Lumberjanes Series Overview

lumberjanesA summer camp for “hard-core lady types”, filled with bear-women, dinosaurs, alternate time dimensions, and a whole lot more crazy supernatural stuff, is the setting of Lumberjanes. Lumberjanes is a graphic novel series created by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen. Lumberjanes is chaotic and full of the unexpected, and it’s great. It follows five best friends, April, Molly, Mal, Jo, and Ripley, during their time at summer camp, which is way more magical (literally) then they ever could have expected. And for the most part, they just roll with it, which makes for some great adventures.

The characters, both main and supporting, are diverse and well rounded. There is a lot of representation going on in these comics, which is great, especially for an all ages comic. One area of representation that I was very pleased to see was LGBT+ because it’s largely absent from most all ages/kids media.

The supernatural aspect of the story is really enjoyable. It’s a bit random and not always super explained, but it’s always really fun and just seems to work. You never know what kind of supernatural antics will occur, but whatever they are, you know they will be enjoyable, even if they don’t totally make sense.

One thing that I think is a really nice touch is the way they work the Lumberjanes earning badges into the story. For each story arc (which lasts a few comics each), there is a page at the begging detailing a badge they are working on. The story somehow ties into that. It’s an interesting take on the idea of scouts earning badges because with the Lumberjanes, the requirements for getting a badge are never as straight forward as it seems.

Being a comic series, the art is an important aspect. And honestly, I have mixed feelings about this. Their isn’t a constant artist/style for the series, and while I’ve never read an issue where the art was bad, there have been some that just didn’t feel like Lumberjanes to me. Sometimes the art is fairly realistic, sometimes it’s more stylized, so it’s really a matter of personal preference whether or not  you like the art in a specific issue. Overall though even when I’m not  a fan of the art I still love reading the comics because the story and the characters are always great.

Lumberjanes has been around for a little while now, there are currently 33 issues of the main series comic, with the 34th being released later this month, as well as a spin off series and some one-offs. This may be a bit overwhelming for some new readers, but as far as comics go it’s not really all that much, plus it would be pretty great to be able to read that many back to back without having to wait.

Overall Lumberjanes is a really fun read that’s doing some great things in terms of representation and overall is something I highly recommend.

-Angela J.

Comic Review: Orphan Black: Helsinki

orphanblack_helsinkiI’ve got to say, I really liked this. I read the first round of the Orphan Black comics, and while I enjoyed them, I wasn’t all that impressed as they were basically just retelling of the show. Not so here. Helsinki introduces new plot material and serves as a prequel both for the comics and the show.

There are several new clones introduced in this, it has a similar vibe to the show where they are all meeting for the first time in that regard. There are also some familiar characters that make appearances here. The story-line is great at make the reader feel connected to the new characters, and also adds to the existing characters. Being that this is basically a prequel it takes place back in 2001, when the clones are 17. Seeing this past perceptive is really great with the know characters, as it reveals more about how they got to be who they are and elaborates more on what was shown of their past in the show and original comics.

I really liked the pacing of the story, it keep things moving with lot of action, but still made sure to keep an emotional tie to the characters. Not really any bomb dropping new information was revealed in this, but rather it gave more context to the already existing plot line. My one minor grip is that is jumps around a little showing the range of characters, and while it works, it took a little getting used to (but not too much).

Finally given that this is a comic, this review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the art. I really enjoyed looking at it, it wasn’t the most breathtaking I have ever seen, but this wasn’t due to lack of skill, just personal preference. The art is closer to traditional comic book graphics than some of the modern day computer generated 3Dish stuff that appears in some comics. The artist did a good job of visually distinguishing the clones while still making them look the same. My only real complaint with the art was that in this bound edition each issue runs into the next one with a cover breaking them up, and I always love looking at the covers.

Overall a very fun read that should be appealing to fans of both the show and the other comics. I would recommend these for older teens as their are a view brief scenes involving partial nudity, including some sex scenes (though nothing graphic, more implied than shown), as well as some violence.

*This bound edition will be out in July 2016, but the single issues are already available for purchase.

*The review is based on a free ARC copy of this book from NetGalley, given in exchange for an honest review

Made For You by Melissa Marr

madeforyou_melissamarrMade For You is a book that grabbed my attention right away and didn’t let it go until the end. It wasn’t necessarily the best book I’ve ever read, but it one was of the better ones in a while. This being said I really don’t know how to describe it. Its components are similar to a lot of teen books; romance with a hint of mystery. The thing that really garbed my attention though, was the darker nature of the plot. At the end of the second chapter the main character, Eva, has already had an attempt made on her life by someone know only as Judge. It was this chapter that really made me want to continue reading, his motivation for the murder attempt is what I found really intriguing, in fact his thoughts throughout the book were what I found most inserting. In my opinion Judge is easily the stronger character in the book, and my personal favorite, not because I was rooting for him to succeed but because I thought he was extremely well written and one of the more interesting characters out of a lot of books I’ve read.

