Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner

I’d not even heard of this but my daughter found it at the bookstore and used a Christmas gift card to buy it. She finished it before we’d even been home half an hour from the bookstore and said she loved it and I had to read it. Well, I enjoyed it very much too. I don’t know if 11 year olds will get any of the Buffy or Twilight references, but as a 40something who was a huge Buffy fan I loved it that the librarian was British and named Mr. Niles.
AJ just started middle school and has a crush on a girl he likes, Nia. His friends Hunter and Ivy seem to have no trouble at all adjusting to middle school and are very annoying. AJ knows that Nia likes vampire stories so he starts pretending to be one. At this point I had questions: is this a world where vampires are real? Is everyone play acting? Does he really think Nia will like him better? I just went along for the ride and enjoyed it very much. Stylistically I liked the drawing style and the full colors. The trees and woods made it clear we were in the Pacific Northwest (as does the Powell’s bookstore reference.)
A fun graphic novel.

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The Hidden Witch by Molly Ostertag

The Hidden Witch (The Witch Boy #2) Sequel to Witch Boy. This was a good follow up and once again I thought it was so nice how, well nice, the two main characters were. I suppose some people might find it a bit too easy, but I didn’t. I liked it that Sedge–the bad cousin from the first book-opened up about his issues and got a resolution. I loved how kind Charlie (the non witch character) was and nice about making friends with the mysterious new girl.  And I liked how the main story that was left unfinished in Witch Boy was resolved in this sequel. I’d be happy to spend more time in this world Ostertag has created and get to know many more of the characters!

The Divided Earth by Faith Erin Hicks

I couldn’t wait for this trilogy finale to arrive and when it did it took me weeks to getting around to reading it! And not only that, as usual with a trilogy, I couldn’t remember what had happened in books one and two. Given that each book is a not too long graphic novel I really should have read them first (but now I might go back and read all three at once.) I guess it’s a testament to how good these books are that even not fully remembering the backstory I still felt invested in the outcome and still enjoyed the book.
I guess if I were to leave a quick plot summary to help my future self it would be–the final fight for control of the Nameless City?
I thought this book had some particularly good action sequences. I don’t know if elaborate chases and fights are hard to draw, but it sure seems like they would be. After all, static illustrations need to convey running leaping kicking punching jumping wrestling etc. and these totally did.
I also appreciated an epilogue.

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka

This was just terrific, and sad, and inspirational. Though I know Krosoczka’s work because Lunch Lady is very popular in my library, I haven’t actually read any of his things. Nor have I seen the Ted Talk that inspired this book.  (Pause: start watching the video, it’s touching already.)

Anyway, this was a really great memoir. Jarrett’s grandparents adopted him as a toddler because his mother was a heroin addict who was either in jail or rehab for most of his childhood. His grandparents weren’t the sweetest easygoing-est people–they are heavy drinkers and smoke like crazy. Lots of swearing, too! But they loved him so much and they invested in him and supported his art,which led to him becoming a successful graphic novelist today.

This was a compelling story and I highly recommend it!

One question: Did grown up successful Jarrett ever meet Jack Gantos? I sure hope so

Check, Please! #Hockey, Vol. 1

I adored this graphic novel! There was so much to love about it–the inside look at collegiate men’s hockey, the college friendships, the delightful and charming main character, Bitty, and his vlogging and talking to us frankly, and excessive baking. And not just Bitty-I really loved all the characters. I was so disappointed when I got to the end and found that i have to wait for another volume. The bonus content almost made up for that, though.

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk

This was a very fun graphic novel, although there were some things that just didn’t flow to me. Danielle has just started middle school and it seems to be one that a bunch of elementary schools feed into. Her best friends from elementary school are in a different group than she is, leaving her facing middle school classes, lunchtimes, and everything else all by herself as she struggles to make friends.  Meanwhile a great aunt has died and the end result of an enormous family squabble is that Danielle gets the aunt’s old sketchbook. While drawing a doodle of her favorite anime character in it she discovers the sketchbook has some magic as the character comes to life. Only, she only drew his head. He believes she is a princess and tries to help her make friends. Except he’s kind of a jerk. There were lots of details I really liked in the illustrations, such as every brand name being not quite right (i.e., “Newtflax” instead of Netlfix.) I liked it when Danielle knew so much about it and referenced the show and books the Prince are in. But I didn’t care for the family scenes, which were kind of odd and didn’t really fit into the rest of the story.  Her uncle is a terrible nasty man? But only shows up in a couple scenes? To what end??

I was surprised by the turn the story took at the end but I really enjoyed the resolution. So, while the fantastical elements make this not quite the same as According to Aggie or Real Friends, I do think the theme of maintaining old friendships and making new ones stands out enough that fans of those other titles would enjoy this.

The Broken Vow (Spill Zone #2) by Scott Westerfeld

Boy was I excited when I found that #2 had come out and was immediately available for me to read. Unfortunately, though I remembered that I’d loved the first one, I couldn’t really seem to remember too much of it. And I counted on it just coming back to me as I read and it didn’t. Honestly I was pretty perplexed by everything and not caught up in the story at all. A lot of it just didn’t make sense (logically) to me.  However, I really enjoyed the ending/epilogue. Which I guess means I’ll like book #3 better than book #2?