A well-intentioned study of book-banning in the heartland.
Americus, Okla., is just like any other small town in America: Its middle and high schools teem with bullies and airheads, and its library has a waiting list 38 patrons long for the newest book in the Apathea Ravenchilde series. In this cultural wasteland, young teens Neil and Danny are best friends and fellow Apathea fans. When Danny's mother discovers him reading that "unholy filth" and he tells her he's gay, she sends him packing to military school and begins a campaign to ban all eight books. It's the details that make this graphic novel work, not its plot. Lonely Neil loves his single mother, but he's as itchy and awkward as any young teen. Secondary characters in the community, from the supermarket manager who lives next door to city councilors to some cool girls at the high school, develop sweetly and credibly. But the primary combatants are sadly one-dimensional. Danny's mother is a Bible-thumping caricature, and Charlotte, the sympathetic YA librarian, is herself more a cool-librarian type than a fully fleshed human being. As a profile of a book challenge, it's not bad, though oversimplified. But as a full story, it is lacking. Artistically, too many of Hill's characters look alike, which further contributes to the story's problems, though the interstitial scenes of Apathea’s saga delight.
This will change no minds, but its heart is in the right place. (Graphic fiction. 12 & up)