Book Review: Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Source: Borrowed

Once upon a time, back at Darrow-Harker School, Beatrice Hartley and her five best friends were the cool kids, the beautiful ones. Then the shocking death of Jim – their creative genius and Beatrice’s boyfriend – changed everything.

One year after graduation, Beatrice is returning to Wincroft – the seaside estate where they spent so many nights sharing secrets, crushes, plans to change the world – hoping she’ll get to the bottom of the dark questions gnawing at her about Jim’s death.

But as the night plays out in a haze of stilted jokes and unfathomable silence, Beatrice senses she’s never going to know what really happened.

Then a mysterious man knocks on the door. Blithely, he announces the impossible: time for them has become stuck, snagged on a splinter that can only be removed if the former friends make the harshest of decisions.

Now Beatrice has one last shot at answers… and at life.

And so begins the Neverworld Wake. 

Let me tell you something: I’m really sick of reading books that I’ve already read. And Neverworld Wake? I’ve read it several times. This book is a haphazard conglomeration of a lot of trends, but it especially reminded me of a few very popular YA books:

It would be fine if this book offered something new or interesting, but it doesn’t. We have the days repeating over and over again like in Before I Fall. We have the murder mystery with nobody wanting to share what they know like in One of Us Is Lying. We have the mysterious super rich children like in We Were Liars. Neverworld Wake borrows so many tropes and yet it somehow manages to do absolutely nothing.

The concept of the book is fine — Beatrice is hanging out with her old friends when a man knocks on the door and tells them that they have to decide who will live and who will die. Crazy, right? They brush it off and go on with their lives, but then they find that they’re living the same day over and over again. As the day repeats itself again and again, they try to find their way out of the Neverworld and solve the murder of Beatrice’s high school boyfriend.

The problem is that the book tries to do a lot of things and doesn’t end up doing any of them well. The writing itself is awkward, filled with ridiculous similes like “swirls of blond hair like sugar garnishes on thirty-four-dollar desserts” and metaphors like “we are all anthologies.” Like, I get what the author is trying to say, but writing like that just comes across as pretentious and unnecessary. Half the pages of this book could have probably been cut if they’d just gotten rid of all the unnecessary comparisons.

There are also continuity issues. You see, there’s a different between an unreliable narrator and forgetting what the heck you’re supposed to be writing. Neverworld Wake finds that line, crosses it, and keeps running. You can’t brush off a huge inconsistency in the plot as an unreliable narrator and just expect me to accept it. It doesn’t work like that.

I was so, so disappointed at the end of this book for multiple reasons, but one of those reasons IS A HUGE SPOILER, so click here if you want to find out what it was!So, basically, we follow these five characters for about three hundred pages as they try to piece together what happened to Beatrice’s beloved (or was he?? we may never know) boyfriend on the night that he died. They break into a police station to try to examine case files. They interrogate his family at gunpoint. They uncover a conspiracy to hide a totally unrelated murder from years before. Despite all of this detective work, at the end of the book, we find out that EVERYBODY ALREADY KNEW HOW JIM DIED BECAUSE EVERYBODY WAS SOMEHOW INVOLVED IN HIS DEATH. What a waste of my time. It’s been days since I finished this and I’m still mad.

This book was clearly not for me. I’ve heard good things about Pessl’s other books, so I might give her another try at some point. For now, though, I’m just going to move on to something that’s the polar opposite of this book.


Have you read Neverworld Wake? What’s a book that did an unreliable narrator well?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju [SPOILERS]

Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens by Tanya Boteju
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Perpetually awkward Nima Kumara-Clark is bored with her insular community of Bridgeton, in love with her straight girlfriend, and trying to move past her mother’s unexpected departure. After a bewildering encounter at a local festival, Nima finds herself suddenly immersed in the drag scene on the other side of town.

Macho drag kings, magical queens, new love interests, and surprising allies propel Nima both painfully and hilariously closer to a self she never knew she could be—one that can confidently express and accept love. But she’ll have to learn to accept lost love to get there.

Like many people, I was drawn to Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens because it sounded like it would be a great celebration of diversity and inclusion. At a 3.81 average on Goodreads, it’s not doing amazing, but it’s a pretty solid average. And I can see why people have enjoyed this book. It’s about acceptance, both of yourself and those around you. It features multiple characters coming to terms with aspects of their lives that they can’t change, from the way their parents act to their gender identities.

And I want to make it clear that I think that all of that is great. I think those are really important themes for young adult books and I think it’s even more great that this book features characters of color and introduces teens to the drag community in a really positive way. My problems with this book are in its subtler messages.