But enough about Judge for now, it’s what happens after Eva walks up from his murder attempt that things start to get weird. Eva wakes in the hospital with the ability to see people’s death’s when the touch her. It is because I of this plot point that I have a hard time describing this book. This power, if you want to call it that, is very interesting and a driving force behind the plot. I thought it was very well thought out with limitations and other flaws that made it more believable. Except for one thing, we never really find out were the power came from. We find out it’s flaws and how it works, but not once is the source of the power mentioned.. As much as I loved this book, and I really did, this was a huge problem for me. I loved the story, and as mentioned early Judge’s character was very interesting, but I really feel like this was an attempt to add fantasy twist to what was other wise a book that bordered on realistic fiction that fell a little short of the goal. Honesty for a while I thought that maybe the whole thing was just in Eva’s head, or that maybe the hit and run had activated some kind of dormant magical ability, but at the end of the book I still didn’t have an answer.

Now this doesn’t mean that Made For You isn’t worth the read, I really think it is, I just think it has some flaws that should have been addressed. As a whole though the plot is very interesting, the characters and unique and three-dimensional with interesting motivates driving their actions, and a very interesting reveal at the end of the book pertaining to Judge’s identity, all of which make this a very solid read. One thing to keep in mind is since one of the driving points of the plot is an attempted murder their is some violence that may make younger readers uncomfortable, but high-school aged readers (and mature middle-school readers) probably won’t have a problem with it, as their are only a few short scenes. If you are looking for something that isn’t quite like anything else then I highly recommend giving Made For You a read.

Made For You is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library.

Book Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes, by Jasmine Warga

my_heart_black_holesMy Heart and Other Black Holes follows the journey of 16-year old Aysel as she plots her own death over the course of several weeks. Aysel is determined to die, she’s more afraid of what will happen if she lives than of the certainty of death, and she only has one thing holding her back. Aysel is worried that she might not have the courage to end her life by herself. She finds her solution on a website called Smooth Passages in the form of a boy name FrozenRobot (also known as Roman). Roman has his own baggage and his own reasons for wanting to die, but they both want the same thing in the end, to end their lives.

Over the course of several weeks the pair spends more and more time plotting their way out. As their plan becomes more concrete, it also starts to become more uncertain if it will reach fruition because Aysel starts to question everything about her future plans. Throughout the course of the book, Aysel and Roman go through a lot of character development that makes them very believable characters and makes for a very good read. The thing that really makes this book stand out though, is that it deals with suicide and depression in a very realistic and raw way; it doesn’t romanticize these feelings, but it doesn’t discount them either. Given that this is a YA novel, I think that this is a very important thing.

The way the plot develops is also nicely done, from the onset of the book we know that Aysel and Roman both want to die, but we don’t full know why, but as the plot moves forward we get bits and pieces until we can see the full story. Neither Roman nor Aysel know the full reason behind the other’s desire to die at the begging so both the read and the characters get this information together and it really draws you into the story. Roman and Aysel’s interactions with their family members is also very well done and interesting to watch develop and change. Roman’s mom and Aysel’s brother were my two favorite family members and I really enjoyed seeing how their actions influenced Roman and Aysel.

As a whole My Heart and Other Black Holes is a very powerful book that has a lot of emotion behind it and dose a wonderful job dealing with suicide and depression. The book ends on a hopeful note and is great read for anyone high school and up.

-Angela J.

Book Review: Positive, by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin

positivePositive is a memoir by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin that tells the story of Paige’s life growing up being HIV positive since birth.

Positive was a unique book choice for me as I typically do not read memoirs; in fact, I usually avoid them like the plague. My problem with  memoirs is that they are often written by people that while they have experienced something unique in their life are just ordinary people, not writers. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the stories told in memoirs, I do, it’s that too often they feel like assigned reading that I just can’t get through to matter how much I may want to.

I had this problem with I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, it wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate her story, it was just clearly not written by a writer, and I just couldn’t get through it, despite the captivating story. Still even with my past difficulties getting through these types of book something about Paige’s story interested me enough to give it a go, and I am so glad that I did.

Book Review: Rumble, by Ellen Hopkins

rumbleRumble is the latest novel by Ellen Hopkins, who is personally one of my favorite authors.

Like all of her books, the story is told through a series of free verse poems. The story is told from the first person point of view of Matthew Tuner, a teenage atheist whose life is in shambles in the wake of his younger brother, Luke’s suicide. Rumble‘s main topic is about religion and faith, or lack thereof, but it also covers other issues such as, bullying, suicide and the effects that it has on those left behind, book banning, and issues relating to the LGBT community, and even touches a bit of PTSD.

Like all Ellen Hopkins books, this book comes with a message and to convey it there may be some content that some readers may be uncomfortable with. The recommended age as provided by the publisher is 14 and up (9th grade and beyond); however, I personally think that mature middle schoolers may be able to handle it.

