What if you woke up one day and no one recognized who you were? What would you do? Would you think it’s a practical joke? Would you think something was seriously wrong?
What if you had lived your whole life hiding from memories of your past; terrible, horrible memories that you’d blocked from your mind? What if you had secrets you wanted no one else to know, be they good or bad?
What if all of a sudden someone else knew all your secrets, all your previous actions, and thought those memories were actually theirs? What would you do?
All of the above scenarios happen in Mike Carey’s graphic novel, Faker. In Faker, readers follow the lives of five college students: Yvonne, Marky, Sack, Jessie, and Nick. Jessie shows up a few days before the semester begins to meet with teachers and get everything sorted before the semester begins. After all of her friends show up and the house has been reunited, they decide to head out and party. Yvonne, Marky, Sack, and Jessie end up drinking in one of the science labs in the college with Marky mixing up drinks for them. Soon they all end up violently ill, throwing up everywhere, and passing out until morning when Nick finds them all incoherent on the floor. Thinking they are just hung over, all four go on with their lives.
Things quickly start to escalate out of control when people start not to recognize Nick. People that knew Nick from last year, people he worked with, people he even hooked up with have no clue who he is. Nick also seems to have access to memories that aren’t actually his. Everyone in the group starts throwing around ideas about what could actually be wrong with Nick, while some decide to do their own investigations. This graphic novel is a psychological horror story involving memory drugs, pharmaceutical labs, government conspiracies, and the strength of friendship as all hell breaks loose when no one knows what the truth really is. The beginning of Faker had a bit of a slow start for me, but toward the middle and definitely at the end, I was thoroughly hooked in the story and the conspiracy that was threaded through everything.
This is a superhero comic book, but not your typical one. While there is a significant amount of crime fighting and struggling with inner demons, writer Brennan Lee Mulligan and artist Molly Ostertag have incorporated necessary humanity into the lives of their superheroes and villains, allowing readers to become more attached to their daily lives outside of being more than normal.
Strong Female Protagonist dives into the life of Alison Green. Alison used to be an active superhero. When she was younger, it was discovered that she was one of many teenagers who had “biodynamic anomalies,” in essence they were different than normal people. These anomalies allowed her to become Mega Girl, her superhero alter ego with super strength and invulnerability to injury, heat, cold, and many other things. Alison and other heroes went about life fighting crime on a day-to-day basis until she had an interaction with her nemesis, the villain Menace, who has the ability to read minds. This encounter forces Alison to take a close look at her life fighting crime and decide whether or not she wants to continue being Mega Girl. Flash forward and now Alison is going to college and trying to balance her superhero side with the normalcies of college life. She still wants to save the world, but does not necessarily want to be forced to do so while hiding behind a mask. She shouldn’t need a mask to be a hero. After all, everyone has different opinions on what really constitutes being a hero.
While this book follows a fairly straight storyline, there are some flashbacks, as well as a running commentary at the bottom of each page that allows readers to break away from the seriousness of the comic to revel in the writer’s witty commentary. I felt like those sentences added to the events happening within the book and even allowed me to garner a little insight into the writing and artistic processes that went into creating this book. Check this out if you want a break from the traditional superhero graphic novel, but still want to see some battles alongside a “normal” life.
In 2011, DC relaunched their comic lines as the “New 52” after the “Flashpoint incident” when the Flash went back in time to try to alter the events of the present. This changed the storylines of other DC characters, resulting in DC discontinuing some titles, starting new ones, starting the old series over at #1, but also keeping the continuity of some of the more popular series. All in all, DC debuted 52 new titles, hence the name: the “New 52”. (A lot of other things have changed with DC since the New 52 was released, but that’s for another day and another blog post..)
Batgirl was one of these reboots. Before the Flashpoint event, Barbara Gordon, the original Batgirl, had been shot and paralyzed by the Joker as revenge against Batman. She goes on to be the Oracle, becoming the information access queen for the entire DC superhero community, and further joins forces with the Huntress and Dinah to become the Birds of Prey. The important thing to remember about pre-New 52 Batgirl is that she remains paralyzed.
In Batgirl: Volume 1: Batgirl of Burnside, Barbara is no longer paralyzed. She has moved to Burnside, considered the trendiest neighborhood in Gotham City, to go to college and work on the algorithm she designed after she was horribly injured. Right after she moves in, her friend Dinah, aka the Black Canary, comes and lives with her after a fire destroys all of her belongings, PLUS all of Barbara’s Batgirl gear. This gives Barbara the opportunity to reinvent her costume, but also forces her to get creative to find new weapons sources.
What really hooked me into this graphic novel is that the content and the art style are made to hook into a newer generation. Barbara lives in the hip neighborhood, is going to college, has friends that are working with new computer tech, and is able to attend a wide variety of new concerts and events. Barbara and her friends are all over social media and the majority of the characters in this book are either all in college or in that young up-start community. With hashtags galore and an imposter Batgirl popping up all over various social media platforms, Barbara is forced to “re-brand” the Batgirl image in order to prove that Batgirl is not a nuisance, while also struggling to figure out where the lines are between what she should do as a super hero and what she should let the police handle. Barbara clearly struggles with a lot of the issues that young adults face when they are going away to college and the fact that she is a superhero doesn’t detract from her problems, it instead adds a necessary level of perspective and understanding that people of all ages can benefit from.
