A snapshot of success and struggles that adds to the conversation about mental health.

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THE FIRE NEVER GOES OUT

The portrait of an artist as a young (wo)man.

Artist, writer, and youngest National Book Award finalist to date, Stevenson’s rise to prominence in the graphic-novel industry was meteoric, yet fame couldn’t fill the gaping hole she often felt in herself. Adrift during her college years, Stevenson found a fan base in drawing fan art. A summer internship with BOOM! Studios—later her publishers—offered a glimpse of her future…and doubtlessly contributed to her career. But independence and isolation, struggles with her faith and sexuality, and serious mental health issues persisted despite success. Otherwise told from a first-person point of view, the book sometimes detours into second person for discussions of mental illness, which may elicit a sense of intimacy and immediacy for readers. Both the art and narrative thread are intermittent and somewhat impressionistic; the illustrations are largely in grayscale, often with characters adrift in white space, lending a feeling of rawness but also incompleteness. Absent are the bright colors, sly humor, and polish of her other pieces, such as Nimona (2015) and the Lumberjanes series. Rather than a how-to guide to publishing or a behind-the-scenes peek at Stevenson’s artwork and process, this is a highly personal tale of an emotional journey that somehow also manages to feel universal.

A snapshot of success and struggles that adds to the conversation about mental health. (Graphic memoir. 14-20)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-227826-5

Page Count: 160

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

THEY CALLED US ENEMY

A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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There are some funny moments, particularly in the simple black-and-white cartoons of a girl and boy that accompany the text...

HOW NOT TO BE A DICK

AN EVERYDAY ETIQUETTE GUIDE

Jokes about cheese logs abound in this humorous but sometimes-belabored etiquette guide ostensibly aimed at teens.

Following an introduction that defines what makes a person seem like a dick, seven chapters address situations ranging from initiating romantic relationships to behaving responsibly at after-office get-togethers. An uneasy line is straddled in terms of its intended age range. Readers are dutifully exhorted to make sure they wear proper attire to school dances: “Most schools have dress codes for dances. Read them carefully!” Yet there’s also advice on how to politely use a coffee shop as your office if you’re working from home. Further, a section on safety and manners at parties seems at times to employ the euphemistic term “sugary beverages” for alcohol and suggests “If you are buzzing on sugar or if someone spiked the punch, DO NOT DRIVE.” This cagey approach to the topic of teen drinking is confusing at best and at worst, may strike readers as condescending.

There are some funny moments, particularly in the simple black-and-white cartoons of a girl and boy that accompany the text throughout. However, as etiquette goes, there’s not much that is new here and a real question of whom this is for. (Nonfiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-936976-02-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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