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Staff Picks: Books

A Different Kind of Graphic Novel

Let’s talk about Here, a fascinating book by Richard McGuire. Classified as a graphic novel, it’s less of a comic book, and more of a subject study as the entire book never leaves the living room of McGuire’s childhood home. The book travels backward and forward in time, exposing ordinary events that happened in that very spot, almost like players wandering on and off the stage.

Things get interesting however, when little windows start to appear on the page. A woman in 1957 stops to try and remember why she walked into the room while a cat from the year 1999 saunters through. A baseball that crashes through the window in 1983 has no impact on the man trying to tie his shoe in 1991. The room begins to get crowded as people from the distant past, present, and future all begin to appear in these trans-temporal windows. As if something about the ordinary-seeming space has unraveled the space time continuum.

It’s a fun, and thought provoking book. After reading it, you can’t help but think about the people who stood where you are years before, and who will be here years after you’re gone.

Teens’ Top 10

There are so many wonderful titles on YALSA’s Teens’ Top 10 2016 List. My personal favorite is Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon and there are so many other great titles on the list. We have all of these titles at every library location. You can vote for your favorite at this link until the end of October’s Teen Read Week. 

Every year, teens across the country nominate titles after reviewing and discussing them in their book groups. The annotated, nomination list is announced each spring. Voting begins to choose the “Top 10” in August 15 and continues through Teen Read Week in October. 

KPL is working to establish a teen book group that would receive and write reviews to participate in this initiative. If you are, or know, a teen who would be interested in joining us, please check out our info page and contact me. An interest meeting will be held in early September.

I Am Princess X

In fifth grade May and Libby created Princess X together. For years after the two continued the story of the princess in the purple dress and red chucks who wields a katana. That is, until Libby and her mom drive off a bridge on a rainy night. Three years later, lonely May discovers a sticker of Princess X on a shop window. No one could have created it, except for Libby. It seems impossible, but May wonders if her friend might still be alive. 
This clever murder mystery trails May on her quest to find out what exactly happened the night that Libby and her mom died, and to find Libby if she did indeed survive. Fans of webcomics, suspense, and puzzles will love this book! I sure did!

These Girls Pack a Punch!

 Do you need more dinosaurs, time travelers, and girl power in your life? If so, I have two fantastic graphic novels for you.  First up, is Paper Girls, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn, the writer named by Wired Magazine as " the greatest comic book visionary of the last five years." This suspenseful mystery starts with a slow burn as four paper delivery girls head out to cover their route the morning after Halloween in 1988.  After the girls accidentally set off a strange machine, the story kicks off at break-neck speed, and soon the girls are facing off against dinosaurs, laser-blasting knights, and sub-human creatures that might just be from the future. It’s intense, fast-paced, wicked fun, and the series is only just beginning. 


Also, make sure to check out the Lumberjanes series by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson. Lumberjanes follows five “hardcore lady types” spending the summer at a crazy camp surrounded by bizarre supernatural mysteries. The girls fight werewolves, solve riddles, and avoid the ever-watchful eye of their group counselor in this manic, off-beat, fantastic read. This series has been out for a while, but you can catch up on Hoopla digital.

Both of these series are a great mash-up of sci-fi, fantasy, action, and mystery with fabulous artwork. So what are you waiting for? 

Some Assembly Required(1)

In this captivating and honest memoir, Arin Andrews tells his story of being born in the wrong body. Growing up trapped in the body of a girl, knowing it didn't feel right, Arin struggles with his Christian school, living in the bible belt, and trying to bridge the rift between he and his mom, as he transitions from Emerald to Arin. This book is wonderfully written. Arin's voice is familiar, though I've never met him, and he tells his truth to the open reader.

Not All Comic Book Characters Wear Capes

Graphic novels have a reputation for being all about superheroes and explosions, but they can be a really great format to tell more nuanced stories as well. I’d like to shine a spotlight on two evocative, character-focused, slice-of-life stories that really shine in a graphic novel format.