Everything from this point on may include spoilers, so proceed with caution.

Alright, so there were a few things about this book that really bothered me.

The one I’ll start with left me thinking, “wait, did that actually just happen?!” Some context: I am in my late 20s. Aside from relatives and conversations in a professional context, I have not associated with any high schoolers in almost a decade. When I was in high school, I thought I was basically an adult. I was not, and the actual adults around me knew that. In this book, Nima is seventeen years old. She befriends, and later that same night has a sleepover with, a thirty-five year old woman. Deirdre is portrayed as this really benevolent maternal figure, bestowing advice upon Nima and her friends and giving them a place to stay when they need it. I want to clarify that Deirdre doesn’t do anything illegal throughout the course of the book. But what thirty-five-year-old woman wants to go home with a seventeen-year-old girl? What thirty-five-year-old woman thinks it’s appropriate to crash on said seventeen-year-old’s couch? What parent wakes up to this and thinks, “Yeah, this is normal, let’s make pancakes?” It just felt icky and gross and set off every alarm in my mind.

The second thing I want to bring up is the message that it’s okay to be a terrible person just because you’re going through some stuff. We all know that teenagers can be terrible. I probably had my fair share of terrible days when I was a teenager. But there are some characters in this book, Gordon in particular, who are terrible about 98% of the time. And yes, Gordon is going through some stuff. He’s struggling with his gender identity (a plot point that is never really resolved, by the way) and seems to live with an abusive father (another point that is never really resolved). He’s angry at everything, he lashes out, he makes fun of people to make himself feel better, he constantly cracks jokes about Nima being a lesbian, and he’s just all-around that guy you would have avoided in high school. And yet, once Nima finds out that he’s struggling with his gender identity (he’s never referred to as trans, so I’m not really sure how to describe it other than that), all is forgiven. Gordon is allowed to be a terrible person. At one point, after she’s been hanging out with Gordon for a bit, one of Nima’s friends asks her if he’s still a terrible person. She says yes. Gordon is never really called out for his behavior, other than an offhand comment from Nima asking him to stop calling her names.

The third thing is the age difference between Nima and Winnow. It’s not nearly as dramatic as the age difference between Nima and Deirdre, but it’s still icky. As I said, Nima is seventeen. She’s in high school. Winnow is a girl that Nima meets at a drag show and falls in love with, completely forgetting her previous crush, Ginny, who she’d been constantly pining over up until that point. (More on Ginny later.) Winnow is also twenty-one years old. I have no problem with an age difference between consenting adults, but a seventeen-year-old who is still in high school should not be trying to hook up with a twenty-one-year-old who has their own apartment. Or, at least, that twenty-one-year-old should not entertain those efforts, invite the seventeen-year-old to a party, provide them with alcohol, and try to kiss them. Nima is so clearly uncomfortable hanging out with Winnow’s friends, and yet she continually tries to be cool to win Winnow’s affection. Winnow doesn’t do anything overtly creepy, and she does try her best to make sure that Nima feels included, but Nima is so out of her comfort zone that she can’t even articulate what’s wrong to Winnow and just ends up getting drunk a lot. There’s such a difference in the level of maturity between Nima and Winnow that I wondered how on earth those two thought they’d make a good couple.

The fourth thing is the book’s message that if you’re a good person, you’ll forgive everything that anybody does to you with no questions asked. I’ve talked about a lot of the more questionable aspects of this book and a few of the pretty questionable things the characters do. One of the messages of the book seems to be that the good people in your life will allow you to do bad things with no repercussions. Now, I’m a pretty forgiving person. I tend to put up with more than I probably should from the people in my life. (I’m working on that, though.) But the characters in this book are just on a different level. Get super drunk and throw up on someone you’ve just met? No big deal, they’ll just take you home with them! Make out with a girl you don’t even have feelings for just because? Totally fine, you can still be friends! Make fun of someone for no other reason than they’re gay? As long as you have your own issues, it’s all good. It’s portrayed as totally reasonable to just blindly forgive people, because that’s what good people do, and that is a toxic mentality to present to teenagers, the target demographic of this book. I am here to tell you that if someone makes you mad or does bad things to you, you do not have to forgive them. If you want to forgive them, you can, but you should not force yourself to get over things because it’s “the right thing to do.”

