | The world building in this is excellent. Very quick read - wish it was longer in a good way because I didn't want to say goodbye to the characters yet. Very timely observations about colonialism, war, and rebellion.
Teen Titans: Beast Boy Loves Raven by Kami Garcia with Gabriel Picolo
Tags: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Adaptation, Superheroes, Teen Titans, Trauma | I’m so happy to be able to see Picolo’s versions of Raven and Beast Boy interacting at last. The plot for this one is pretty simple, but I ate up every second of it. The meet cute between the two protagonists is believable as is their unlikely friendship as they explore the city while waiting for their respective meetings. I hope this won’t be the last in the series and still need to get my hands on Beast Boy’s story.
Miles Morales: Shock Waves by Justin A. Reynolds with Pablo Leon
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Adaptation, Superheroes, Spider-Man, Miles Morales | First of all, the artwork for this comic is incredible—love the color scheme, stylization, environments… wow. The story itself is pretty good too, especially how they weave in current events to bring Miles’s Puerto Rican background into the narrative in a meaningful fashion. I love the scenes where he talks with his mom about her childhood and his heritage and the ending was very sweet.
The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
Tags: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Mythology | What a fun return to Riordan's world! It was pretty gutsy to provide us with three brand new protagonists and it pays off: Jason, Piper, and Leo are all great narrative leads. The book is quick-paced and provides you with enough teasers that you can solve the mystery as you read. I know there have been reader reservations for how Riordan navigates issues like race throughout this series, but I want to take the time to formalize my thoughts on this holistically when I finish the series since this is my first read through.
Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku by Fujita
Tags: Manga, Fujoshi, Romance, Slice of Life, Childhood Friends to Lovers, Slowish Burn, Office Romance | What a breath of fresh air! This was a breezy read. Loved all of the main cast to pieces. On paper, the main plot didn't sound interesting to me, but the characters are so compelling and they really captured those good doki doki feelings. I'm not sure how interested I would be in seeing the Anime version of the story, but I might look into it one day.
Beach Read by Emily Henry
Tags: Romance, Grief, Cheating, Divorce, Rivals to Lovers, Miscommunication, Mildly Spicy | Probably my favorite modern romance writer at the moment. Her prose is excellent, the protagonists are believably flawed, their relationship progression didn't feel forced. The ending was a little too indulgent, and the author definitely repeats a few key phrases too often, but I would still recommend those interested to give this one a go and will eventually read her other two books.
Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia with Gabriel Picolo
Tags: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Adaptation, Superheroes, Teen Titans | Very speedy read! Raven’s found family is excellent and I love that even though she’s a very private and introverted teen, Raven hasn’t walled herself completely away from her peers. This is a good origins story that paves the way for the broader plot in this series.
The Legend of Korea: Turf Wars Part Two and Three by Michael Dante DiMartino with Irene Koh and Killian Ng (third entry)
Tags: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Adaptation, Legend of Korra, Fantasy, Adventure | While this was a fun romp back into the world of Avatar, I thought the comic series was just okay. I never found myself completely immersed in the storyline. That’s no to say that there aren’t some great bits! I loved witnessing characters respond to Korea and Asami’s relationship and Zhu Li’s plot was incredible from start to finish. I’m curious how the other Avatar comics stack up.
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Tags: Romance, Alternating POV, Fake Dating, Miscommunication, Mildly Spicy | This was a fun read mostly because Guillory's prose is really good, but both of the protagonists are quite privileged and I found Drew pretty annoying (especially when you learn his backstory.) It was a good "read on the plane" kind of book, but not one I woudl revisit.
Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
Tags: Romance, Alternating POV, Enemies to Lovers, Mutual Pining, Mildly Spicy, Victorian AU | An excellent "guilty pleasure" kind of period romance where the protagonist is a proto-feminist doing activist work for suffragettes and the love interest is a cold, patriarchal, asshole and they end up in a very hetero man/woman relationship dynamic later on. This all sounds terrible on paper and I truly hate the way they talk about their feelings for each other, but it's so well written that it was enjoyable despite that. I would just go into this one knowing that it's going to have annoying Gender Stuff in it. I'll probably read one more of her novels to see if a different relationship dynamic improves upon this first one.
