Puts the dark in comedy and sheds some light on an addict’s circuitous path to uncertainty.

JULIAN IN PURGATORY

The drug addiction, unemployment, homelessness, near death, and fractured search for self-worth of a deceptively cute comic cat.

Julian (an anthropomorphized cat) is the son of a former two-term mayor, wearer of expensive shirts, and addict of his coffee-table drug buffet. After his levelheaded girlfriend kicks him out, Julian dredges his list of next-best friends hoping to find money, new digs, and someone who will understand why the world is against him. Though he hates his haters, he can’t help but think that maybe there’s some truth to what they’re saying. Julian’s interpretation of lemons to lemonade: steal a bag of drugs from his dealer and try to make a financial go of it without getting caught. Except he does. The panels per spread alternate from one per page to four, an intentionality of variation that keeps the visual narrative flowing. Close-ups have an ad campaign graphic quality to them (sharp and chic). Speech bubbles have easily digested text (even spacing, linear execution). An absence of scratchy texture to the art makes for a smooth, black-and-white creaminess that supports the seemingly innocuous world of adorable animal characters (you nearly forget you’re witnessing weighty material like attempted murder, a dead drug dealer in hell, or two girlfriends getting drunk while bashing bad boyfriends).

Puts the dark in comedy and sheds some light on an addict’s circuitous path to uncertainty. (Graphic fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-945820-74-8

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Iron Circus Comics

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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A heartwarming, funny story filled with richness and complexity.

PUMPKINHEADS

Autumn loving, they had a blast; autumn loving, it happened too fast.

Having worked together in the Succotash Hut at the pumpkin patch for years, best friends and co-workers Deja and Josiah, who goes by Josie, ditch work and find love on their last night, heading out in search of Josie’s unrequited love, the girl who works in the Fudge Shoppe. Deja, a witty and outgoing girl who attracts—and is attracted to—boys and girls alike, is set on helping the shy, rule-following Josie move out of his comfort zone before they part ways for college. Deja encourages Josie to take a chance and talk to the girl of his dreams instead of pining for her from afar. Not to be dissuaded by his reticence, Deja leads Josie to multiple stops in the Patch in search of the almost-impossible-to-find Fudge Girl, with every stop taking them in a new direction and providing a new treat. As they journey through the Patch—chasing a snack-stealing rascal, dodging a runaway goat, and snacking their way through treats from fudge to Freeto pie—they explore the boundaries of their friendship. Visually bright and appealing in autumnal reds, oranges, and yellows, the art enhances this endearing picture of teenage love. Deja is a beautiful, plus-sized black girl, and Josie is a handsome, blond white boy.

A heartwarming, funny story filled with richness and complexity. (Graphic fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62672-162-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Haunting, beautiful, and complex.

SUNCATCHER

Pimienta’s debut is a graphic novel set in Mexicali, Mexico, where music is life and—for a brief moment—life threatening.

High schooler Beatriz Ana Garza has played guitar in a few bands. Her love of music comes from her grandfather Tata Mario, a former musician whose declining health leads, after long decline, to his death in the hospital. While emptying her Tata’s belongings from his home, Beatriz discovers her grandfather’s soul is trapped inside his Gibson guitar. Tata’s spirit explains that years ago he made a trade with an Indigenous Yaqui man he met while traveling in Sonora, gaining musical talent but forfeiting the ability to finish writing the song that has haunted and eluded him; only her playing it in its entirety will set him free. Determined to liberate Tata’s soul, Beatriz joins a band and becomes obsessed with completing the song. Together with her new band mates, she begins to riff and write music. Chronicled in a nonlinear fashion with intermittent flashbacks, the dynamic illustrations pan Beatriz’s bedroom, concert venues, garage rehearsal space, and Mexicali streets. Awash in shades of purple and yellow, with splashes of pink and orange, they convey the 1990s setting and help readers feel the music. Refreshingly, colloquial Spanish greetings and nods to Baja California landmarks pepper the pages of the story, immersing readers in the northern Mexican city.

Haunting, beautiful, and complex. (author’s note, glossary, Mexicali info) (Graphic fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12482-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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