As for the story itself, it follows the life of Matthew Tuner, Matt, in the months after his brother’s suicide. Not all of the information is given at the start, we almost right from the start know that Matt is an atheist, despite dating a girl who is extremely devoted to her faith, and that his younger brother, Luke, was driven to commit suicide due to undying bullying and harassment he faced. The reader is not given the exact reason for the bullying right off, but hints are given. Fairly early into the book the reader is given the reason, and I apologize in advance if anyone views this as a spoiler- Luke was gay.

Throughout the first half of the book, parts of an essay that Matt wrote are included throughout poems; the essay is his feelings about God and why he doesn’t believe there is anything after death. It is clear that he can’t understand how there could be a God (especially because of the view that God is a source of undying love) when his brother was bullied simply for being who he was by Christians, in the name of their God. A large portion of the storyline deals with Matt coping with the loss of his brother and exploring his lack of faith, but there are other parts of his life covered as well.

Other than the fallout of losing Luke, Matt also deals with his relationship with his girlfriend Haydan, his undetermined relationship with his friend Alexa, and his mother and father’s struggling relationship, as well as other issues. The relationship between Matt and Haydan was quite interesting to me. I had never really thought that two people who varied that drastically in their religious views could even have a shot at a relationship, and though I won’t say whether or not they stay together in the end, their relationship certainly made me look at this differently.

What really impressed me about this book was the sheer number of topics that are touched on and the depth with which they’re handled. I thought this would be mainly a novel about religion versus lack of religon and about trying to find forgiveness and a way to move on in the wake of a family tragedy. While it certainly was this, it was so much more as well.

Rumble did a very good job covering topics such as bullying, suicide and the effects that it has on those left behind, book banning, and issues relating to the LGBT community, and even touches a bit of PDST. The story did a very good job conveying Luke’s story– how he faced bullying just for being who he was, and why he felt suicide was the only option. Matt’s feelings about how he could have stopped Luke’s decision, and even how he may have played a part it in, are conveyed very well. Rumble also briefly explores PTSD, and while this was a brief plot point, it was an important one and well done.

What topic that really stood out to me was how the book brought up book banning. In it there was a motion to remove The Perks of Being a Wallflower from the school district. There were a lot of interesting arguments for both sides explored in Rumble, but what really made an impression on me was when Matt expressed the opinion that people needed books like Perks not just to speak for them, but also to speak to them. I feel like Rumble is a book that does both of these beautifully, for people on both sides of the issues covered.

Rumble is a brilliantly written book that was more amazing that I could have ever dreamed of. It did a stunning job of covering a vast array of subject matter, and ultimately conveying a message of forgiveness.

-Angela J.

Being a Member of the MVL Teen Voice Blog

138288303Roughly a year ago, I was in the Mission Viejo Library, browsing through the new books in the teen section when I saw a flyer advertising a new program at the library– and that program was this blog. I remember grabbing the flyer and thinking what an amazing idea it seemed like, but not being sure if I would be able to take part in it. I thought that it might be too techy for me, so I put aside the flyer for a about a month and forgetting about it for a while. I don’t quit remember what piqued my interest in it again, but eventually I sent an e-mail to find out more information. I was so excited when I got a reply and discovered that I would be able to take part in this amazing opportunity.

My first post was an “Authors We Love” post highlighting the works of Ellen Hopkins. In fact my first three posts were related to her. Since that first post I feel like I have grown a lot as a writer and branched out a lot more. Writing for this blog has helped me look at books differently. I have always been an avid reader and I have always have a strong opinion of what I would read, but I never really tried to express that opinion while still trying to remain at least a little unbiased.

Thinking of a topic idea is one of my favorite parts of getting to do this. Sometimes it will take me several weeks to think of something, and sometimes it comes easier. Regardless of how long it takes for the idea to come, once I get one it’s an amazing feeling. I tend to write more  “Authors We Love,” opinion, or essay type pieces than book reviews so usually I’ll think of a broad topic and think to myself “I can’t wait to start researching this” or “Now I have a great excuse to re-read all of these books.”

Writing, of course, is a big part of being a member of the Teen Blog Team, and I love it. It’s really amazing to be able to type something up that exposes someone to new books, new authors, new ideas, and maybe something that gives someone more information about a book/author/idea if they already have some information about it. While I don’t tend to write many book review pieces, I enjoy writing those because it is a fun challenge to review a book without just summarizing plot points. I really love doing “Authors We Love” posts and other types of pieces where I can include lists. I love being able to take a  topic and point out all of the great points of it and then also point out then not-so-great points but still be able to end on a positive note.

What I have gotten from this experience is just an all-around wonderful experience. I have had a great chance to improve my writing, to write for an audience, and to get feedback on some of my pieces. I have also been made more aware of events going on at the library and have attended a lot that I normally would not have really paid any attention to. I have also gotten to read all of the wonderful posts on this blog; the overall talent of this group never ceases to amaze me.

As a whole, I am extremely glad that I took that first step of sending an e-mail last year. I hope that my posts have introduced people to new books, new authors, and new information, and an enjoyable reading experience. I am looking forward to what the future holds.

-Angela J., 12th grade