Good-Bye Stacey, Good-Bye by Ann M. Martin and Gabriela Epstein
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Adaptation, Babysitter’s Club, Slice of Life | I started reading the comic adaptations of the Babysitter’s Club last year after binge-watching the new season of the Netflix series. This was a sweet continuation of that series with a poignant plot about how to navigate friends moving away, testing the strength of those friendships, and imagining the future. Stacey’s send-off was really sweet and I hope that we get to see this depicted in the next season of the show (if one is in the works that is!)
Witch Please by Ann Aguirre
Tags: Romance, Alternating POV, Mutual Pining, Modern Witchcraft, LGBTQ, Spicy, Miscommunication | I read this on a flight and was completely caught off guard by the spicy scenes haha To be honest... this one didn't do it for me. The plot is a little thin for my liking and I wish that the magic storyline was more fully explored. Most of the LGBT content is in the background or present in one major side character. I feel like the internal monologue of both protagonists got a little annoying... especially in trying to make the man seem like Mister Perfect. Probably won't revisit this series!
Karen’s Kittycat Club: A Graphic Novel by Ann. M. Martin and Katy Farina
Tags: Graphic Novel, Children’s Lit, Adaptation, Babysitter’s Club, Slice of Life | Even though I have been enjoying the Little Sister tales well enough, this one felt a little too baby for me lol In this tale, Karen learns a lesson about bossiness/control, exclusion, and failure. I’m sure I would have loved this series as a kid, though, and probably could have benefited from a lesson on not being a brat.
Kristy and the Snobs by Ann M. Martin and Chan Chau
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Adaptation, Babysitter’s Club, Slice of Life | I didn’t grow up in a great neighborhood, so Kristy’s feelings of being a fish out of water in the new rich and popular environment kind of make me laugh. The subplot about her dog was so good, though. I almost forgot this was adapted into the second season, probably because I watched it while depressed. I might go back and rewatch it now that I have more context.
Claudia and the New Girl by Ann M. Martin and Gabriela Epstein
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Adaptation, Babysitter’s Club, Slice of Life | Is it just me or was Gabriela no where near this mean in the Netflix show? She was possessive and rude throughout the whole book. No matter how much I like Claudia, this one just wasn’t as enjoyable for me. At least I enjoyed the resolution to her art gallery submission though!
Minecraft Volume 1 by R. Sfé Monster and Sarah Graley
Tags: Graphic Novel, Children’s Lit, Minecraft, Slice of Life, Adventure, LGBTQIA | What a cute story about maintaining friendships after moving away! I think this is such an important lesson for kids to learn. I can imagine a kid picking this at the scholastic school fair and reading it over and over again until the spine starts falling apart. Even though I don’t play Minecraft (just watch other people do it!) this provides plenty of context for parents to read alongside their kids.
Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall with Lisa Sterle
Tags: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQIA | The more time passes after I finished reading this the less I like it. The premise of the book is pretty dark, but that’s not the only problem. I don’t feel like privilege is navigated in a satisfying manner and I’m not wholly convinced of the personal growth of the main character. I don’t know. Maybe this kind of plot just isn’t for me.
Au Haru Ride by Io Sakisaka
Tags: Manga, Shoujo, Romance, Childhood Friends/Crush, Grief, Depression, High School Hijinks, Miscommunication/Missed Opportunities | Wow, what a fun series haha It sure went places. Watching Futaba grow is a great joy, especially as she develops more meaningful friendships and learns to think about love beyond nostalgia. There's a great running theme of learning to be honest with yourself, especially what you want and need. I had a great time reading it, but it didn't have a transformative impression on me and I likely won't return to it again. But if you're looking for a romance drama to sink into, this one is considered a classic at this point for a reason.
books read in 2021
Sweat and Soap by Kintetsu Yamada
Tags: Manga, Seinen, Romance, Slice of Life, Spicy | When Laura Neuzeth recommended this series on Tik Tok, I was immensely skeptical that I would ever be able to get past its base premise (a soap-maker with a keen nose disrupts a woman's personal boundaries by sniffing her and becoming obsessed with her smell.) But unlike Perfume: The Story of a Murderer where this kind of obsession is a marker of a serial killer, Natroi helps Asako develop self-confidence and they bring the best out of each other. They have such a tender relationship and it's impossible not to root for them. I finished reading this series when I was going through a very difficult time in my life and seeing how far these two come by the end of the 11-volume series... really makes you want to keep perspective on what's precious to you as well.