I’m pretty sure that if a cute stranger offered to take me to a romantic European city for the day, I would probably say “No, but thank you. I’m just too awkward for that.” And I wouldn’t even fret about possibly missing out on an experience of a lifetime because, luckily, there are plenty of young adult romances that can satisfy my “but what would have happened?!” curiosity. Just One Day by Gayle Forman (and its companion book, Just One Year) is the perfect choice for armchair travel because the heroine just happens to be quite introverted herself, and thus, very relatable to us classic Librarian-types 😉
Just One Day begins with sensible, quiet Allyson feeling ready for her graduation trip around Europe with a teen tour group to be over so she can go home to the States. Yeah, that whining-about-being-in-Europe part isn’t that relatable to me, but granted her best friend has gotten a little bit wild/annoying, and the tour skipped over Paris–the one city Allyson wanted to see on the tour. But then she runs into a cute street actor who had flirted with her during his performance the night before…AND HE OFFERS TO TAKE HER TO PARIS! YES! YES! YES! So Allyson tells him her name is Lulu and hops on the train to Paris with him (and then promptly has several panic attacks on the train about him leaving her, killing her, making a fool of her, etc–this is actually the moment where I went from liking the book to LOVING the book). Lulu/Allyson and Willem spend an amazing day running around Paris and then live happily ever after. Swooooooon.
Well, until the next morning when Allyson wakes up alone in an empty Paris art studio.
With lots of tears and panic, Allyson finds her way back to London and her tour group and then back home to the United States. We then follow her through her first year of college as she learns to overcome her broken heart and embarrassment. After a long self-inflicted isolation, new friends help Allyson discover that she needs to revisit Paris and find Willem–partly because she believes that there is a mystery surrounding the morning Willem left her and partly because she needs to prove to herself that she is in control of her life.
Sorry, I can’t tell you if she finds Willem…BUT I will tell you that the companion book Just One Year tells the story of what happened to Willem during his year apart from Lulu. He does quite a bit more traveling…that is all I will say.
These two books are a must read for fans of Stephanie Perkins, John Green and Maureen Johnson and anyone else who likes a little independence and a little travel with their romances.
The Art of Fielding follows the tale of Henry Skrimshander, a naturally gifted shortstop, blessed with a powerful throw, catlike reflexes, and an almost supernatural gift for seeing the ball’s path as it comes off the bat. But when his can’t-miss aim misses, breaking the cheekbone of a teammate, Henry’s life – and the lives of his teammates and friends at Westish College – is thrown into chaos.
This novel has generated a lot of buzz and was mentioned on a lot of ‘best-of 2011’ lists. The hype, for the most part, is justified. Multidimensional characters and a lot of pretty language are the strong points; baseball may be boring, but Harbach’s sentences describing it are not. The weaknesses (occasional point of view problems, a plot that requires some definite leaps of faith, and just tons of baseball) are minor. The best thing about it may be the setting: Westish College, a fictional Wisconsin liberal arts school, feels very like Augustana (my alma mater), and a campus novel is always a treat.*
Westish and its people share a near-obsessive devotion to Herman Melville, who (in the fictional universe of this novel) visited the school late in his life and gave a speech. That visit turns Westish into an unlikely center of Melville scholarship, and an adoptee of a new mascot – The Harpooner – in honor of the author. If you’re a fan of Herman Melville and Moby-Dick, you’re going to love the packed house of literary allusions: if not, rest easy. Luckily for most of us, you don’t need to be a Melville scholar (or a baseball fanatic) to enjoy this novel.
*If, like me, you enjoy reading about campus life, by all means check out the novels of David Lodge, especially Small World. Jane Smiley’s Moo and Richard Russo’s Straight Man are also excellent choices.
Size 12 is Not Fat and Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot, are the first two books featuring former teen queen and singing sensation Heather Wells. Through an unfortunate series of events, Heather’s days of singing in shopping malls have come to a halt. Her bad luck includes a mother who ran off with her entire fortune to Argentina and her father who currently resides in prison. To get back on her feet she takes a job at the fictional New York College as the resident assistant in Fisher Hall, which is also known as “Death Dorm.” In each of these mysteries, Heather plays an amateur sleuth and assistant to her landlord who, conveniently, is a private investigator and the two team up to solve the crimes that take place in Fisher Hall.
Whether she is trying to find out if her female residents are truly elevator surfing (or being thrown to their deaths) or attempting to seek out the wealthy New York College students who killed the star cheerleader for knowing too much, Heather Wells is a likeable character whose escapades will keep you laughing and guessing. The third book featuring Heather Wells, Big Boned, completes this series. Meg Cabot’s mysteries are full of humor, mayhem, murder and a little romance too.