Although not quite the break-neck speed of last year, my reading is still going strong. My jaunt with young adult novels continues – this genre is *rich* right now – and I have recently gotten into some graphic novels too. My book club at work chose graphic novels as our next selection, and instead of just reading one, we are all reading different ones so that we can report back to the group. I used that opportunity to check out quite a few.
Graphic novels have been on the scene for just over a decade, and they are really starting to gain some steam. They can be like comic books in style, but are bound in a book format, and usually have a wide variety of topics. The ones that I have been particularly drawn to are the autobiographical stories.
The best of this genre – that I have read – is definitely The Photographer: Into War-torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert (illustrator) and Didier Lefèvre (writer).
Lefèvre was a French photojournalist (who passed away in 2007) whose work appeared in many newspapers and magazines. For the assignment described in the book, Lefèvre worked alongside a team from Médicins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders. Lefèvre captures many moments on film; his photographs are interspersed with the drawings in the graphic novel.
The book is a stunning piece of literature – a true “snapshot” of life at that time in Afghanistan (~1985). The story is recounted by Lefèvre, so you also have several stories about his relationships with the people in the team – Juliette, the strong and independent leader, who knows how to mix with both men and women in this fundamentalist Islamic culture; John, the burly American doctor with a hear of gold; Régis, the anesthesiologist who dreams of opening a winery in sourthern France… and the many Afghans – Mahmud, Najmudin, and the patients who are treated in the team.
Highly recommended book.
Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis is a very well-known book in the graphic novel genre. Satrapi recounts her life in Iran in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Persepolis 2, the book that I read, continues the story as Marjane’s parents have sent her to school in Austra. You can get both books as one single volume with The Complete Persepolis. This review covers only Book 2:
Through Marjane’s eyes, we see this changed society – the broken lives and buildings of Tehran, but we also see the strength of her family. There are several times that she writes (and draws) and says “I have never told anyone this…” and then lays it all out. It must have been quite cathartic and liberating.
Ultimately, this book seemed much more introspective – describing the immigrant experience, as well as the “homecoming” experience after years away. Marjane’s story is not flowery and happy – and she does not sugarcoat it. It is extremely educational though. If you read the first part of story and want a reprisal and some closure, this is it. She is quite talented – both in this genre of literature, memoir, and in translating her feelings into words and pictures.
Full review of Persepolis 2 on Goodreads(may contain some minor spoilers)
The third graphic novel I read was probably the most visually interesting – the artist is really good – but the story was lacking, unfortunately. Shortcomings follows the lives of several urban late twenty-/early thirty-somethings.
It’s character-driven, with very little “action” but a lot of subtext. One of the over-arching themes seems to be how these first-generation Asian-Americans (Ben and Miko are Japanese-American and Alice is Korean-American) face the various stereotypes in modern society. The relationships are screwed up… but at the same time, these people seem so very real – like co-workers, or people you meet at a party. Perhaps being the same age range as the characters added to this familiarity, but I really did feel like I knew these people. The reviews on this one vary widely, and my rating was at the lower end of the spectrum, but I can see how this book can be meaningful and important to others.
The last three books that I read are part of this re-emergence of great young-adult literature. The Mysterious Benedict Society is a sheer delight for older readers (10-14 years): an adventurous tale with kids saving the world from an evil genius… the heroes are a special group of children that are chosen specifically after a battery of tests is adminstered to the general kid population. They succeed and then move on to the next test – a covert mission into a secret school… this is the first of a series that will be sure to keep kids reading – it’s just fun to read!
A real page-turner and lots of fun to read. The author captures a lot of elements of fantasy and whimsy that will really appeal to his intended audience. There was definitely a “Kids Rule!” message, being that the kids were the heroes who essentially “saved the world”…
Trying to describe these next two books is difficult – I enjoyed them so much that I really had a hard time writing a review. Again, they are written with a young adult in mind, but much like some of the other modern classics (Harry Potter, specifically) they can be enjoyed by everyone. And wow, did I enjoy them. The Hunger Games is the first of the three-part series, with Catching Fire as its immediate sequel. The third and final book in the series, Mockingjay will be out later in the summer, and it will undoubtedly be an instant hit – there are scores of people anticipating it!
My excitement for these books make my critical mind go out the window, so they are hard to review. They are not perfect, but hands down, some of the most entertaining works of fiction I have ever read! The books are set in the near future on the North American continent. A governmental body has dissolved the national lines and created this set of districts that supply the great entity – Panem. Each year, the government requires every district to enter their children into a lottery – and the children/teens that are chosen (2 from each of the 12 districts) are sent into a battlefield – The Hunger Games – where they must fight to the death. It is brutal – like gladitorial games – and televised for all of Panem. The government uses this impending tribute as a way to stop any resistance – knowing that their own children could be sacrificed next. The story follows the tributes from District 12 – one of the poorest districts, the coalmining district - Katniss and Peeta. These books are already in the works to become movies – so go ahead and get a jumpstart! They will undoubtedly be the next big thing – so you can be ahead of the game!
I have been reading a lot… but also knitting up a storm… photos to come