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MAX & CHARLIE

This urban Alice in Wonderland combines excitement and reflection to take readers on a colorfully wild ride through an...

In this graphic novel, a boy searches a surreal New York City for his lost dog, learning much about the world and himself.

Charlie, an imaginative youngster, enjoys spinning fantasies with his best buddy, Max the beagle, who plays “Sgt. Slobberface” to Charlie’s “Skyfighter 3030” in adventures reminiscent of Calvin’s Spaceman Spiff daydreams in the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip. One day, the two go out for a walk, and Max pulls at the leash to sniff and explore things. Charlie unfastens the dog’s lead when the two lie down for a nap in the park, but when the boy falls asleep, a passing cat with glowing aqua eyes galvanizes Max into a headlong chase. Charlie—his brown hair now also a shade of aqua, a subtle signal that readers are in dream time—runs behind, following Max out of the park, down to the subway, onto a car, and through New York City. Charlie has a series of often frightening Alice in Wonderland-style encounters with urban figures—subway riders, transit cops, street corner philosophers, skeletal socialites, a bike messenger—who all share their own worldviews. Charlie escapes from sticky situations, gets help from kind people, rescues Max from mean punks, and finds himself in a nightmarish amusement park. A recurring figure, an elderly African-American man, helps Charlie understand that “you alone control you, your energy. Your happiness and sadness…your fright, excitement.” Charlie (again with brown hair) wakes up with Max from their nap in the still-sunny park, and they play a joyous game of Frisbee. Debut author Lieberman, a filmmaker and media producer, brings cinematic energy to this dynamic, always-unfolding story, with good dialogue that captures a variety of speech. Debut illustrator Neubert’s illustrations, lavishly produced in full color on glossy paper, contribute greatly to the characterization and the storytelling, especially in the book’s wordless, more fantastic sections. In some ways, though, the book could use more surreality and nonsense, instead of explicitly teaching lessons, which may not appeal to young readers. Also, the presence of a magical African-American character who helps the white protagonist comes off as something of a cliché.

This urban Alice in Wonderland combines excitement and reflection to take readers on a colorfully wild ride through an archetypal New York.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Exit Strategy, New Media

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2016

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BINDING 13

From the Boys of Tommen series , Vol. 1

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship.

A battered girl and an injured rugby star spark up an ill-advised romance at an Irish secondary school.

Beautiful, waiflike, 15-year-old Shannon has lived her entire life in Ballylaggin. Alternately bullied at school and beaten by her ne’er-do-well father, she’s hopeful for a fresh start at Tommen, a private school. Seventeen-year-old Johnny, who has a hair-trigger temper and a severe groin injury, is used to Dublin’s elite-level rugby but, since his family’s move to County Cork, is now stuck captaining Tommen’s middling team. When Johnny angrily kicks a ball and knocks Shannon unconscious (“a soft female groan came from her lips”), a tentative relationship is born. As the two grow closer, Johnny’s past and Shannon’s present become serious obstacles to their budding love, threatening Shannon’s safety. Shannon’s portrayal feels infantilized (“I looked down at the tiny little female under my arm”), while Johnny comes across as borderline obsessive (“I knew I shouldn’t be touching her, but how the hell could I not?”). Uneven pacing and choppy sentences lead to a sudden climax and an unsatisfyingly abrupt ending. Repetitive descriptions, abundant and misogynistic dialogue (Johnny, to his best friend: “who’s the bitch with a vagina now?”), and graphic violence also weigh down this lengthy tome (considerably trimmed down from its original, self-published length). The cast of lively, well-developed supporting characters, especially Johnny’s best friend and Shannon’s protective older brother, is a bright spot. Major characters read white.

A troubling depiction of an unhealthy relationship. (author’s note, pronunciations, glossary, song moments, playlists) (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Nov. 28, 2023

ISBN: 9781728299945

Page Count: 626

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2023

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YOUR FAULT

From the Culpable series , Vol. 2

Plenty of heat but not enough substance to keep the fire burning.

A romantically entangled stepbrother and stepsister in Los Angeles navigate their tumultuous history and take their relationship to new levels in this translated title by an Argentinian author.

Nick and Noah are madly in love: Their mutual attraction is established as the book opens with Noah’s 18th birthday party, during which she and Nick have an explicitly described sexual encounter behind the pool house. This fiery scene sets the stage for twists and turns in the lovers’ journey, including a separation when Noah is forced to go on a monthlong mother-daughter European tour. But reminders of their pasts (chronicled in the 2023 series opener, My Fault) threaten to undermine their stability. Nick’s wealthy estranged mother makes an unfortunate appearance, while Noah is haunted by the trauma of her father’s violent death. The blend of everyday complications (jealousy, parental disapproval) with frothy visions of high-society life is at once lacking in subtlety and intimately irresistible. The series initially gained popularity on Wattpad, and the novel follows the episodic structure typical of works on that site; sensual encounters occur at reliable intervals. Still, the characters and their milieu feel formulaic, and the writing is stilted. The differences between the two—Nick is five years older and has an office job; Noah has just finished high school—makes their suffocatingly possessive relationship feel particularly squirm-worthy. Nick and Noah and their families read white.

Plenty of heat but not enough substance to keep the fire burning. (Romance. 16-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781728290768

Page Count: 450

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2023

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