24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Tag: 5 hearts

Abby Reads: Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Paper Girls (Volume I) by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Image Comics, 2016, 144 pages
Graphic Novel

Paper Girls, written by Brian K. Vaughan with art by Cliff Chiang, got incredibly lucky — not only was the execution fantastic, but it emerged in a year in which Netflix’s Stranger Things took off, providing fans of the show with more fantastic science fiction Eighties nostalgia revolving around kids who display maturity that adults often forget they had as kids. When Erin joins a group in the early morning hours of November 1 to deliver newspapers, she finds empowerment in being part of the first group of girls to serve as paperboys. Although twelve years old, Erin already has a solid grip on the world around her — until everything is turned upside down with two different sets of invaders in her neighborhood who seem to be at war with each other. Are they aliens? Are they from the future? Are they here to harm the people of Erin’s town? Already, the adults have lost their minds and the paper girls are on their own.

Erin’s love of scientists, evidenced by a woman scientist (I’ll keep it a surprise as to who) appearing in her dream, draws the reader in right away. While the girls in Paper Girls are girls, you won’t find any stereotypes here. Each character lives in their own flaws, toughness, capability, and sensitivity, a luxury rarely afforded to female characters particularly in this specific genre (by which I mean a sort of action-adventure about kids in the Eighties, in which you generally either have one token girl amongst a group of boys who, still, is either “girly” or a tomboy with no spectrum between the two, and neither is ever truly viewed favorably).

Instead, though each are different in nuanced ways that make them individuals you might recognize from your own childhood, Mac, Erin, Tiffany, and KJ are not terribly influenced by their gender beyond the pride of being the first of the paper girls in a town of only paperboys. Vaughan’s ability to write real girls sets Paper Girls apart from so many other stories about girls and women. This is especially impressive given that, in reality, the graphic novel is in many ways about what it is to be a girl. Vaughan creates a fascinating and apparent paradox, writing girls who are seemingly genderless by society’s and fiction’s standards while maintaining characters that are more true to girlhood than characters of other narratives that specifically highlight facets of girlhood.

Meanwhile, Vaughan refuses to ignore other important conversations on privilege. Mac, for example, is the embodiment of privileged America. Her dialogue and beliefs can be highly offensive, even within the “historical” context of the Eighties, yet without being too obvious about it, Vaughan nods to the moral issues there. Though Mac’s first utterance of a gay slur was shocking, something beneath the surface of the narrative suggests Mac is in fact being set up for major character development, which is massively exciting — it has been so rare, in my experience, to see true and meaningful character development for adolescent girls in fiction that goes beyond the role of women in relation to men. How refreshing it is to see it unfolding in Paper Girls.

The concept in plot is equally riveting. It’s difficult to say much without giving it away, but I was impressed by the complexity that develops throughout the graphic novel and felt it brought up some great questions and dilemmas, causing the reader to look both inward and outward at themselves, society now, and society in the future. The premise is loaded with relevant allegories, but is supposed heavily by a great story that promises to get even better.

Finally, a word on the art — I often, as I’ve mentioned before, struggle with art in graphic novels. Though I recognize it’s an inherent and important part of graphic novels, I typically find it distracting and overwhelming. Chiang’s illustrations for Paper Girls, however, are mind-blowing. The simplicity of colors and outlines with a jaw-dropping and buzzing palette made me want to get large prints of several of the panes to decorate my walls with. I loved this art, from the style to the execution to the concept, and I can’t overstate how engaging it made the material as a whole.

Paper Girls does have moments of confusion. As a first volume, I expect some of that is intentional as we learn more about what is actually going on and about the world in which the story takes place. I’ll be watching my libraries for Volume II, to find out what happens next and get another eyeful of that spectacular art. If you’re a fan of Eighties nostalgia revival, complex girl characters, and science fiction (or even if you’re not a fan of any of those things but trust me just a little bit), I hope you’ll join me.

