3 New Graphic Novels: Mini Book Reviews

Posted October 23, 2017 by shooting in Book Review / 22 Comments

Going Into Town by Roz Chast

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): A native Brooklynite-turned-suburban commuter deemed the quintessential New Yorker, Roz Chast has always been intensely alive to the glorious spectacle that is Manhattan–the daily clash of sidewalk racers and dawdlers; the fascinating range of dress codes; and the priceless, nutty outbursts of souls from all walks of life.

For Chast, adjusting to life outside the city was surreal–(you can own trees!? you have to drive!?)–but she recognized that the reverse was true for her kids. On trips into town, they would marvel at the strange visual world of Manhattan–its blackened sidewalk gum-wads, “those West Side Story-things” (fire escapes)–and its crazily honeycombed systems and grids.

Review: I’ve never read anything by Roz Chast before, though I’ve been curious about her graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? for a while now. As someone who has visited New York a few times, but has never lived there, I was curious to check out this memoir where Chast shows her love for Manhattan in a variety of comics. I will admit that this wasn’t my most favorite. I didn’t find most of what was included all that entertaining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see how much love Chast has for this city and all its people, places, and things. I really appreciated the sections where she broke down various places to visit in Manhattan – various museums and even Central Park and all that it has to offer. This might be a good book for those who have never been to New York City and would like a bit of an insider’s guide. It’s not bad, but it just didn’t capture my interest as much as I’d hoped!

Head Games: The Graphic Novel by Craig McDonald (Author) and Kevin Singles (Illustrator)

Review by Lauren

Source: copy for review; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): In this graphic novel adaptation of the Edgar-nominated novel Head Games, Craig McDonald blends history and legend to tell the tale of the classic hard-drinking, hard-living, and hard-boiled protagonist. Artist Kevin Singles brings this noir thriller to life with a style reminiscent of the golden age of dime-store paperbacks.

It’s 1957, and aging novelist Hector Lassiter thought that his adventures were long behind him. But then he receives a treasure worth killing for: the skull of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.

With his partners in crime, brooding poet Bud Fiske and hard-as-nails beauty Alicia Vicente, Hector must make a mad dash across the American southwest. If the trio can survive long enough to sell the skull to the highest bidder, they’ll score big. But in the meantime, Hector must dodge bullets from deranged fraternity members, aging soldiers of fortune, vicious warlords, and crooked feds.

Review: This graphic novel had an intriguing premise, and there is plenty of action and danger to keep you flipping the pages. However, I did find it a bit hard to follow at times. This book is based on a novel by Craig McDonald – also called Head Games – so turning a novel into a graphic novel could explain why parts of it were a bit confusing for me, as I’d never read Head Games or any other book featuring Hector Lassiter.

This definitely feels like one of those noir films though, and I appreciated that! There are even some moments with Ernest Hemingway, who was a friend of Lassiter – both of them being authors. One of my favorite characters was Bud Fiske; he just seemed like a really genuine guy and I kind loved that he was a poet, not that any of his poetry is ever featured.

Definitely an intriguing one, though not my favorite.

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The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

Review by Lauren

Source: copy from ALA17; all opinions are my own

Official Summary (add on Goodreads): In thirteen-year-old Aster’s family, all the girls are raised to be witches, while boys grow up to be shapeshifters. Anyone who dares cross those lines is exiled. Unfortunately for Aster, he still hasn’t shifted . . . and he’s still fascinated by witchery, no matter how forbidden it might be.

When a mysterious danger threatens the other boys, Aster knows he can help — as a witch. It will take the encouragement of a new friend, the non-magical and non-conforming Charlie, to convince Aster to try practicing his skills. And it will require even more courage to save his family . . . and be truly himself.

Review: The final version of this book will be in all color, but since I was reading an ARC, I only got the very beginning in color and the rest in black and white. I’m glad I was able to see what it will all look like though, because I think the color looks great and will definitely make this an enjoyable MG graphic novel.

Apart from the illustrations though, this is a great story! In Aster’s family, the boys are shapeshifters and the girls are witches, but Aster hasn’t shifted yet and he knows he can do magic – and wants to do magic. Everyone keeps pushing him towards the rest of the boys, but he’s desperate for his family to realize that he’s meant to be a witch. I really liked how the author flipped gender norms in this book. It shows girls and boys that it’s okay to like things that aren’t representative of their gender. Just because the opposite gender might do it more doesn’t mean it’s something they shouldn’t do.

I loved Aster as a character! I also really enjoyed his new friend, Charlie, who has no magic at all. She sees Aster using a spell one day though and he fills her in on what he can do. After that, the two become good friends and she’s someone who really pushes Aster to be true to himself. Plus, Charlie doesn’t give in to societal norms either. She loves basketball but her school is now separating the co-ed teams and there aren’t enough girls to play with. She has softball, but she doesn’t like being excluded from the guy’s team.

A fun, mysterious novel sure to please both guys and girls!

22 responses to “3 New Graphic Novels: Mini Book Reviews

  1. Jen

    I like the sound of that third one too. I am glad you found it well done and interesting 🙂 We just read a Black Widow GN this weekend. Pretty cool!

  2. The Witch Boy sounds like a great story 🙂 I haven’t read a graphic novel for an age but have a whole heap on my shelves (collecting dust for the moment, I need to fix that!)

    I like the sound of Head Games too. It seems like a lot of novels get turned into graphic novels these days (or maybe it’s just authors I’ve read hmmm).

  3. The Witch Boy sounds intriguing and I’ll say as someone who has never been to New York the first one kind of has my interest piqued a bit too!

  4. Thanks for sharing! I don’t remember the last time I read a graphic novel (uhm, way too long!) and these sound interesting. I always love to see the city personified so the first one is a bit intriguing to me, as is the last on your list. Thanks for sharing!!

  5. I don’t read too many graphic novels but I have to admit that The Witch Boy sounds pretty intriguing. Bummer that the New York one wasn’t better. I love New York so I was excited when I first read the title of that book.

  6. Too bad the first two books didn’t knock your socks off. The first one sounds great if you want a travel guide to New York. Glad to hear you really enjoyed The Witch Boy. Sounds like a fun sort of read perfect or this time of year. Great review, Lauren! 🙂

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