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
Tags: Memoir, Non-Fiction, LGBTQIA, Domestic Violence, Abuse | This was a heavy book to read on a plane heading into Christmas break, but I devoured it in one airport trip. Machado's writing is haunting, touching, curious. It takes this "what if the relationship is the haunted house" kind of twist on horror.. except this actually happened, and you're asked to consider the real people, the real trauma, even in this meta-fiction presentation. I'm not sure that I know how to effectively describe the reading experience since I'm new to writing reviews, but I will read every book that Machado writes.
The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore
Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
Tags: Cozy Mystery, Own Voices, Filipino | I wanted to like this one more than I did, especially after being disappointed by Collette's novel. I love that Lila is fiercely protective of her family, the setting of her family's restaurant, and that the stakes are genuinely high (ex-boyfriend murdered in her mom's restaurant? charged with suspicion of foul play? scandalous!) But... I think her best friend was a little over-eager with the investigatory process, which also took a lot of time... and it was also a little silly to me how every man she encountered seemed besotten with her beauty lol But I loved the aunties, the small town gossip, and the delicious food descriptions.
Check Please by Ngozi Ukazu
Tags: Webcomic/Graphic Novel, LGBTIQA, Young Adult, Romance, Slow Burn, Sports | Wow, I wasn't expecting to like this one, but now I feel like I've been missing out by not reading all the homoerotic sports manga out there lol This one is really sweet. Eric Bittle is a fantasticly charming protagonist with his southern charm and love for baking. It was a joy watching his teammates warm up to him, especially Jack. The plot progressed at an excellent pace that kept me hanging on for each volume. Genuinely can't wait for Ukazu to write another series!
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Tags: Horror, Psychological, Haunted House | After being pretty disappointed by the Haunting of Hill House Netflix series (especially in comparison to my friends), I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. To be blunt, I'm not generally a horror person. It's not that I scare easy... it's that they don't usually do anything for me. I think this is the first time a book crept up on me and made me feel unsettled. It wasn't even the spooky hauntings like cold spots, doors that open, and tappings that grow louder and closer... it was the main character's internal monologue. The familiarity of that intense social anxiety. I felt too seen.
A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette
Tags: Cozy Mystery, Own Voices | I really, really wanted to like this one... but I didn't connect with the writing and the investigation was a little too simple. The protagonist didn't feel solid in her role. The ice cream shop setting was so good, especially rescuing the history of her family's store and trying to find ways to make it succeed. But I'm not entirely sure yet whether I would read a second book in the series.
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Memoir, War, Refugees | Quick and immersive read. Omar is a compassionate boy responsible for taking care of his younger brother Hasaan after being separated from their mother when fleeing Somali for a refugee camp in Kenya. When Omar begins attending school, he's faced with all kinds of new challenges. It's an emotional read with a very sweet illustrative style.
The Adventure Zone: The Crystal Kingdom by Clint McElory and Carey Pietsch
Tags: Grahic Novel, Fantasy, Adaptation, Dungeons and Dragons | I know plenty of people who aren't fond of the McElroy's and The Adventure Zone... but I love the Balance Arc and it affected me emotionally during a time when I needed to hear a story like it. Carey Pietsch's artstyle is also perfect for this adaptation. It's so satisfying to visually observe these seens that I've listened to several times as a podcast. They have been so thoughtfully realized and I can't imagine the characters looking any other way now. This volume introduces some of my favorite characters and I love how the plot is beginning to thicken.
Frog and Toad: The Complete Collection by Arnold Lobel
Tags: Children's Literature, Picture Book, Classic, ReRead | My younger brother and his wife gifted this to me for my birthday and I am utterly delighted to own this series I read over and over again as a kid not realizing that I would one day connect with the queerness of this amphibuous couple. My wife and I read the book cover-to-cover that night and the stories just make me feel so peaceful.
A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman
Tags: Cozy Mystery, Historical Setting (Victorian) | This was my first dip into cozy mysteries and I loved it... there's something about Freeman's writing style that I like. Frances Wynn is a great protagonist outside her element following the death of her cheating husband, the Count of Harleigh. Unlike the other mysteries I read in 2021, I enjoyed the investigation process a lot more in this book and the flirtatious friendship she has with her next-door-neighbor are quite fun. I'll continue reading the series to see how I get on with the rest.