❤❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015, 208 pages
Poetry

Rupi Kaur’s collection of poems is truly a collection for women who don’t like poetry. And that is to say, the book is for everyone, but especially and even for women who don’t like poetry. The movement of poems throughout the book showcases a sort-of narrative that might be any woman’s narrative, making the unspoken spoken. Once you’ve read Milk and Honey, you know not only that you’ve joined a very special community, but that a community has been there all along, seemingly existing only in the mist and in-between. For this, alone, Kaur’s work should be lauded, but truly, there’s more (and don’t even get me started on that gorgeous cover — there’s a reason it’s all of Instagram).

Each poem in the collection features short lines with simple language, making the work as a whole accessible. Yet Kaur’s incredible skill with syntax and precise vocabulary lends the collection an impact I’ve rarely seen in one poem, let alone a full set. Some poems are also accompanied by a simple illustration. These are done by Kaur and complement the text of the book with a matching raw starkness.

With topics ranging from love to abuse to living in a patriarchal society to self-love, one of Kaur’s most powerful moves is that she shows that there is strength in pain. We often hear phrases like, “Real men cry,” which we take to mean that it takes strength to have and show emotion. That concept had never really become concrete for me until I read Milk and Honey, however. Kaur, or her narrator, unashamedly feels things and puts those feelings into words and poetry that reaches out and says, “I’ve been there, too. Let’s feel it together,” in a way.

This togetherness is stilted in one aspect, however. With Kaur’s nearly-clear narrative with a neat beginning, middle, and end, her story is somewhat less relatable that it might have been in a less structured design. The straight narrative reinforces the idea that this is of a particular character, who, regardless of their reality, is a single person. With the focus on the one, it is slightly more difficult to expand to the all.

Men who encounter Milk and Honey with an open mind will probably walk away from it with a much greater understanding of what, for many, many women, womanhood is. Kaur sums up the minute and ambiguous beautifully, accurately, succinctly, and exactly. What so many women for the duration of womanhood have been trying to say (and only a few have done successfully) is here in these few pages. Even if you “hate” or “don’t get” poetry, give Kaur’s work a try — you won’t regret it.

❤❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
HarperCollins, 2007, 290 pages
Nonfiction

I vaguely remember being introduced to Annie Dillard in my tenth grade English class. Long after having forgotten her – and Dylan Thomas, who I read around the same time and often wondered was being confused with Dillard (Dylan, Dillard, it was all the same to me) – and her story about snowballs and being one of the boys, I sent in my acceptance form to Hollins University which was, little did I know, Dillard’s alma mater. I walked the same paths as she, sat in the same classrooms, even shared a teacher or two. I have yet, sadly, to become the sensation she has been, but I hold out hope. But I’m digressing.tumblr_nxofghFTcT1qe4vfco1_1280

I finally got around to reading Dillard’s best known work, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek this past fall. While I had felt guilty about not having read it as a student at Hollins, reading it post-Hollins was probably for the best. Pilgrim’s look at Roanoke, Virginia, though its focus generally sits outside of the Hollins’ campus walls, made me feel as if I was visiting home again. Dillard’s grip on exploring her surroundings in every sensory permutation possible brings the environment to life.

I also want to admit that I went into Pilgrim expecting to dislike it. Also in high school, I’d been introduced to Thoreau and Emerson. Despite the pair’s ties to Louisa May Alcott (who I love), I hadn’t been impressed. In fact, the magnified look at ants one of them described – to be honest, I can’t remember which of the two existentialists wrote about the ants, I hated them both so much at the time – bored me to death. I expected Pilgrim to be much the same, as it had been advertised. The guilt pulled me into it, however, and since I was determined to read collections of essays throughout November, I couldn’t think of a better time to get it over with.

