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Book Review: All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

Publisher’s description

ra6Calling all Raina Telgemeier fans! The Newbery Honor-winning author of Roller Girl is back with a heartwarming graphic novel about starting middle school, surviving your embarrassing family, and the Renaissance Faire.

Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she’s eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she’ll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind—she’ll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! But it’s not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don’t) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family’s unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.

As she did in Roller Girl, Victoria Jamieson perfectly—and authentically—captures the bittersweetness of middle school life with humor, warmth, and understanding.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

alls faireWell, this graphic novel is just delightful. Imogene Vega, who has always been homeschooled, is going to attend traditional school for the first time. She’s pretty nervous—a feeling plenty of kids will be able to relate to, whether they’re new to their school or not. Imogene’s family works at the Renaissance Faire and she’s excited to finally be able to train to be a squire. But while she feels comfortable and like herself at the faire, middle school is a different story. Suddenly there are cliques, queen bees, the “right” clothes, bullies, and so much more to navigate. She falls in with a group of three girls, one of whom is extremely nasty, and while she doesn’t really have anything in common with them, they do offer some feeling of belonging. It doesn’t take Imogene long to see that fitting in may not be as satisfying as standing out.  With plenty of bumps in the road and impulsive (and bad) choices, Imogene takes a while to find her voice and figure out what version of herself to present in middle school, but when she does, watch out! Excellent artwork, quirky (in the best sense of the word) setting, and super relatable themes. An easy hit for fans of Roller Girl and fans of graphic novels in general.

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780525429982
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date: 09/05/2017

Choosing Whose Words Have Power Over Us, a guest post by author Meg Kassel

I loved the movie Labyrinth as a little kid. Aside from being fascinated with David Bowie, I liked the main character, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), whose baby brother is stolen by Jareth (Bowie), the Goblin King. The only way to get him back is to defeat a formidable labyrinth, with traps and twists that render it nearly impossible to navigate. Despite Jareth’s taunts to give up, Sarah enters the labyrinth to save her brother and makes some unusual friends on the way. There is a poem, which if Sarah could remember the ending to, would negate the Goblin King’s power. But she can’t remember the words. . .

blackbirdofthegallows

This movie stuck with me. I’ve watched it numerous times, at different stages of my life. Because, well, David Bowie, but more so because Sarah represented. Steely resolve, determination despite terrible odds, and resilience in the face of a cruel foe. It isn’t surprising that these books, movies, music, make an impression on a writer when they start creating work. There is a bit of Sarah in all my heroines, and certainly in Angie Dovage, the seventeen-year-old main character in my debut, Black Bird of the Gallows.

Early in the book, Angie’s traumatic past is exploited by a bullying classmate, Kiera, who makes a point of informing Reece, Angie’s new neighbor and hot new addition to the student body, about the troubled years Angie lived with her late mother. Angie flees the cafeteria in humiliation and shame. She also hides her musical talent behind a disguise, afraid that if her true identity is known, she and her music would be rejected. That’s where she is in the beginning. That’s where lots of teens are, and that’s where I was at various points in my life. The words of another can devastate. In Black Bird of the Gallows, Angie becomes swept into a fight for survival, as events unfold, both natural and supernatural. She learns to trust herself. She learns to choose who has power over her. Late in the book, she faces Kiera again, although this time, the bully must rely on Angie for assistance. Kiera hasn’t changed. She’s still as petty and small and unkind as ever, but Angie IS different. And that’s what makes this interaction so different from the first.

labyrinth

There were times in school when I felt intimidated, belittled, by another. There were mornings I walked to the bus stop with a pit in my stomach and sweat on my palms. It’s a horrible feeling, and one I usually kept to myself for fear of compounding the bad feelings I already had. There was no defining moment that ended those feelings for me, but many little lessons. Many tiny revelations. Growth that came in the form of a thousand pricks on the finger. Life is always changing. We DO get to choose whose words have meaning and whose does not. At some point in Angie Dovage’s journey, she decides that Kiera’s words do not. If I hadn’t chosen to disempower the negative voices in my life, I wouldn’t be a writer now. Creativity can’t flourish without some level of personal empowerment. Creativity and fear don’t mix. In Labyrinth, Sarah’s journey eventually finds her face to face with the Goblin King. She prevails because she owns her inner strength, sees a larger world, and finds the words which have been with her the whole time: “you have no power over me.”

