A nuanced and skillfully composed snapshot of one woman’s postwar struggle to live

MWD

HELL IS COMING HOME

A gritty, hard-hitting, and honest portrayal of one young woman’s difficult journey to putting the pieces of her life back together after serving in the Iraq War.

More a crossover book for adults than one strictly for teens, this black-and-white graphic novel will slap some reality into readers who believe in the glamour of war. Liz, the white protagonist and a former military working dog handler, returns from Iraq after having her leg shattered, sustaining another injury that leaves a scar across most of her torso, and losing Ender, her German shepherd, to an IED. While the half-hearted welcome from the people in her Mayberry-like New Hampshire town makes her feel mildly appreciated, the fallout from PTSD, sexual violence she experienced while in the Army, blackout drunkenness, and an inability to trust anyone for any length of time leads to a downward spiral. Flashbacks accost her often, coming most predictably in vehicles, putting herself and others in danger. Only with the help of Jack, a Vietnam veteran, and Brutus, an aggressive stray dog she rescues from a roadside, does she begin to have hope. The story’s strong language, graphic depiction of war, and Liz’s unpredictable behavior make this an emotionally taxing read, but the ups and downs also effectively give readers a sense of Liz’s trauma.

A nuanced and skillfully composed snapshot of one woman’s postwar struggle to live . (Graphic novel. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5706-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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A strong beginning that will leave readers hungry for more.

KILLING NOVEMBER

Subterfuge is the name of the game at an elite and secretive prep school.

Seventeen-year-old Italian-American November was born in August. Though she tragically lost her mother at age 6, she has an enviable life in small-town Connecticut, a strong relationship with her dad, and a mentor in her Aunt Jo. That is until, due to a family emergency, her father sends her away to a covert boarding school. Instead of mathematics and literature, students at the Academy Absconditi learn how to wield weapons both physical and psychological, and history is taught so they might manipulate the future. Guileless November quickly allies herself with her studious Egyptian roommate, Layla, and Layla’s handsome brother, Ash. When a fellow student turns up dead, November must expose the truth, including her own connection to the victim and the influential Council of Families, while navigating a minefield of misinformation. The first-person narration is unreliable due to the protagonist’s ignorance of the society in which she moves, while surreptitious behavior by the supporting characters forces the reader to be as wary as November ought to be. Revelations are well-paced, though astute readers are apt to pick up several of the dropped clues (but some are dropped and not resolved). Red herrings or possible threads that will be woven into future plots? Anything is possible in this world of cloaks and daggers.

A strong beginning that will leave readers hungry for more. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-57908-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging

STALKING JACK THE RIPPER

Audrey Rose Wadsworth, 17, would rather perform autopsies in her uncle’s dark laboratory than find a suitable husband, as is the socially acceptable rite of passage for a young, white British lady in the late 1800s.

The story immediately brings Audrey into a fractious pairing with her uncle’s young assistant, Thomas Cresswell. The two engage in predictable rounds of “I’m smarter than you are” banter, while Audrey’s older brother, Nathaniel, taunts her for being a girl out of her place. Horrific murders of prostitutes whose identities point to associations with the Wadsworth estate prompt Audrey to start her own investigation, with Thomas as her sidekick. Audrey’s narration is both ponderous and polemical, as she sees her pursuit of her goals and this investigation as part of a crusade for women. She declares that the slain aren’t merely prostitutes but “daughters and wives and mothers,” but she’s also made it a point to deny any alignment with the profiled victims: “I am not going as a prostitute. I am simply blending in.” Audrey also expresses a narrow view of her desired gender role, asserting that “I was determined to be both pretty and fierce,” as if to say that physical beauty and liking “girly” things are integral to feminism. The graphic descriptions of mutilated women don’t do much to speed the pace.

Perhaps a more genuinely enlightened protagonist would have made this debut more engaging . (Historical thriller. 15-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-27349-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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