Boy Crazy Stacy by Ann M. Martin and Gale Galligan
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Babysitter's Club, Adaptation | In this episode, Stacey and Mary Anne go on vacation with the Pike family as their babysitters. Stacey, however, has other ideas as she spends too much time flirting with life guards rather than watching over the kids. It's a good story about crushes, friendship, and responsibility. Galligan is one of my favorite illustrators for this series, too. Her artwork is consistent and the character designs bring the cast to life in a way that I enjoy far more than Raina Telgmeier (more on that later!)
Logan Likes Mary Anne by Ann M. Martin and Gale Galligan
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Babysitter's Club, Adaptation | First of all, Logan's design is incredible. I appreciate how this adaptation is injecting diversity when possible and not just for background characters. I've read too many reviews to the contrary complaining about shoe-horning in reace where it doesn't belong... lol The plot itself is also quite relatable as Mary Anne struggles with feeling awkward and embarassing around her crush, which is a nice progression in her story of developing a greater sense of identity and independence, while also wanting to stay true to herself..
Dawn and the Impossible Three by Ann M. Martin and Gale Galligan
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Babysitter's Club, Adaptation | Honestly... I don't remember this book at all lol Dawn was never my favorite club member and I don't even remember very many meaningful plot points with her since this book.
Karen's Worst Day by Ann M. Martin and Katy Farina
Tags: Graphic Novel, Children's Literature, Baby-sitter's Little Sister, Adaptation | The plot has that similar vibe of Alexander and the Horrible No Good Very Bad Day. It has a good lesson about what to do when a bunch of little things happen that are frustrating enough to deal with individually all happen at once. The GoodReads reviews all claim that Karen is a whiny brat in this book, but I think there are plenty of adults who still throw temper tantrums when they have off-days like this (I know I have) and how to channel those bad feelings is good for kids to learn early on!
The Witch Boy Series by Molly Knox Ostertag
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Magic, Big Families, Gender | I read all three books in this series in 2021 and loved them all. The story follows a family whose magic is divided into traditional gender roles where the girls learn magic and the boys learn how to shapeshift. Except the protagonist, Aster, is much more interested in learning magic than shapeshifting. It leads him onto a journey of intergenerational trauma and self-acceptance that extends beyond his own blood-family into the found family he meets as the series continues.
Heartwood Hotel: A True Home and The Greatest Gift
Tags: Children's Literature, Chapter Book, Cute Animals | The first two installments to this series are very sweet (have yet to get a copy of the third!) and just the sort of story I would have adored as a kid. Mona is an orphaned mouse who, over the coruse of the first book, finds a home at Heartwood Hotel. In the second one, she racks her brain to figure out how to give back to all of the people who have generously provided for her. These books are very cozy reads, though they do rely on a trope I'm not fond of where all the prey animals are civilized, kind, and good and all the predators are evil lol
Claudia and Mean Janine by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgmeier
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Babysitter's Club, Adaptation | I don't really remember this one very well either. Pretty straight-forward story about the clash between two siblings: the creative and the academic. This bond becomes more strained when their grandmother, Mimi gets hurt and the two squabble over who loves and cares for her more. At least that's what I recall. It's not a bad story by any means, but I'm not super fond of the art style... especially when Claudia and her family are at center stage. I just feel like the WOC who have taken the healm of this adaptation have drawn the characters of color much better.
Kristie's Great Idea by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgmeier
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Babysitter's Club, Adaptation | I'm not sure if I genuinely read these out of order or if I logged them funny on GoodReads lol This is the first book in the graphic novel reboot. It's a great introduction to the characters and my first time actually reading this series in any form! I dislike how all of the main characters have very similar body types and skintones. It really stands out on the cover.
The Truth About Stacey by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgmeier
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Babysitter's Club, Adaptation | I just find the plotline kind of baffling tbh! Why would it be a big deal that she has diabetes?? I'm not sure if this is one of those... I don't click with the wealthy girl from the big city storylines... or if it's that this plot from a book written in the 80s just isn't translating for me in the 00s and beyond.
Mary Ann Saves the Day by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgmeier
Tags: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Babysitter's Club, Adaptation | Even though the art isn't my favorite, I'm such a sucker for Mary-Anne. She's my favorite of the babysitters, especially in the Netflix show, and all of the plotlines in this one do it for me from small rebellions against her over-protective father to fighting with her close friends.