Black Bird of the Gallows Official Description:

A simple but forgotten truth: Where harbingers of death appear, the morgues will soon be full.

Angie Dovage can tell there’s more to Reece Fernandez than just the tall, brooding athlete who has her classmates swooning, but she can’t imagine his presence signals a tragedy that will devastate her small town. When something supernatural tries to attack her, Angie is thrown into a battle between good and evil she never saw coming. Right in the center of it is Reece—and he’s not human.

What’s more, she knows something most don’t. That the secrets her town holds could kill them all. But that’s only half as dangerous as falling in love with a harbinger of death.

 

Buylinks: https://entangledpublishing.com/black-bird-of-the-gallows.html

Add to Goodreads TBR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33509076-black-bird-of-the-gallows

 

MegKassel-HeadshotAbout Meg Kassel:

Meg Kassel is an author of paranormal and speculative books for young adults. A New Jersey native, Meg graduated from Parson’s School of Design and worked as a graphic designer before becoming a writer. She now lives in Maine with her husband and daughter and is busy at work on her next novel. She is the 2016 RWA Golden Heart© winner in YA.

Author Links:

Website: http://megkassel.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/megkassel

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/megkasselauthor

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/seemegwrite/

tumblr: https://megkassel.tumblr.com/

Newsletter: http://megkassel.com/newsletter/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8353652.Meg_Kassel

Book Review: Draw the Line by Laurent Linn

Publisher’s description

draw the lineAfter a hate crime occurs in his small Texas town, Adrian Piper must discover his own power, decide how to use it, and know where to draw the line in this stunning debut novel exquisitely illustrated by the author.

Adrian Piper is used to blending into the background. He may be a talented artist, a sci-fi geek, and gay, but at his Texas high school those traits would only bring him the worst kind of attention.

In fact, the only place he feels free to express himself is at his drawing table, crafting a secret world through his own Renaissance-art-inspired superhero, Graphite.

But in real life, when a shocking hate crime flips his world upside down, Adrian must decide what kind of person he wants to be. Maybe it’s time to not be so invisible after all—no matter how dangerous the risk.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

About 3/4 of the way through this book, Adrian says, “I’m not going to let people put me in some stupid category anymore, be a blank canvas for them to put on me whatever they think I am or want me to be. I’m going to show them who I really am.” (Am I the only one who immediately thinks of Cameron’s similar speech in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? “I’m not going to sit on my ass as the events that affect me unfold to determine the course of my life. I’m going to take a stand. I’m going to defend it. Right or wrong, I’m going to defend it.”) And he does. Adrian spends a lot of the story working himself up to this point where he feels like he has to not only reveal his real self but start standing up for himself and for others.

 

When we first meet Adrian, he’s anonymously publishing an online comic about gay superhero Graphite. He’s gay but not out to anyone but his two best friends, Trent and Audrey. He tries to steer clear of the school bullies, Doug and Buddy, who are constantly spewing homophobic slurs. When he witnesses Doug assault Kobe Saito, the school’s only out gay kid, he’s forced to stop hiding and being anonymous. He isn’t sure what he can possibly do to help, though. Doug’s dad is the sheriff and the cops aren’t interested in what the truth is—clearly Doug was provoked, according to them, and it was self-defense. The administration at school is just as unhelpful. Audrey urges Adrian to speak out about this, make a big deal about what happened, seek out justice. Trent thinks Adrian should just lie low so he doesn’t end up getting beaten unconscious too. Adrian doesn’t know what he can really do—but he’s starting to realize he needs to do something. When he begins dating a classmate (who he never even guessed was gay, much less into him), Adrian starts to feel a little more comfortable in his skin and begins to take his stand. Through his artwork, he sends the message that it’s okay to stand up and speak out. To his surprise, Adrian learns that not everything is as cut and dry as Doug just being a horrible bully. He goes from thinking about revenge to thinking about how villains can turn into heroes, maybe. He continues to use his art to push his message and seek change. Why destroy when you can create?

 

Peppered with pages from Adrian’s comic, this is a powerful story about discovering who you are and standing up for what’s right. The heart of the story centers on a hate crime, but there’s also a lot more going on. There’s a really sweet romance, interesting friendship dynamics, and family issues. Through a local LGBT center and his new boyfriend, Adrian begins to find more of a community and make more friends at school. Well-written and engaging, this is an important addition to all collections. 

 

Review copy courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss 

ISBN-13: 9781481452809

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication date: 05/17/2016