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

It ain’t easy being a superhero’s kid: I Am Not Starfire

I Am Not Starfire, by Mariko Tamaki/Illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani, (July 2021, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781779501264

Ages 13-17
The latest original DC YA graphic novel, by YA rock star Mariko Tamaki, is all about the fraught relationship between (Teen) Titan’s Starfire and her teen daughter, Mandy. Mandy’s been raised by her mom – no word on her dad’s identity, although everyone around her sure has opinions they don’t mind sharing with her – and she is NOT like her mother at all. She isn’t sparkly. She isn’t a tall, alien superhero with superpowers. She’s a goth chick who dyes her hair black, wears combat boots, and looks at just about everyone her with total disdain, except for her best friend, Lincoln. When Mandy is paired with “in” girl Claire for a school project, the two hit it off – so well that Mandy, who’s just walked out of her SAT and decided to run away to France rather than go to college – may be interested in sticking around after all. But Starfire’s family unrest follows her from Tamaran to Earth, and Mandy finds herself facing a fight for her life – or her mother’s.
I Am Not Starfire is all about the up-and-down relationships between parents and kids. Are parents aliens to teens? Possibly. Are teens aliens to grownups? Heck yes (speaking for my two, exclusively). The relationship between Mandy and Starfire is recognizable, whether you have a parent that expects too much from you, or that you just can’t relate to for a moment in time, but that you still love and want to be loved by in return. It’s about family secrets, starting over, and discovering ourselves for who we are, sparkly powers notwithstanding, and it’s about relationships with our friends, nurturing a crush to see where it goes, and the (sometimes) explosive relationships we have with family. Yoshi Yoshitani’s artwork is amazing, and Mariko Tamaki is one of best writers in comics right now. Together, they create a great book for your teen graphic novel collections.
Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Fantasy Graphic Novels for Teens

Ever After, by Olivia Vieweg, (Sept. 2020, Graphic Universe), $16.99, ISBN: 9781728412924

Ages 12+

Translated from the German 2012 graphic novel Endzeit, Ever After is an unsettling zombie apocalypse story. Two German cities – Weimar and Jena – are survivor outposts in the days after the zombie apocalypse. Two young women, Vivi and Eva, travel from the harsh conditions in Weimar to Jena, hoping for a better life, but both women have secrets. Vivi is tormented by visions of her younger sister, while Eva is in the middle of a transformation. The two form an unlikely friendship on the road, protecting one another from the living and the dead. The story is focused on the two women for the most part, making it an interesting character study in personality. The colorful manga-inspired artwork is a stark contrast to the bleak story, and there are some very graphic moments that may not appeal to some readers. The story drops readers into the beginning of the story with very little context, so it is a little fiddly at first, but I hit my stride pretty quickly. It’s an interesting new take on zombie stories; if you have readers who enjoy zombie horror, consider adding this to your shelves.

Endzeit was made into a movie in 2019.

 

Daughters of Ys, by M.T. Anderson/Illustrated by Jo Rioux, (Aug. 2020, :01First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781626728783

Ages 12+

Award-winning author M.T. Anderson and illustrator Jo Rioux create a feminist fantasy with a Celtic influence with Daughters of Ys. Ys, a seaside kingdom, is shaken when its Queen, Malgven, passes away. Her two daughters, Rozenn and Dahut, are horrified to discover their father in the arms of other women so soon after their mother’s passing, and grow apart. Rozenn, the heir to the throne, would rather be in the wild, surrounded by animals and nature; Dahut enjoys palace life and all the attention that comes with being the “beautiful daughter” – but she’s got a secret directly connected to the monsters that threaten the Kingdom of Ys: the monsters that Queen Malgven used to be able to keep away.

Based on a classic folktale, The Daughters of Ys has M.T. Anderson’s hallmark storytelling, with epic fantasy fleshed out with strong characters and complex relationships. Jo Rioux’s artwork beautifully creates a Celtic-inspired world, and her lush artwork gives the fluid feeling of the seaside kingdom surreal life. She uses shadows and moody coloring to wonderfully dramatic effect. Hand this to any of your fantasy readers, and for anyone interested in more reading about Ys, this Wikipedia page has some very good information and links.

MT Anderson has won multiple literary awards, including the 2006 National Young People’s Book Award for his book The Pox Party. His 2018 book with M.T. Anderson, The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, was nominated for the National Young People’s Book Award.

The Daughters of Ys has a starred review from School Library Journal.

Teen Titans: Beast Boy, by Kami Garcia/Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, (Sept. 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401287191

Ages 10+

The creative powerhouse that brought us the Raven original graphic novel is back with Teen Titans’s Beast Boy! Garfield Logan is 17 years old, and he wants things to happen! Senior year is almost over, and he can’t figure out how to get in with the in crowd, instead of being the pizza-eating, video-game loving nerd that everyone overlooks. Tired of being short and scrawny, he stops taking the supplements his parents always give him, and things start happening. He grows six inches overnight. His voice gets deeper, and he’s strong. Like, STRONG. And fast. It’s almost like he can… channel different animals? He starts taking dares from the social crowd, and Gar sees his chance for social currency! But although a big dare pays off, it also kicks something into motion, and Gar decides he needs answers from his parents. They’ve been keeping things from him, and it’s time they ‘fessed up. But his parents, and his best friends, Stella and Tank, aren’t the only people with a vested interest in Gar. A guy named Slade Wilson is skulking around town (DC fans will know that when Deathstroke shows up, that’s never good news), claiming to have some of the answers Gar’s looking for, but Slade is playing a longer game, and someone higher up is very, VERY interested in Gar.

