HARLEY QUINN

BREAKING GLASS

Tamaki’s (Laura Dean Keeps Breaking up With Me, 2019, etc.) version of Harley operates with a moral compass while still being bubbly and outgoing.

Harley has been sent to live with her grandmother in Gotham City. She discovers her grandmother has died, but apartment manager Mama, a white, gay man who also manages the local drag queen bar, lets her stay. Harley finds her place among a colorful “mutiny of queens” and makes a new best friend, Ivy Du-Barry. Ivy, who is biracial (Chinese and black), carries the bulk of the load when it comes to educating Harley, who is white, about intersectionality, representation in media, and the gentrification of their neighborhood. Harley’s happiness doesn’t last—Mama receives news of an impending eviction and crosses paths with the Joker. Through flashbacks, shaded in orange, readers get a deeper understanding of what motivates her to fight for what she loves. Pugh (Supergirl, Vol. 3: Girl of No Tomorrow, 2018, etc.) uses a mostly gray and black color palette with background bursts of scarlet. When characters are truly in their element, their signature colors are used: a red and black scheme for Harley, shades of green for Ivy, and the Joker’s signature purple. The fast-paced plot enhanced by Harley's trademark style of speech examines the impact of gentrification, and Harley’s character development follows a redemptive arc that will have readers rooting for her and her colorful family.

A riotous read. (Graphic novel. 13-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-4012-8329-2

Page Count: 128

Publisher: DC Ink

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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An insightful tale of persecution and survival.

UNSEEN

In Scott’s debut YA novel, a young girl tries to heal her father and avoid being harmed by supernatural forces persecuting members of her culture.

Alaia’s father is deathly ill, and she’s doing everything she can to save him with a doctor’s medicine and her own herbal remedies. If he dies, not only will she lose her dad, whom she loves, but it will also leave their family vulnerable to accusations of witchcraft if there’s no man in the house. She’s already under suspicion for her use of herbal remedies, and her position is made more precarious by her love for Mateo, the inquisitor’s nephew, and her former friendship with a woman who was executed for possessing a mark associated with witchcraft. When Alaia is visited by a spirit, who later saves her from being hit by a carriage, the mark that condemned her friend appears on her, too—bringing new magical abilities with it. Despite her efforts to hide the mark, she’s found out; the inquisitor tries to have her executed, and when Mateo seemingly damns her too, she escapes. She’s aided by the spirit of Txomin, a boy she once knew and who reveals information to her about her long-lost brother. Over the course of this supernatural adventure story, Scott weaves in clear parallels between Alaia’s story and those of real-life women who were accused of being witches in Europe and America. She’s particularly deft at showing the ways in which people in power can threaten and exploit vulnerable societies by appealing to their bigotry. By filtering the story through the lens of an oppressed culture, Scott highlights that the novel is about the persecution of a vulnerable group rather than a struggle between similarly powerful forces. The author also makes strong use of figurative language to convey her central characters’ feelings, which becomes just as important to the book’s goal of inviting empathy as its plot points are; at one point, for instance, Alaia’s fear is described in the phrase: “A throbbing pain split across my chest, unfurling like tentacles.”

An insightful tale of persecution and survival.

Pub Date: July 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-94-285682-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Literary Wanderlust

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2021

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A clever, feel-good opening to a fantasy series with a tenacious heroine.

Girls Can't Be Knights

From the Spirit Knights series , Vol. 1

The start of a new YA series features a teen orphan and a protective brotherhood of Spirit Knights.

Fifteen-year-old Claire Terdan lives in a group foster home in Portland, Oregon. Six years ago, her family died in a house fire, and her only dependable friend since has been a boy her age named Drew. One day in school, after she punches a bully who mocks her, the principal suspends her for a day. She sneaks out of school and into town only to be accosted by several cats and dogs. Meanwhile, at the nearby Oregon Historical Society, a man named Justin arrives on his white horse, Tariel. He’s there, dressed in his green Spirit Knight armor, to borrow (some might say steal) an antique hat that has sentimental meaning to his mentor, Kurt. When he meets Claire, he offers her a ride home. Telling Justin she doesn’t have one, Claire ends up with him in Vancouver, Washington, at his family’s farm. There she meets his wife and two young daughters and eventually learns about the Palace, a magical, dormitory-style structure where Spirit Knights—a brotherhood that protects the world from ghostly, vengeful Phasms—dwell. Justin isn’t sure why Claire seems familiar until he learns that she’s the daughter of a dead Knight named Mark. French (Superheroes in Denim, 2016, etc.) establishes a crafty new fantasy series with a light smattering of genre fixtures, including talking animals, an enchanted pendant, and the firmly held belief that “Girls can’t be Knights.” Most of the narrative drama comes from grounded conflicts that teens should relate to, like Claire’s attraction to the older Justin and the lousy conditions of the “sanitized prison” that is her group home. Later scenes in which a detective named Avery physically assaults Claire are not for the faint-hearted. The upside for the tale’s heroine is that Justin and his family turn out to be perfect for her; despite early misgivings about them, she decides to “admire the example they set and be grateful for it.” The story should provide a heartwarming boost to anyone in a tough situation.

A clever, feel-good opening to a fantasy series with a tenacious heroine.

Pub Date: June 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-68063-030-5

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Myrddin Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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