A subpoint here is Ginny, a straight girl who knows that Nima has a crush on her. As the book opens, Nima is crushing hard. She knows that Ginny doesn’t like girls but she also knows that her crush on Ginny isn’t going anywhere. She attempts to ask Ginny out and is promptly shut down in the nicest way possible, because Ginny is described as being the nicest person possible. Nima’s crush on Ginny mostly disappears after she meets Winnow, but makes a brief reappearance during an odd scene in which Nima is trying on clothes and requires Ginny’s assistance with a shirt that gets stuck. All of a sudden, Nima and Ginny are full-on making out in the dressing room… until Ginny abruptly pulls away, talking about how she got carried away and isn’t into girls and was just experimenting. I’m sorry, how is that supposed to be okay? Why is Ginny’s behavior never called out?

The last thing is not so much a problematic aspect, but just an annoying one: the fact that Nima falls into that typical YA trope of “beautiful girl who doesn’t know she’s beautiful.” Nima constantly mentions how she’s so unattractive, nobody could ever want her, so on and so forth, and yet every single person who meets her refers to her as “adorable.” It made me roll my eyes every time!

All in all, I wanted to love this book for its diversity and its message of acceptance, but I had too many issues with the actual content to rate it any higher than one star. I’m really disappointed in a lot of things that happen in this book and just hope that any teenagers who read it will question its more problematic aspects.


Have you read Kings, Queens, and In-Betweens? Do we agree or did you love it?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Lumberjanes, Vol. 2 by Noelle Stevenson

Lumberjanes, Vol. 2 by Noelle Stevenson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 13, 2015
Source: Borrowed

What a mystery!

Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are not your average campers and Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady-Types is not your average summer camp. Between the river monsters, magic, and the art of friendship bracelets, this summer is only just beginning. Join the Lumberjanes as they take on raptors and a sibling rivalry that only myths are made of.

This New York Times bestseller and Eisner Award-nominated series is written by awesome all-star Noelle Stevenson and brilliant newcomer Grace Ellis, and illustrated by the tremendously talented Brooke Allen.

Lumberjanes, Vol. 2: Friendship to the Max includes issues 5-8 and the first fourteen pages of Giant Days, Vol. 1 by John Allison.

The second volume in the Lumberjanes series is just as fun as the first one! This series is so, so cute and this volume had so much action! I love the characters, I love their friendships, and I love all of their adventures and antics. The feminist touches (the characters like to yell the names of famous women from history when they get exasperated or excited) were also nice.

Quite honestly, I don’t have a ton to say about this one. I really liked it, I read it in one setting, and I’d definitely recommend it. Also, “I wish everyone had a kitten” is definitely me with superpowers.


Have you read Lumberjanes? Is it on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Author Interview: James Brandon

Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 6, 2019

The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

A poignant coming-of-age tale, Ziggy, Stardust and Me heralds the arrival of a stunning and important new voice in YA.

I’ve been really intrigued by Ziggy, Stardust and Me ever since the beginning of the year when I was scrolling through upcoming YA debuts. Between the cover and the synopsis, I was super excited to read it, and I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with the author today!

Thank you so much to Penguin and James Brandon for making this post possible!


Between acting, producing, becoming a certified yoga instructor, and the different committees you belong to, you’ve had a really interesting life! Can you talk a little bit about the process of adding “published author” to that list?

Well, how’s this for an answer: astrologers have always told me I should be writing, but I resisted it my entire life for some reason. Maybe the thought terrified me. (It still does even after I’ve become published.) But I’d been mulling on the idea of Ziggy for almost a decade when my agent, who also happens to be my best friend, encouraged me to write it. After taking some classes, immersing myself in craft books, and reading a thousand more YA novels, I finally decided I had the tools to start writing. So I did. Over a hundred and fifty drafts later (a number that I assure you is not exaggerated), I turned in the manuscript and within three months it sold to Stacey Barney at Penguin. (My #1 Top Choice Editor, by the way!) Because I come from an acting background, and the immense amount of work I do to dive into each character I portray, it was surprisingly easy for me to transfer my knowledge of character building onto the page. And it was such an enormous thrill to create the words rather than speak someone else’s.

I haven’t seen a lot of YA historical fiction set in the 1970s. What inspired you to write this book?

After a friend brought me an episode of This American Life, titled “81 Words,” the seed for Ziggy, Stardust & Me was planted. The episode documents the moment in time—December 15, 1973—when homosexuality was officially removed from the DSM (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, otherwise known as the Big Book of Mental Illnesses), and suddenly all those who identified on the LGBTQ+ spectrum were cured. This, after coming on the heels of the Stonewall Riots, birthed the modern-day LGBTQ+ movement as we know it today. And I knew nothing of this time. 

Queer history isn’t taught. Currently only four US states require it in public high schools and even then it’s taking a long time to implement exactly how it will be included in curriculum. So my main goal in writing the book was to educate readers of all ages about our history, and to honor those LGBTQ+ peoples who’ve struggled, survived, and pioneered our paths so we can live out and proud today.