On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Tags: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, LGBTQIA, Science Fiction, Found Family | My introduction to Tillie Walden was her memoir Spinning, which, while beautifully illustrated, didn't connect with me. This print of her webcomic, however? Perfection. The narrative is constructed from moments from the past and present interspliced together. There are whole sections that are much lighter on dialogue, allowing you to immerse yourself in this post-apocalyptic space world populated exclusively by women and nonbinary people (at least form what we experience in the story!) It's one of those books that I would love to teach one day.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask by Akira Himekawa
Tags: Graphic Novel, Video Games, Legend of Zelda, Adaptation | This is a cute little adaptation of one of my favorite Zelda games. The artstyle is pretty adorable and I thought it would be way more distracting to have Link speak, but it was fine. None of the dialogue felt forced or awkward. The ending is very cute, too! It makes me miss the world of this game in a good way.
Witchlight by Jessi Zabrasky
Tags: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Magic, BIPOC, LGBTQIA | Cool artwork, sword lesbians, magic, fantastic worldbuilding, but some character development choices (including those early on) that were a touch frustrating. I felt like I wanted to like this book even more than I did, but it's been a little too long for me to recall with precision what that might have been. I at least enjoyed it enough to borrow it from the library again one day to refresh my memory. If I follow through with that, I'll update this post!
Karen's Roller Skates by Ann M. Martin and Katy Farina
Tags: Graphic Novel, Children's Literature, Baby-sitter's Little Sister, Adaptation | The lesson of the day is not to tell tall tales as Karen's exagerrations about how she injured her arm grow bolder and wilder with each time she tells the story. It's a simple plot, but the resolution is satisfying and I'm glad to see a story that encourages kids to not be afraid of going to the doctor even for more serious reasons.
We Do This Til We Free Us by Mariame Kaba
Tags: Non-Fiction, Transformative Justice, Activism, Essays | Honestly, this is a must read that has fundamentally changed my understanding about activism, especially with respect to the Prison Industrial Complex though the vision of this book extends to all social systems. It's also a quick and accessible read since the majority of entries are interviews and short essays. If you want to get a sense for Kaba's philosophy and style, you can read some of her pieces for free online.I recommend starting with "So You're Thinking About Becoming an Abolitionist".
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Tags: Short Story Collection, Horror, Psychological, Magical Realism, Graphic Sex, Eating Disorder, Body Horror, Rape/Sexual Assault | When I assigned this book to my students for a Women Writers class, I hadn't read any of Machado's work before. Hoo-boy was I in for a treat haha And after a heap of content warnings, my students were SO into it and elected it the favorite of the semester. The only reason why I knocked a star back is that there are a couple of stories that don't do it for me, such as "Especially Heinous" (also the longest entry in the collection) and "Eight Bites." The highlights for me are "The Husband Stitch" (a great spin on the Green/Black/Velvet Ribbon), "Inventory" (timely to read this during a pandemic) and "The Resident" (which has so many eerily similarities to Haunting of Hill House by sheer coincidence.) I'm constantly recommending stories from this collection to other people.
Freshwater by Awkaeke Emezi
Tags: Fiction, Igbo Religion, Label-Defying, Self-Harm, Rape, Suicide Attempt, Eating Disorder, Sexual Asault, Child Abuse | This is a very challenging book to read in both its construction (shifting from plural to singular narrators across various periods in the central character's life) and its content (see tags.) That said, I was enraptured from the first page. Emezi is not writing for the ease of their reader and defies us from pathologizing or squirming away from what the narrative requires you to accept at face value: Ada is an ogbanje who is connected to the other brother-sisters and when she experiences a traumatic event in college, one of the other ogbanje takes control of the fleshy vessel that contains them all. Resisting this literal reading, trying to recontextualize this as a disassociative disorder or as a metaphor for trauma/trans experience removes us from the spiritual and cultural premise of the story. It's very fascinating and another one that I enjoyed teaching even though my students had a difficult time with it.
The Girl From the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag
Tags: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, LGBTQIA, Light Fantasy, Romance, Coming Out | A delightful about a closeted queer girl, Morgan, who reunites with a childhood crush - an unusual girl who happens to be a Selkie. This is a refreshing coming out story because Morgan isn't exactly worried that her family or close friends are bigoted and will reject a queer person in their close circle. At its core, she's afraid of change and of people looking at her and treating her differently as a result of confiding this secret. Keltie's reappearance pushes Morgan to grapple with what she wants to bury deep, especially since the girl from the sea wholly embraces who she is so much more freely. The imagery is fantastic in this story, the characters wonderfully realized, and the author is so dang good at establishing a clear sense of setting.
