It’s a slog to the dubiously upbeat resolution (Niko realizing where salvation lies on the one hand and vowing a bullying...

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CYBER BULLY

From the Journal of a Schoolyard Bully series , Vol. 2

More unredeemed middle school monkeyshines and satire from the bully’s point of view in an occasionally humorous sequel.

Niko Kayler, fat, unhappy and addicted to causing pain and suffering wherever he goes, lasts only a day or two in his new Boulder school (the Organic School for Local Children) before he starts looking for a way to bully and not get caught. Refusing to take calming medication given him by his new psychiatrist—“I am not a Scientologist—I’m not necessarily against psychiatric medicine, but why alter what’s perfect?”—self-absorbed Niko nevertheless keeps a journal, as prescribed. He barters work at Radio Shack in exchange for cellphones (in a nod to Breaking Bad); he uses them to send terrorizing texts and then, well, as he is Niko, literally burns them. When he bumps up his game to Internet-based anonymous bullying, Niko’s shared discovery of techniques becomes a viral video recorded by Alex, his long-suffering sibling—once again heaping humiliation on Niko, hoist by his own petard. Katz’s manic narrative voice for Niko is mostly furious, arrogant and, yes, mildly funny, with occasional glimpses of the sad boy beneath it all, while the many line drawings accompanying his journal look authentically adolescent.

It’s a slog to the dubiously upbeat resolution (Niko realizing where salvation lies on the one hand and vowing a bullying comeback on the other), but that could be because, like Niko, his journal isn’t sure just what it wants to be. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-60658-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Lacking in character development and depth.

THE RED ZONE

AN EARTHQUAKE STORY

When people in a small Italian town lose everything in an earthquake, its youth must find a way to heal.

The 2016 earthquake in central Italy offers a backdrop for this graphic novel. Matteo; his girlfriend, Giulia; and their school friends are frightened: Their world has been destroyed, and they feel aftershocks daily. Many of their neighbors have moved away, but Matteo’s mother and stepfather work in the village, and they must stay. Matteo is luckier than most—his father brings them an old camper trailer so they can leave emergency housing. But tensions run high for others, and problems began to arise. Matteo’s friend seeks his lost dog in the forbidden zone. His little sister has trouble sleeping, and someone at their school commits vandalism. Matteo and Giulia set off to find the culprit and help a friend in need, leaning on an art teacher who teaches them an important lesson from Japan. Unfortunately the language feels stiff, and the friendships at the heart of the story are too generic. Readers learn little about these characters before the earthquake, and they fail to emerge as individuals afterward. The simple frames, awash in blue for nighttime scenes and shades of ocher for day, feel static for such an energetic premise. Most characters appear white; there is a Muslim refugee family; and Giulia is brown skinned.

Lacking in character development and depth. (author’s note) (Graphic novel. 12-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3368-0

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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I DATE DEAD PEOPLE

From the My Boyfriend Is a Monster series , Vol. 5

“I’ll never find a Mr. Darcy or a Heathcliff in this world,” moans Nora. Maybe not in this world.

Featuring a new family and an old house with a veritable platoon of supernatural residents, this latest entry in the tongue-in-cheek My Boyfriend is a Monster series hooks up a modern teenager and hunky, long-dead Thomas, who, it turns out, can manifest strongly enough to lock hands and lips. That’s the good news. Not so good: Two malicious poltergeists, a spectral moaner and a dark entity that can suck up both ghostly and living bodies, threaten to drive Nora and her family away entirely unless she can find a way to exorcise the lot. Except that the characters all sport oversized manga-esque eyes, the easy-to-follow black-and-white panels are drawn with a loose, expressive realism that effectively captures the plot’s droll and eerie turns. In the end, with a psychic’s help Nora does the deed even though it means Thomas’ departure, too—leaving her free for a budding new relationship with a (breathing) schoolmate. Any resemblances to Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze are surely coincidental. (Graphic paranormal romance. 12-14)

 

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7613-8549-3

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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