I loved this Beast Boy origin story! I will be honest, though – while it doesn’t end abruptly, it does end with a lot of questions unanswered, so I hope there’s a second book in the works. There are nods to the Teen Titan fans know, including his green hair, his fanboy, upbeat attitude, and his self-deprecating humor. Kami Garcia nails it, as always, and Gabriel Picolo does his favorite Teen Titan (read the author and illustrator notes at the beginning of the book) justice by capturing Beast Boy’s look and attitude perfectly. Another DC YA graphic novel hit.

 

 

 

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

DC Ink: Top name YA authors and reimagined origin stories. Sign me up!

DC Ink is a fairly new (little over a year) DC Comics imprint, dedicated to middle grade and YA original graphic novels. I only had a sneak peek at Harley Quinn’s upcoming book, Breaking Glass, and haven’t read Mera’s book, Tidebreaker yet, but I received ARCs for both Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, and Teen Titans: Raven, and had to dive in.

As with the YA novels in the DC Icons line, every book DC Ink is written by YA royalty, so you just know you’re getting good stuff before you even open the book. They’re illustrated by graphic novel rock stars, so¬† you’re going to get some phenomenal artwork. Put it all together, and you’ve got a can’t-miss group of graphic novels coming your way. Let’s check ’em out.

Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, by Lauren Myracle/Illustrated by Isaac Goodheart, (May 2019, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8591-3

Ages 13+

We all know Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, has a multitude of origin stories (the comics, Gotham, Batman Returns, The Dark Knight Rises), but it’s because she’s such a captivating character: authors want to tell ALL the stories, and we want to read them! Selina can be anyone, from anywhere; her fluidity makes her a longtime fan favorite, and in Lauren Myracle’s hands, we get an entirely new Selina: a 14-year-old, living with her mother and her revolving door of awful boyfriends. The current one, Dernell, has been around for a while, and seems to be the absolute worst. He’s verbally and physically abusive, and Selina’s mother won’t say a word against him. When he goes too far in “punishing” Selina one night, she has had enough: she runs away and lives on the streets, stealing what she needs to survive. And she finds that not only is she good at it, but she enjoys it. A group of homeless kids adopts Selina, despite her desire to be a loner; she’s drawn in by Rosie, a selectively mute young girl who bonds with Selina. But Rosie goes missing, and Selina finds herself in an awkward situation as she tries to track Rosie down and keep her safe.

Under the Moon is such a good origin story. The consistent thing about Selina is that she’s always capable, always collected, and always at odds with her desire to be a loner and her desire to help those less fortunate then she is. Her vulnerability is her heart, but you’ll never know it (unless you’re a third party reading her book, amirite?). Bruce Wayne is a supporting character here, and it’s fun to see him and his perfect hair in high school; it’s also nice to see he and Selina verbally spar even back in the day. There’s also an interesting murder mystery subplot, because it’s Gotham City.

The artwork is largely subdued purple-blue and white, with sound effects rendered in yellow for effect. The artwork makes excellent use of movement, perspective, and body language. Grab this one for your YA collections, but use caution if you’re thinking of handing it off to younger readers: there’s domestic violence and profanity in here, so much younger readers will be much better off with Superhero Girls trades.

Lauren Myracle is the author of the New York Times bestselling Internet Girls series, which includes ttyl and ttfn, all of which are written in textspeak. Isaac Goodhart is an illustrator whose graphic novel cred includes Postal and Love is Love. He also has an amazing sketch of Hawkeye and Kate Bishop on his Instagram.

 

Teen Titans: Raven, by Kami Garcia/Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, (July 2019, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8623-1

Ages 12+

Teen Titan’s Raven speaks to my wannabe goth girl soul. I love her on the original Teen Titans cartoon from the early 2000s, and I crack up watching her on Teen Titans GO! now. Who else could write this character but Kami “Beautiful Creatures” Garcia, who also speaks to my inner wannabe magic-using goth girl? Raven’s orphaned at age 17 when her foster mom is killed in a car accident. Raven moves in with her foster mom’s sister, who seems to know something about Raven that Raven either can’t remember or doesn’t know. She and her foster sister become fast friends, and a cute guy named Max is interested in her, so things should be settling down for Raven, but weird occurrences start happening. When Raven thinks something, it happens: a mean girl trips and falls, just as Raven wishes she would. She can hear what people are thinking. She’s having nightmares. A sprinkling of good, old school Nawlins voodoo and a Deathstroke appearance make Raven’s origin story A-plus reading.

The artwork is mainly black and white, with some color pages splashed here and there. Raven’s trademark purple and black hair shines off the page, and – Raven fans, are you ready? – she wears adorable narwhal pajama pants at one point. There are little DC winks and nudges throughout, including Raven holding a Wonder Woman doll as a child, and there are some amusing girl power-message tees.

Kami Garcia is a bestselling author and cofounder of YALLFest, the biggest teen book festival in the U.S. Gabriel Picolo is a comics artist who’s worked with Blizzard, BOOM! Studios, and DeviantArt.

Get the Raven book. Get all the DC Ink books. Your readers will be glad you did. And really, you should sit down and read through them, too.