Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Ace is A-Okay!

A-Okay, by Jarad Greene, (Nov. 2021, HarperAlley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780063032842

Ages 9-13

Eighth grader Jay gets a prescription for Accutane to deal with his acne, but that medication comes with serious side effects. A-Okay, a semi-autobiographical graphic novel from Jarad Greene, covers some of the scary moments most middle schoolers feel at some point: body issues, identity, and finding your people. Jay suffers bullying because of his acne, and he’s disappointed because none of his friends are in his classes or share his lunch period, and his best friend seems to be avoiding him. Meanwhile, Mark and Amy, two of his classmates, are each showing more than friendly feelings for him, and he doesn’t feel the same. Written with sensitive humor and insight, A-Okay is about the middle school experience as a whole, and about asexuality: a diminished or lack of sexual attraction.

The middle school years are fraught with a hormonal mix of emotion and reaction that would frighten anyone: our bodies seemingly go haywire, leaving us feeling confused and betrayed; friendships are fraught with drama and complexity; fears about the future threaten to crush us. Greene understands his audience and quietly gives middle schoolers a voice with his A-Okay characters, who let middle schoolers know that every one of these feelings and emotions are okay. Colorful and upbeat illustrations put readers at ease, and he writes with a gift for both dialogue and introspection. A story whose time has come, Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnson nailed it when he wrote that A-Okay will be “to kids with acne what Smile was to kids with braces”. And then some.

For Ace resources, read the BBC’s article, “The Rise of the Invisible Orientation”; Stonewall.org’s “Six Ways to Be an Ally to Asexual People”; and visit the Asexual Visibility and Education Network’s website and follow them on Twitter. A-Okay is featured in HarperAlley’s Classroom Conversations brochure, offering booktalks and discussion questions.

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novels for fantasy/D&D fans

Scullion: A Dishwasher’s Guide to Mistaken Identity, by Jarad Greene, (July 2020, Oni Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781620107539

Ages 12+

In the fantasy world of Timberwood Village, The Great Warrior Riqa and her fiancé, Prince Chapp, are the It Couple. Riqa is a celebrated warrior and author, and Prince Chapp is a dashing hunk with muscles on his muscles. Palace scullions Darlis and Mae are paired together for the dishwashing portion of the wedding preparation festivities, but a comedy of errors leads to Darlis being mistaken for Riqa by a couple of enterprising trolls who are hoping to ransom the celeb for a big payday. Mae is captured when he tries to rescue Darlis, but the two rely on their knowledge of Riqa’s book, The Fair Maiden’s Guide to Eating Your Captor for Breakfast”, to save themselves. But the big question remains: Where’s the real Riqa, who’s gone off in search of Prince Chapp?

Scullion is a fun tale of mistaken identity with a lot of character and a healthy dose of realistic humor built into a fantasy world: celebrity gawking and public image stress are two main themes in the work. The artwork is in-your-face bright and moves easily between close-ups and long shots as each character handles journeys, fights, and… book signings?

Fantasy fans will eat this one up. It’s funny, it’s fantasy, it’s a graphic novel, it’s an easy choice for your collections.

 

Savage Beard of She Dwarf, by Kyle Latino, (June 2020, Oni Press), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1620107386

Ages 14+

Savage Beard of She Dwarf began as a webcomic that just finished a 4-year run. She Dwarf – that’s her name – is the descendant of Battle Mother, a celebrated warrior  who died in battle, leaving She Dwarf to believe that she may be the last living dwarf. She undertakes a quest to the Lost Underground Dwarven Kingdom of Dammerung to find answers, joined by a barbarian named Hack Battler, who seeks membership in his own Barbarian Warband.

Fantasy fans will love the feats of strength – sword fighting! Beard fights! – that run throughout the book, but the gore factor can be a little high, so I’d consider this for teens and up. (Give younger fantasy fans the Munchkin comics, though: those are great.) The action is fast, chaotic fun, and the bright and wild colors always give you somewhere to look. If you have fantasy readers, add this one.