What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?

There were many, but one stands out as the most challenging on a personal level. After Stacey Barney (my editor at Penguin) bought the book, we worked on two major rewrites together. Every character must have an arc, a personal journey of internal and external change they make through the course of the narrative. One of the notes Stacey gave me was that she didn’t believe Jonathan’s journey to self-acceptance. This was painful to acknowledge and incredibly hard for me to hear. Out of all the facets of the novel, and being out for over half of my life, I thought for sure I’d at least mastered this aspect of his character. But upon deeper reflection, I started to question how much I actually accept my self. Self-introspection is never easy, but this one hurt because I realized how far I have yet to go in this arena. In subsequent drafts, I wrote a line for Jonathan that says something like, “Once a seed of shame is planted within it never goes away.” This is true for anyone who’s ever been told they’re wrong for something they innately know is right. But once I discovered this truth, and embraced the complexities behind it, I was able to unlock the key to Jonathan’s journey, and maybe more importantly, my own.

I won’t make you choose which of the characters in this book is your favorite, but is there one that you relate to or connect with more than the others?

I suppose there’s a small piece of me in every character, but I think my protagonist, Jonathan, is the one I’m most connected with. He’s not me, but we definitely share some similarities. I purposely set the story in St. Louis because it’s my hometown, and growing up gay in St. Louis came with many emotional complexities I knew I could more easily attach to in his character. I also have had asthma my entire life, and although I never considered it a disability, it certainly limited my activities as a child. And because of it, because I grew up an only child and had to mostly play indoors, I developed a wild imagination. (Which you’ll note is quite prevalent to Jonathan’s character.) There are many “wishful thinking” moments I’ve incorporated into Jonathan’s voice: things I wish I was brave enough to do then, things I wished I’d said, believed, or understood. I guess in many ways writing him was a personally cathartic experience for me, one I’m incredibly grateful I had the opportunity to explore.

What are some songs that you feel fit well with your book?

Well, if you aren’t listening to Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album while reading this book, you’re definitely missing out. This goes for Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and Roberta Flack’s First Take albums as well. There’s an entire soundtrack written throughout the narrative and I created a Spotify playlist so you can listen to each song that’s talked about for a fuller immersion into the story. You can find it on my website or linked in my bios on Twitter or Instagram.

Are there any books that you’ve read recently that you’d recommend checking out?

So many, it’s hard to know where to start! I’ll name my top recent fab five: Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian, The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante, Pet by Akwaeke Emezi, Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg, and okay, six, The Whispers by Greg Howard (MG title), and fine, fine, fine, seven: River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy. 

What’s your all-time favorite book?

How dare you. 


About the Author

 

James Brandon produced and played the central role of Joshua in the international tour of Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi for a decade, and is Co-Director of the documentary film based on their journey: Corpus Christi: Playing with Redemption. He’s Co-Founder of the I AM Love Campaign, an arts-based initiative bridging the faith-based and LGBTQ2+ communities, and serves on the Powwow Steering Committee for Bay Area American Indian Two-Spirits (BAAITS) in San Francisco. He’s also a certified Kundalini Yoga teacher, spent a summer at Deer Park Monastery studying Zen Buddhism, and deepened his yogic practice in Rishikesh, India. Brandon is a contributing writer for Huffington PostBelieve Out Loud, and Spirituality and Health MagazineZiggy, Stardust, and Me is his first novel.


Have you read Ziggy, Stardust and Me? What’s the best YA historical fiction you’ve read recently? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Source: Borrowed

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.
 

In case you didn’t see my rating up there, I’m going to say it here: I did not enjoy this book. I know it’s a well-loved book and this is probably heresy or something, but this book was just not for me, and here’s why.

The characters: Did I care about even one single character? No. They were roles, not characters. We have the Strong Female Protagonist who’s ready to save the world. We have the Charming Love Interest who… doesn’t really have much more of a function than that. We have some Fun Side Characters whose only purpose is to die for shock value.

The plot: I’m sorry, what plot? There are two ships, okay. There’s a very contagious sickness on one of them. Some lovers who’ve been separated after breaking up but they’re still in love? There’s a war, I guess, but it’s not really explained in any kind of detail. I don’t even know what the plot is, really, aside from Kady and Ezra pining over each other for no reason.

The relationship: I’m a romance lover and even I can admit that the romance in this book was entirely unnecessary. If Kady and Ezra love each other so much, why did they break up at the beginning of the book? I couldn’t take them seriously.