Karen's Witch by Ann M. Martin and Katy Farina
Tags:Tags: Graphic Novel, Children's Literature, Baby-sitter's Little Sister, Adaptation | The first of the little sister series opens with a great start. Karen is convinced that her dad's neighbor is a witch and she's determined to prove it with the assistance of her friend, Hanni. I'e skimmed through reviews of this on GoodReads and I'm baffled by how many adult readers have terrible things to say about Karen. Is she a bit of a bossy brat? Yes. She's also a literal child lol And it's not like Kristy hasn't had her moments where she needs to step back, reflect on her bad behavior, and fix things with those she's wronged. It's important for kids to read about other kids who make mistakes, even pretty bad ones, and for things to still turn out okay as long as they make an earnest effort to set things right. Saying that Karen's behavior is what led to 'literal wars against real witches' is absurd lol
Fruits Basket Another by Natsuki Takaya
Tags: Manga, Slice of Life, Intergenerational Trauma | My main complaint is that I wish there was more! It's a lot of fun getting to see the next generation of the Sohma kids even if it requires a certain suspension of disbelief regarding how many of them remained with their childhood sweethearts following the concluson to the main series. Another element that I enjoyed was how different th personalities of Mutsuki and Hajime are compared to their respective dads lol There's a certain catharsis to it since it feels like they behave how their dads might have had they not been subjected to so much trauma by their own parents. [Note: I still need to read the fourth volume and will bump this to my 2022 reading list when I do!]
Super Late Bloomer by Julia Kaye
Tags: Graphic Novel, Comic Strips, Memoir, Diary Comics, Transgender | I've been following Julia Kaye's work online for years now and finally picked up one of her books last year when I was considering assigning it for a class. It's a quick and simple read that documents the first year or so in Kaye's transition spanning the messy and embarassing parts as well as the euphoric and hopeful ones.
Peach Girl by Miwa Ueda
Tags: Manga, Slice of Life, Romance, Love Triangle, Drama, Miscommunication | There's a lot in this manga that is pretty outdated, overdramatic, and headshakingly stupid. But I loved reading it haha I can't help it! Even though it features the dreaded forced love triangle as a result of a misunderstanding, this time due to the manipulations of Saw (who is made increasingly more crazed in order to make Momo look all the better), I was really invested in where the story might go! Btw, I'm 100% team Ryo. Sorry Toji fans.
Our Dreams at Dusk by Yunki Kamatani
Tags: Manga, Magical Realism, Slice of Life, LGBTQIA, Suicidal Ideation, Homophobia and Transphobia | Wow. This manga is breathtakingly beautiful and heartwrenching. The last queerish manga I truly loved was Wandering Son, but it makes such a difference to read a story written by a nonbinary person. Tasuku struggles with putting a name to his sexuality, especially following a near suicide attempt. But when he finds purpose and people, he begins to wonder whether he can hope for some kind of future for himself. It's a great story about found family, queer community, and the growing pains of high school.
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
Tags: Young Adult, Fantasy, Pastiche, ReRead | Valente's fairyland series means a lot to me personally. It had been a while since I read the second book despite reading the first one many, many times by now. It's such a good follow-up examining the shadow world and the duality contained within the people we know. September is such a compelling heroine and she grows even more in this book now that she has already her heart. One day, I'm planning to do a write a much longer essay examining the series holistically, but know that I love them dearly!
Steven Universe: End of an Era by Chris McDonell, Rebecca Sugar, N.K. Jemisin
Tags: Art Book, Cartoons, LGBTQIA | This isn't a literary book, but I wanted to include it anyway because there is a significant enough amount of writing. If you like Steven Universe, this is a great book to check out since there are so many tidbits about the development of this series from the very beginning. It's amazing to me how much was planned out in advance and it makes me want to write my own stories.
The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth
Tags: Young Adult, Romance, LGBTQIA, Miscommunication | It's been well over a year since I read this book and I don't really remember much about it. Clearly, it was compelling enough that I finished reading it. The Meet Cute moment between the two main characters was fun enough, but I think the drama that surfaces between the two of them kind of threw a wrench in my reading experience. I know it's realistic that high schoolers will stop talking to each other over miscommunications (this happened often enough to me personally), but it's not a very satisfying conflict point for me.