The only word that comes to mind here is, indeed. Indeed, indeed. I savored it. In either the foreword or the afterword, Dillard explains that Pilgrim is not so much a collection of essays as so many critics described it at and since its publication, but a narrative of an environment throughout the seasons. And that much is true, though it’s a winding and unfocused narrative that you may not be aware of until the thing is through and that narrative structure has been explicitly pointed out for you, as it was for me. Dillard works through the metaphysical and philosophical in indirect, meandering ways. It’s not until her inevitable punch that you realize all of the minute description leading up to it had not just been for the aesthetics, but for the thesis that the chapter led up to. With a theme for each chapter, Dillard sprinkles in other poignant lines between comments on squirrels, cicadas, and other creatures of the Roanoke Valley.

I’m often hesitant to read NYT Bestsellers or Pulitzer Prize Winners and whatnot simply because the topic of the book isn’t in my realm of interests. I imagine I’ll dislike it because I’ve read others that appear to be similar and hadn’t liked those. But each time I do, I’m surprised. This was the case with Pilgrim and others I’ve read. Even if natural observance isn’t your thing, give Pilgrim at Tinker Creek a chance – slow in some parts as it may be – and go on a journey of your own.

❤❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Balzer + Bray, 2013, 448 pages
YA Science Fiction

Based on Jane Austen’s PersuasionFor Darkness Shows the Stars begins with eighteen-year-old Elliot struggling to maintain the land and estate of her family while nursing an old heartbreak. In the company of her sister, Tatiana, and controlling father, Baron North, Elliot manages the servants on her family’s land. These servants, a combination of the Reduced and Children of the Reduced (also DSC_0008known as Post-Reductionist or Post), are treated well by Elliot, though others in her Luddite society believe the Reduced and the Posts are serving for their ancestor’s wrongdoings in pursuing genetic and biological enhancement. Fearing for her ailing grandfather’s health, Elliot knows she has to do something to save the family’s estate. When childhood friend and former Post, Kai, returns with a makeshift family to rent Elliot’s grandfather’s land, Elliot seizes the opportunity. But the politics between the Luddites, the Reduced, and the Posts continued to be strained — none more so than those between Kai and Elliot. In a novel that questions the rejection of scientific advancement and the cost of moving forward, author Diana Peterfruend tells an engaging narrative with an exceptional handle on language and memorable characters.

Peterfreund employs a near-perfect language in her nontraditional post-apocalyptic dystopian novel. With vocabulary and sentence structured which loosely mirrors Austen’s original text, the novel not only reminds the reader of its source material but easily reflects the lives of the Luddites who star in the story. Peterfrend throws in the occasional exclamation with a more modern sound to it, which serves to emphasize the futuristic setting which might otherwise be forgotten. Peterfreund consistently chooses just the right word to portray captivating moments. In one instance of heightened emotion, Peterfreund describes Elliot’s flesh as “burning” where many authors would instead choose “warmed.” Choices such as this one really make this science fiction particularly human and approachable.

Meanwhile, For Darkness Shows the Stars benefits from a cast of well-defined and lovable characters. Elliot, as the main character, is not only easy to love, but is complex. As her reasoning plays out paragraph by paragraph, sympathizing with her becomes that much easier. Whether or not you agree with her actions — which you sometimes may not (one of the greatest achievements of this novel) — Elliot’s thought process is undeniably fascinating and humanizing. Nearly all of the other characters — Andromeda, Felicia, Tatiana, Baron North, Dee, Ro, there are far too many to name — accomplish similar effects. Kai is the only exception, who could have benefited from further development. (I understand this may be rectified in a companion story — more here.)

Peterfreund also does well on world building, giving the reader enough information to enjoy the story and appreciate the content of Elliot’s problems without overloading on detail. For readers looking for more on the background of the society, Peterfreund has written a prequel as well as another novel which takes place in the same universe and is a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel.  Readers who shy from science fiction due to the sometimes-overwhelming world building need not avoid this novel, which is based more in the matters of the heart than of the machine.

 

❤❤❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

 

© 2017 24 Hour Library

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