I’ve got three more bite-sized reviews for you today. One YA, one MG contemp and one for two MG graphic novels. I hope these bite-sized reviews will be enough to feed your fiction addiction!
Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy
Published by Sourcebooks Fire on April 3, 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
My content rating: YA (Nothing more than kissing shown---possible implication of more)
Fandom and first love collide for Iris on the film set for her grandmother’s famous high-fantasy trilogy—perfect for readers of Fangirl!
Unlike the rest of the world, Iris doesn't care about the famous high-fantasy Elementia books written by M. E. Thorne. So it's just a little annoying that M. E. Thorne is her grandmother—and that Iris has to deal with the trilogy's crazy fans.
When Iris gets dropped in Ireland for the movie adaptation, she sees her opportunity: if she can shut down production, the Elementia craze won't grow any bigger, and she can finally have a normal life.
Not even the rascally-cute actor Eamon O'Brien can get in her way.
But the crew's passion is contagious, and as Iris begins to find herself in the very world she has avoided her whole life, she realizes that this movie might just be amazing…
This book will bring out the fandom geek in just about anybody. I loved the fact that Iris couldn’t care less about her grandmother’s famous series, even while the world was busy adoring it. She’d spent her life avoiding her grandmother’s fans, especially after an incident with an overeager and disturbed one nearly ended in tragedy. I will say that Iris’s negativity was a little hard to handle at first—it took me a while to warm up to her, even though I understood why she had a bit of a chip on her shoulder. As Iris was won over by the movie (and, especially, by the people involved), though, she started to win me over as well. I loved the relationships she formed, especially the director of the movie, who ended up being a real role model. And then, of course, there’s Eamon, who has to be one of the sweetest love interests on the planet. By about the middle of the book, I was completely invested, and I was rooting for Iris all the way. The book explores family dynamics, friendships, and themes of finding yourself when the world wants to define you, all very worthy themes. I had a few little quibbles with details (why would fans be so obsessed with the author’s grandkids? Is this a thing?). But it definitely won me over in the end.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Captain Superlative by J.S. Puller
Published by Disney-Hyperion on May 8, 2018
Genres: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Source: The Publisher
My content rating: MG (Themes of death and dying)
"Have no fear, citizens! Captain Superlative is here to make all troubles disappear!"
Red mask, blue wig, silver swimsuit, rubber gloves, torn tights, high top sneakers and . . . a cape? Who would run through the halls of Deerwood Park Middle School dressed like this? And why?
Janey-quick to stay in the shadows-can't resist the urge to uncover the truth behind the mask. The answer pulls invisible Janey into the spotlight and leads her to an unexpected friendship with a superhero like no other. Fearless even in the face of school bully extraordinaire, Dagmar Hagen, no good deed is too small for the incomparable Captain Superlative and her new sidekick, Janey.
But superheroes hold secrets and Captain Superlative is no exception. When Janey unearths what's truly at stake, she's forced to face her own dark secrets and discover what it truly means to be a hero . . . and a friend.
Debut author J.S. Puller delivers an inspirational story full of heart, humor, and breathtaking revelations.
This book is both bittersweet and heartwarming. Janey has spent her school career avoiding the spotlight. She’s pretty sure that the way to survive middle school is to become as invisible as possible, and she’s done a good job of that. But when a girl who calls herself Captain Superlative shows up on the scene, Janey’s world is shaken up—suddenly she feels challenged to care and to work to actually make her school a better place.
Overall, I really enjoyed this story, especially the last quarter of the book, when Janey realizes her new friend is dying (this isn’t a spoiler—you find out that Captain Superlative dies right at the very beginning of the book). It was hard not to be touched by the scenes where Janey tries to process her friend’s illness and where she learns something about the bully at school that gives her perspective.
There were a few things that gave me pause, though. First of all, I found it hard to believe that the extreme bullying went completely unnoticed by the adults at the school. The author made a point of saying that Dagmar was clever about hiding it, but the fact that it had gone on for so long with no one noticing and none of the kids saying anything seemed unrealistic to me. At the end of the book, I had even more questions about the obliviousness of the adults in the story when it came to Dagmar, but I won’t spell them out because that would be a spoiler. I also wondered at the fact that both Janey and Captain Superlative were completely isolated—they had no friends at all before the superhero incident, and no one knew who Captain Superlative was, even though she’d gone to the school. I get that the point was that the girls were both flying under the radar, but can you really do it that much? This seemed suspect to me and a little strange.
Despite these misgivings, I thought that the positive messages of the book outweighed the negatives.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was given and all opinions are my own.***
Smile by Raina Telgemeier
Published by Graphix on February 1, 2010
Genres: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Contemporary
My content rating: MG
Raina Telgemeier's #1 New York Times bestselling, Eisner Award-winning graphic memoir based on her childhood!
Raina just wants to be a normal sixth grader. But one night after Girl Scouts she trips and falls, severely injuring her two front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with on-again, off-again braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and even a retainer with fake teeth attached. And on top of all that, there's still more to deal with: a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friends who turn out to be not so friendly.
Published by Graphix on August 26, 2014
Genres: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Contemporary
My content rating: MG
Three weeks. Two sisters. One car. A True Story
Raina can't wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren't quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she's also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn't improve much over the years. But when a baby brother enters the picture, and later, when something doesn't seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.
I’ve had my eye on Raina Telgemeier for quite a while, so when I saw her graphic novels at my local Scholastic warehouse sale, I decided to jump on the chance to pick them up for a great deal! (I bought Ghosts and Drama as well, so watch for reviews of those coming soon).
I thought these two books were cute and very fun. Smile sums up a lot of the horrors of the middle grade experience pretty darn well. I felt for Raina as she went through the pain and frustrations of her dental issues. Even though most kids probably haven’t had her exact problems, I think most will relate to having something that sets them apart in a way they wish it didn’t. There’s a little bit of exploration of awkward first crushes and friendships gone sour as well—again, very relatable. Since the graphic novel is based on real life, none of the storylines get tied up in a neat little bow, and we don’t get any sort of big happy ending or resolution moment, which is actually probably a good thing. I wasn’t completely blown away by the storyline, but I enjoyed it and decided to move right on to the next book.
Sisters gives us a little insight into sibling rivalry and a summer trip that Raina took with her family. Again, we get themes of being left out as Raina feels a little out of place and left behind by her cousins. We also see flashbacks to points in the past where Raina and Amara clashed or bonded (usually clashed). The graphic novel was, again, very realistic since it was based on Raina’s past. So, we don’t get a big finale that brings Raina and Amara together or anything. Instead we see the two of them working through their rivalry and coming out a little closer at the end. There are also unresolved issues with Raina’s parents’ relationship. I happened to see an FAQ on Raina’s website that explained that Raina was left feeling unsure of where things were headed at the time, and she wanted to give an honest portrayal of that uncertainty in the book. This might leave some kids feeling frustrated, but I think they’ll connect to the themes of the book and still enjoy it.