CHOPSTICKS

Eerie and edgy—and effective as Poe.

A provocative tale of forbidden love and madness.

In their first collaboration, the wildly inventive duo of Anthony (The Convalescent, 2009) and Corral, designer of varied and various bestselling book covers (Decoded, by Jay-Z; Classy, by Derek Blasberg, both 2010, etc.), presents a dark picture book for mature teens. The plot appears simple: Gloria “Glory” Fleming, a child prodigy on the piano, falls for Francisco “Frank” Mendoza, the boy next door. Glory’s overprotective father disapproves, causing both teens untold misery as Glory’s torn from Frank to tour Europe, and Frank eventually gets expelled from private school. But rippling beneath the surface of this star-crossed love story lurks an undercurrent of madness, as Glory starts infusing her performances of classic concerti with the basic “Chopsticks” theme and soon finds she can’t stop. That’s where the work’s literally graphic nature—oversized and teeming with photo collages of significant objects and moments—turns this familiar plot on its ear, forcing readers to infer reality from the often caption-less, seldom contextualized images. The result leaves readers wondering what really takes place—even if Frank ever existed—and, through its narrative reticence, speaks volumes to the ineffable nature of both mental illness and intimate relationships. (An interactive, multimedia electronic version is scheduled to release simultaneously.)

Eerie and edgy—and effective as Poe. (Graphic fiction. 15 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59514-435-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

BINDING 13

From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

YOUR FAULT

From the Culpable series , Vol. 2

Plenty of heat but not enough substance to keep the fire burning.

A romantically entangled stepbrother and stepsister in Los Angeles navigate their tumultuous history and take their relationship to new levels in this translated title by an Argentinian author.

Nick and Noah are madly in love: Their mutual attraction is established as the book opens with Noah’s 18th birthday party, during which she and Nick have an explicitly described sexual encounter behind the pool house. This fiery scene sets the stage for twists and turns in the lovers’ journey, including a separation when Noah is forced to go on a monthlong mother-daughter European tour. But reminders of their pasts (chronicled in the 2023 series opener, My Fault) threaten to undermine their stability. Nick’s wealthy estranged mother makes an unfortunate appearance, while Noah is haunted by the trauma of her father’s violent death. The blend of everyday complications (jealousy, parental disapproval) with frothy visions of high-society life is at once lacking in subtlety and intimately irresistible. The series initially gained popularity on Wattpad, and the novel follows the episodic structure typical of works on that site; sensual encounters occur at reliable intervals. Still, the characters and their milieu feel formulaic, and the writing is stilted. The differences between the two—Nick is five years older and has an office job; Noah has just finished high school—makes their suffocatingly possessive relationship feel particularly squirm-worthy. Nick and Noah and their families read white.

Plenty of heat but not enough substance to keep the fire burning. (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781728290768

Page Count: 450

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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