Colorful illustrations highlight episodic narratives: This is a story obscured by its own diffused telling.

A MAP TO THE SUN

Teen girls chart their paths toward self-discovery and teamwork.

In a palm-fringed seaside city, an intimate friendship between Ren and Luna blossoms as quickly as it withers when Luna moves away and becomes incommunicado. Luna’s return two years later sparks the central conflict that plays out as Ren navigates challenging relationships at home, in high school, and as captain of their brand-new five-person girls basketball team. Confronting blatant misogyny, the team their new biology teacher scrapes together feels as ambitious an undertaking as the narrative scope of this character-driven story. Stark glimpses of domestic discord, abusive adult behavior, smoking, drinking, self-harm, and body-shaming reveal the team members’ variously fraught personal circumstances and suggest compelling backstories that unfortunately remain underdeveloped. Stylistically and structurally similar to a comic book, this graphic novel’s visual vibrancy compensates for its scattered storytelling. From pastels signaling dawn’s promise to deep indigos of despair and energetic tones showing on-court action, the panels and palette assert attitude and grit. The pages’ shifting layout maintains a dynamic pace while the artwork conveys the intense—often conflicting—emotions inherent to adolescence and young adulthood. Leong concludes with a tribute to the inner light of her characters and to the power of friendship. The cast is ethnically diverse; Ren is black, and Luna has Chinese and Native Hawaiian ancestry.

Colorful illustrations highlight episodic narratives: This is a story obscured by its own diffused telling. (character sketches) (Graphic fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-14668-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A deftly layered sports thriller populated with fierce girls.

THEY'LL NEVER CATCH US

Edgewater is famous for two things: the unsolved murders of three teen cross-country runners 10 years ago and the events of the previous summer when Stella Steckler did something unforgivable to a competitor.

Cross-country runners and sisters Stella and Ellie are brutal, tender—and out for blood when it comes to one another. Stella is focused on running as her ticket out of town and into college on a sports scholarship; her similarly gifted younger sister is slowly making her way into the top spot on their high school team. When newcomer Mila Keene joins the team, the sisters become entangled in a complex and ambivalent dynamic with her. When Mila goes missing while out on a run, it throws the sisters, their team, and the whole town into upheaval. Alternating first-person perspectives between Stella and Ellie, this thriller lays out two primary narratives—that of Mila’s heartbreaking case and the relationship between Stella and Ellie—and expertly layers them with a cold-case murder mystery and an exhilarating sports tale. This novel is also a thoughtful examination of socio-economic challenges, the impact of crushing personal secrets, and the ways female athletes suffer under the weight of misogyny, especially when they are aggressively competitive. Most characters read as White; the Steckler family is Jewish, and Stella is queer. Naomi, Mila’s best friend, is Korean American and lesbian.

A deftly layered sports thriller populated with fierce girls. (Thriller. 14-18)

Pub Date: July 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11432-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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THE ODYSSEY

Hinds adds another magnificent adaptation to his oeuvre (King Lear, 2009, etc.) with this stunning graphic retelling of Homer’s epic. Following Odysseus’s journey to return home to his beloved wife, Penelope, readers are transported into a world that easily combines the realistic and the fantastic. Gods mingle with the mortals, and not heeding their warnings could lead to quick danger; being mere men, Odysseus and his crew often make hasty errors in judgment and must face challenging consequences. Lush watercolors move with fluid lines throughout this reimagining. The artist’s use of color is especially striking: His battle scenes are ample, bloodily scarlet affairs, and Polyphemus’s cave is a stifling orange; he depicts the underworld as a colorless, mirthless void, domestic spaces in warm tans, the all-encircling sea in a light Mediterranean blue and some of the far-away islands in almost tangibly growing greens. Don’t confuse this hefty, respectful adaptation with some of the other recent ones; this one holds nothing back and is proudly, grittily realistic rather than cheerfully cartoonish. Big, bold, beautiful. (notes) (Graphic classic. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4266-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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