The plot twist: I rolled my eyes. It wasn’t one of those “oh wow, that plot twist!!” kind of situations. It was one of those “really? are you actually serious? this is what I waited for??” kind of moments. The big plot twist was some nonsense.

I had really hoped to enjoy Illuminae since so many of my Goodreads friends and fellow bloggers love it, but I just couldn’t get into it. The format is fun, but that’s about all that I can say about this one. I love Jay Kristoff, but I’m not going to be continuing with this series.


Have you read Illuminae? Do you agree with me or did you love it?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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ARC Review: The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer

The Story That Cannot Be Told by J. Kasper Kramer
Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Source: ARC via author/publisher

A powerful middle grade debut that weaves together folklore and history to tell the story of a girl finding her voice and the strength to use it during the final months of the Communist regime in Romania in 1989.

Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to make room for his golden palace; back when families had enough food, and the hot water worked on more than just Saturday nights. Others are folktales like the one she was named for, which her father used to tell her at bedtime. But some stories can get you in trouble, like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s Communist government that Uncle Andrei published—right before he went missing.

Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, far from the prying eyes and ears of the secret police and their spies, who could be any of the neighbors. But danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life.

Once upon a time, something happened. If it had not happened, it would not be told.

From the first time I heard about this book, I was intrigued. A middle grade historical fiction novel set in Communist Romania? That’s a little different from what I usually read, and a little different from what I usually see floating around the book blogging world.

The thing is, I’ve been in kind of an extended reading slump for a few months now. It’s very rare that I want to pick up a book for more than a few minutes at a time, but this one had me hooked from the first page. Quite honestly, I probably could have finished it in one sitting if I hadn’t had other things to do.

So, where do I even start with this review? I guess, first, I’ll talk about Ileana and what a great heroine she was. Sure, she’s a great storyteller. But she’s also smart and perceptive and a little bit sassy, and above all, she’s a normal little girl. She makes mistakes and lives through the consequences. She questions the Communist government that she’s grown up in without it feeling forced or overly political. Her character growth over the course of this book is incredible and I was so, so proud of her by the end of the book.

The next thing I want to talk about is the story itself. I’ve never read a book quite like this before, and I think that was another thing that kept the pages turning. Not only was there the story of Ileana moving from the city to the country to (hopefully) escape the Romanian Securitate, but interspersed throughout the story are chapters of Romanian folktales, which I loved. Toward the end of the book, I actually got goosebumps reading about how everything played out.

As always, I want to avoid spoilers, so I’m going to cut myself off here. I’ll end by saying that this is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year and I’m really looking forward to reading more from this author.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

J. Kasper Kramer is an author and English professor in Chattanooga, Tennessee. She has a master’s degree in creative writing and once upon a time lived in Japan, where she taught at an international school. When she’s not curled up with a book, Kramer loves researching lost fairy tales, playing video games, and fostering kittens.

Twitter • Website • InstagramFacebook


Have you read The Story That Cannot Be Told? What are some of your favorite historical fiction books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Book Review: The Backstagers, Vol. 2 by James Tynion IV

The Backstagers, Vol. 2 by James Tynion IV
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Source: Borrowed

All the world’s a stage . . . but what happens behind the curtain is pure magic—literally!

Jory and the rest of the Backstagers have one goal this semester: to put on the best show their town’s ever seen. But best laid plans aren’t easy to achieve when there’s an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain! When one of the actors suddenly goes missing, the Backstagers must band together to save their comrade and maintain the natural balance of . . . theater. 

James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, The Woods) and artist Rian Sygh (Munchkin, Stolen Forest) explore what it means to be an outcast looking to find one’s place in an earnest story of friendship and self-expression.

Okay, I think I’m officially on board with The Backstagers. This series is so cute, so positive, and so magical. In this installment, we learn a lot more about the magical underground theater world and the mysterious tech kids that disappeared all those years ago. The world goes a lot deeper than anyone previously thought, and it was so much fun!

The LGBT aspects that were sort of hinted at in the first volume become a lot clearer in this one, with two of the main characters getting into a relationship and one character casually referencing the fact that he transferred from an all-girls school to an all-boys school, thus implying that he’s transgender. The representation is done so subtly and I absolutely loved it! It’s never a thing, it just exists.

The only thing that I didn’t enjoy about this volume was that a lot of the action seems to happen off-page. Sure, I can make connections between events and figure out on my own what happened, but it’s a lot more fun to see these dramatic moments (such as, like I mentioned above, two of the main characters getting together) play out right in front of you.

Now I’m just sitting here waiting for my Hoopla borrows to reset so that I can check out the third volume of this series.


Have you read The Backstagers? Can you recommend any similar books?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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