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TOPSIDE

Immersive, mysterious, and just the right amount of trippy.

When a small mistake quickly snowballs, a young girl of color braves the strange surface of her planet to prove she can set things right.

In a crumbling subterranean society like the Interior, repair technicians are essential, and Jo Wilson is one of the best. Skilled, vigilant, and committed to doing her job well and without help, Jo wants nothing more than to demonstrate her competence and expand her opportunities to fix what is broken. So when a minor mistake turns into a major problem, Jo is determined to rectify the situation on her own (and ideally before any Interior agents take notice) by traveling to the planet’s ungoverned surface. But with forged papers, a clandestine mission, a con artist guide, and bounty hunters in pursuit, trouble is inevitable. Monk (editor: Enough Space for Everyone Else, 2016) has crafted a work that demonstrates the dynamic narrative balance so distinctive of science fiction in which a technology- and action-heavy plot is driven by thoughtful character motivations. Bogosian’s (Kringlewart and the Crookedest Christmas Tree, 2016) art follows through with visual depth for a planetary setting that literally comes alive and a refreshingly gender-expansive and racially diverse cast. Some readers may be a bit disappointed with a conclusion that falls short in narrative complexity, but the likelihood of sequels for further exploration is an effective balm.

Immersive, mysterious, and just the right amount of trippy. (Graphic science fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5124-4589-3

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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MALL GOTH

A thoughtful, relationship-driven story.

A high school girl is unhappy about starting over in a new town and school, but she finds solace at the local mall.

It’s 2003, and 15-year-old, proudly out bisexual Liv Holme is struggling after her family’s move. Navigating high school is hard enough, especially since being bullied at her old school after the other girls found out about her crush on Angelina Jolie has left Liv feeling defensive. On top of that, her parents’ marriage is in trouble, and her father is gone a lot. But Liv enjoys hanging out at the mall where her mother works and where she meets some fellow goths who go to her school. Poetry lover Liv also receives attention and support from Mr. Trent, her English teacher: He goes out of his way to compliment her, gives her a copy of Lolita, and chats with her online outside of school hours. Over time, Mr. Trent’s behavior makes Liv increasingly uncomfortable, and she struggles with intense feelings she doesn’t know how to handle. Liv’s emotional struggles, vividly shown in the expressive art, will feel relatable to many readers. Leth’s clean, uncluttered illustrations expertly transport readers back to early 2000s suburbia through details such as technology, fashion, pop-culture references, and mall storefronts. Sousa’s muted color palette adds to the feeling of nostalgia. Liv and most other characters read white.

A thoughtful, relationship-driven story. (Graphic fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781534476950

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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DISPLACEMENT

A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery.

Time travel brings a girl closer to someone she’s never known.

Sixteen-year-old Kiku, who is Japanese and white, only knows bits and pieces of her family history. While on a trip with her mother to San Francisco from their Seattle home, they search for her grandmother’s childhood home. While waiting for her mother, who goes inside to explore the mall now standing there, a mysterious fog envelops Kiku and displaces her to a theater in the past where a girl is playing the violin. The gifted musician is Ernestina Teranishi, who Kiku later confirms is her late grandmother. To Kiku’s dismay, the fog continues to transport her, eventually dropping her down next door to Ernestina’s family in a World War II Japanese American internment camp. The clean illustrations in soothing browns and blues convey the characters’ intense emotions. Hughes takes inspiration from her own family’s story, deftly balancing complicated national history with explorations of cultural dislocation and biracial identity. As Kiku processes her experiences, Hughes draws parallels to President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and the incarceration of migrant children. The emotional connection between Kiku and her grandmother is underdeveloped; despite their being neighbors, Ernestina appears briefly and feels elusive to both Kiku and readers up to the very end. Despite some loose ends, readers will gain insights to the Japanese American incarceration and feel called to activism.

A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery. (photographs, author’s note, glossary, further reading) (Graphic historical fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-19353-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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