The first is a manga called Solanin by Inio Asano. The story follows Meiko, a recent college grad, and her friends a group of 20-somethings living in the background of a Japanese city. Over the course of the summer they grapple with all of the challenges of new adulthood: starting careers, finding their purpose in life, and how to break it to their parents that they’ve moved in with their boyfriend. Though the characters are Japanese, the themes are universal. Solanin is a novel with fantastic art work, and a story that will stay with me for a long time.

The second graphic novel is called Token by Alisa Kwitney, with illustrations by Joelle Jones. Token is a story about fifteen year old Shira Spektor, living in Miami, Florida in 1987. She lives with her father in an apartment building on South Beach, and spends most of her time with her best friend, a spunky 80-year-old woman who shoots straight from the hip. When her father starts dating his secretary, and the girls at school turn decidedly nasty, Shira turns to shoplifting. Just when she feels that there’s no one she can talk to, she meets a tall handsome stranger. She is falling in love for the first time just as everything else in her life seems to be falling apart. Token is fun, flirty, and timeless.

Both books have a lazy summer vibe perfect for the upcoming warmer months.

This Raging Light

The best books offer a window into the lives of others through which we can learn and discover. They also offer a mirror through which we can see ourselves more clearly. This Raging Light by Estelle Laure is a recent teen favorite of mine that features the mental health of it's chracters. Seventeen-year-old Lucille is left alone with her little sister to struggle through each day, paying bills and going to school. Her father is institutionalized after a breakdown and her mother is "on vacation", maybe permanently. Lucille is forced to grow up faster than she expected and to learn to rely on others and accept their limitations. She is ultimately triumphant, learning much about forgiveness, grace, and her own strength.  

May is Mental Health Awareness month and there are many great teen books where mental health is a significant part of the story. Books about mental illness can help remove stigma, educate, and advocate for understanding and improved services for those who need care. It's so important that teens have access to these books! Some of my other mental health favorites for teens include: It's Kind of a Funny Story, The Impossible Knife of Memory, The Unlikely Story of the Hero of Room 13b, and The Rest of Us Just Live Here.

For more books focused on mental health and teens, visit the lists at YA Highway and School Library Journal or ask your local librarian for suggestions. 


Teens' Top Ten Nominees!

Calling all Teen readers! The nominees for the 2016 Teens' Top Ten award were just announced and there's a lot of great books to read! The Teens' Top Ten is a "teen choice" list, where teens nominate and choose their favorite books of the previous year! Nominators are members of teen book groups in fifteen school and public libraries around the country, and they've made their choices. It's a long list this year- there's a ton of great titles to choose from, including titles by Marcus Sedgwick, Scott Westerfeld, Holly Black, and many more! You can find a PDF of the nominees here, and voting will happen later this summer. Get started reading today!

The Head of the Saint

I love magical realism, and this book is filled with it. Set in a small town in Brazil, Samuel finds himself newly orphaned and homeless. When his grandmother turns him away, he takes up residence within the head of St. Anthony. Supposedly the saint had brought the town only misfortune, but when Samuel starts to hear singing and prayers inside the head, life in the town changes. With all the attention being turned to the small town, the secrets of the past begin to be revealed, and Samuel’s life in the small town is threatened. The characters are all so wonderfully written, and the story is filled with a magic that will stick with you long after you’ve closed the book.

The Graveyard Book(1)

Neil Gaiman is a favorite author of mine for a few reasons. First, whenever you read something of his, he sets the mood and the scene so well, you feel like you are in the book. Sometimes he transports you to a magical, fantastic place where you feel like you are on a great adventure. Other times it's a place of darkness and horror. 

Surprisingly, The Graveyard Book feels more like a magical adventure. An orphan named Nobody Owens is raised in a graveyard by the ghost and a mysterious guardian. As he grows up, Nobody learns about the magic of the graveyard, while wondering about the world of the living. Think of it like The Jungle Book, but in a graveyard.