Award season

October 16, 2008

Just because I like to mention this periodically, anyone can nominate a book for the Young Adult Library Services Association’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens list. The list of nominations for 2009 was updated recently, including some books I really enjoy, some I really need to read, and some stumpers.

Note to self (6/22/2008)

June 22, 2008

Seriously, just housekeeping to support my leaky-sieve memory and remind myself that I nominated Hikaru no Go volume 12 (Viz) as a Great Graphic Novel for Teens. Nothing here to see.

Note to self (6/20/2008)

June 20, 2008

It’s entirely possible that Hinako Ashihara’s Sand Chronicles (Viz) is less a great graphic novel for teens than a great graphic novel for former teens who remember the pointed moments of awkwardness and uncertainty of that time of life. Actual teens might look at it and think, “Yeah, I’m there now, so thanks for the reminder.” Either way, I think it’s a great graphic novel, so I’m going to nominate it.

In the second volume, Ann finds her life disrupted again by the return of her absentee father. She’s built a life for herself in the country, finding solace in friends and family after a dramatic loss in the first installment. Now she’s got to decide whose needs come first – her own for comfort and happiness, or her father’s.

Ashihara is so deft at balancing big drama with small moments. Ann’s woes never feel out of scale, heightened as they are. The difficult choices she faces are presented with nuance and surprisingly effective balance; there aren’t any villains here, just people whose priorities clash. Ashihara’s delicate illustrations and quirky sense of humor round things out beautifully.

Got a minute?

June 5, 2008

Robin Brenner, Eisner nominee and comics-loving librarian extraordinaire, is looking for feedback on what gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning comics fans think of yaoi, boys’ love, and yuri manga. Robin’s survey can be found here.

Oh, and there are new nominations up for this year’s list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens. Go look!

Drama, drama, drama

March 28, 2008

Over at Comics Should Be Good, Danielle Leigh once again demonstrates her great taste, listing her top five current shôjo series. This reminds me that it’s time to make a few more Great Graphic Novels for Teens nominations.

The sixth volume of Setona Mizushiro’s After School Nightmare (Go! Comi) features some juicy forward plot motion and some ruthless character development. Back when I used to watch soap operas and participate in that branch of online fandom, many of us would decry what we called “Knight in Shining Armor Syndrome.” Mizushiro thrills me to no end by ripping one of her characters to shreds for indulging in this kind of behavior. Seriously, you won’t find a more psychologically acute melodrama in this category.

The 19th volume of Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket (Tokyopop) makes me geek out a round of “The Gang’s All Here.” After some extensive focus on individual characters, Takaya rounds everyone up for what feels like the beginning a very satisfying endgame. It’s a testament to the excellent work she’s done developing her cast that I’m delighted to see so many of them return and that their complex dynamics are still so clear and emotionally effective. As usual, threads that previously seemed extraneous are woven into the story’s larger tapestry, which tells me that I should just assume that everything matters. It’s a marvel, and it really shouldn’t be dismissed on the basis of its commercial success.

“Mature Content” rating be damned. Teens are probably reading Ai Yazawa’s Nana (Viz) anyways, so I’m throwing the ninth volume into the mix. More to the point, if there’s a better portrayal of the fallout of capricious behavior, I can’t think of it. The happy, shiny world of the entire cast has been thrown into disarray by an unexpected turn of events, and friendships, romances and careers are fundamentally changed. Yazawa doesn’t give the material anything resembling a punitive quality, but hard choices and hurt feelings abound, taking the well-crafted soap opera to a higher level. And Yazawa even reveals the secret origin of Trapnest. (I have to watch the movie, as Kate Dacey swears they’ll seem less cheesy. I don’t know how that will alter the reading experience, to be honest.)

Note to self (3/10/2008)

March 10, 2008

This is as much for my own use as anything else, but I’ve decided to make a note here every time I nominate something for the Young Adult Library Association’s Great Graphic Novels for Teens list (which you can do here).

High School Debut volume 2, by Kazune Kawahara (Viz): The first volume was intriguing, and the second is terrific. Upon entering high school, Haruna switched her extracurricular focus from softball to finding a boyfriend. She convinces a handsome fellow student, Yoh, to coach her through the process, as she’s pretty hopeless. It could have been perfectly dreadful, and some elements of the first volume were a little worrying, but Kawahara settles into a really lovely groove this time around. Yoh’s advice is actually pretty good, and Haruna demonstrates an admirable learning curve. That doesn’t mean everything turns out well, but Haruna’s confidence is growing in a really entertaining way. The tone has settled down a bit, and I love the blend of comedy and heartbreak, along with the smart, sweet observations Kawahara sprinkles throughout.

Mushishi volume 3, by Yuki Urushibara (Del Rey): This book has been spectacular from the beginning. Ginko wanders the countryside helping people cope with the effects of mushi, mysterious, primordial bugs. The episodes are almost all perfectly shaped little morality tales, and they’re beautifully drawn. Del Rey rates the book for ages 16 and up, but there’s nothing here that wouldn’t suit a younger reader. (Okay, Ginko smokes, so that might trip some content alarm.)