Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Light in Hidden Places - Sharon Cameron

Title: The Light in Hidden Places
Author: Sharon Cameron
Publisher: Scholastic Press, March 3, 2020 (Hardcover)
(Review copy is an ARC from the publisher)
Length: 390 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Adult; Historical Fiction
Started: February 18, 2020
Finished: February 22, 2020

Summary:
From the back cover:

It is 1943, and sixteen-year-old Stefania has been working for the Diamant family in their shop in Przemysl, Poland. She hopes to marry one of their sons, Izio, but they must keep their love a secret since she is Catholic and he is Jewish. Everything changes, though, when the German army invades Przemysl. The Diamants are forced into the ghetto, and Stefania is alone in an occupied city, left to care for Helena, her six-year-old sister.

Then comes the knock at the door. Izio's brother Max has jumped from a train headed to a death camp. Stefania and Helena make the extraordinary decision to hide Max and eventually twelve more Jews. Now they wait, every day, for the next knock at the door, the one that will mean death. When the knock finally comes, it is two Nazi officers, requisitioning Stefania's house for the German army.

With two Nazis living below, thirteen Jews hidden above, and a little sister by her side, Stefania has one more excruciating choice to make.

Award-winning author Sharon Cameron depicts that utterly unremarkable and heroic real-life story of Stefania Podgorska in this gripping page-turner that explores the momentous decisions people make and how one person truly can change the world.

Review:
I've always liked these types of Holocaust memoirs (well, fictionalized accounts of memoirs), so when I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of an upcoming book relating to an individual from history that I didn't previously know, I jumped at the chance.

The Light in Hidden Places is a novel based on the true story of Stefania Podgorska, a young woman who helped aide thirteen Jewish people in the ghetto, and later hid them in her attic. The story begins in the late 1930s, when a young teenaged Stefania moves from the rural countryside to live with her older sisters in the city of Przemysl. She begins to work for the Diamant family in their store and quickly becomes like a sister to the four Diamant boys: Chaim, Henek, Max, and Izio. Once the German army invades in September 1939, their city is bombed, and restrictions on Jewish citizens begin.

In early 1942, the Diamants are ordered to relocate to the nearby ghetto, and Stefania remains alone in the Diamant home. That same year, after her mother and brother are sent to a labour camp in Salzburg, Stefania is tasked with taking care of her younger sister, Helena. When the ghetto is liquidated, Max escapes from the train headed to a death camp and Stefania and Helena hide him in the apartment. In 1943, after securing work at a German-owned factory and a new apartment to rent with an attic where people could hide, they later add Max's brother Henek and his girlfriend Danuta and ten others from the ghetto. Her house is requisitioned by the Nazis in early 1944, so Stefania, Helena, and the thirteen others hiding in the attic shared the house in that way for the next several months until the city was liberated by the Russians in the summer of 1944.

You can tell that this book was written with a great deal of love and compassion. The author has done her homework and researched it all impeccably well. Stefania's son Ed is quoted on the back cover as to the accuracy and spirit of the book being in line with his mother and father's memories. Contrary to my expectations, it isn't sugar-coated in the slightest (I figured it would be a little since it was published under the Scholastic banner) and tells the very raw details of Stefania's experiences. She is assaulted and nearly raped several times (there's a very hard scene to read where 8-year-old Helena is badly beaten by the SS), and she even expresses resentment at times because of the sheer amount of work and stress involved in her situation. At the same time, Stefania states how she simply couldn't live with herself if her actions (or inaction) had allowed her thirteen to be harmed in any way, which is part of what makes her story so remarkable.

I can appreciate the level of honesty in this novel because you don't often hear about the mental anguish that Holocaust survivors and their helpers endured, most narratives tend to focus on the bravery. This book is unique in that it acknowledges the PTSD that affects people who endure trauma on this scale, I feel like we as readers understand this now, but years ago it wasn't something that was really discussed as part of their story.

The only thing that nagged at me a bit was that it was difficult to follow the progression of years at the beginning of the story and how old people were. Like how Stefania was actually sixteen in 1941, not 1943, and for the majority of the events in the story she was actually eighteen and nineteen years old.

In researching this book, I came across this clip on YouTube of Stefania and Max's son, Ed, giving a talk about his parents in 2019. He mentions this very book, and he even shows a copy of the drawing Max drew for Stefania that was mentioned at the end of the book that was really nice to see. This is a great clip to start with if you'd like to learn more about Stefania's story.

Recommendation:
This is a wonderfully-written account of how the small actions of a few can really changes people's lives for the better. This more mature narrative should be available in all our high school libraries and is one we should encourage our children to read.

Thoughts on the cover:
It's a typical YA cover, nothing much to write home about. You'd think they'd incorporate something with an attic and light and shadow or something like that given the content, so a missed opportunity in my opinion.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Empire of Wild - Cherie Dimaline

Title: Empire of Wild
Author: Cherie Dimaline
Publisher: Random House Canada, 2019 (Hardcover)
Length: 298 pages
Genre: Adult; Fantasy
Started: January 28, 2020
Finished: February 11, 2020

Summary: 
From the inside cover:

"Joan had been searching for her lost husband for eleven months and six days, since last October when they'd fought about selling the land she inherited from her father and he'd put on his grey jacket and walked out, the screen door banging behind him."

One hung-over morning in a Walmart parking lot in a little town near Georgian Bay, broken-hearted Joan is drawn to a revival tent where the local Metis have been flocking to hear a charismatic preacher. By the time she staggers into the tent the service is over, but as she is about to leave she hears an unmistakable voice.

She turns, and there is Victor. Only he insists he's not Victor, but the Reverend Eugene Wolff, on a mission to bring his people to Jesus. And he doesn't seem to be faking: there isn't even a flicker of recognition in his eyes.

With only two allies - her odd, Johnny Cash-loving twelve-year-old nephew, Zeus, and Ajean, a foul-mouthed euchre shark with a deep knowledge of the old ways - Joan sets out to remind the Revered Wolff who he really is. If he really is Victor, his life, and the life of everyone she loves, depends upon her success.

Inspired by the traditional story of the Rogarou - a werewolf-like creature that haunts the roads and woods of Metis communities - Cherie Dimaline has created a propulsive, stunning and sensuous novel.

Review:
After reading The Marrow Thieves a couple years ago, I knew I'd read anything this author wrote. When I discovered she had written a second novel, and not YA, I picked it up immediately. Ultimately, this is an adult version of Little Red Riding Hood (but with werewolves) set in Ontario with Indigenous characters and backdrop.

Joan, from the town of Arcand, is in her mid-thirties and searching for her missing husband. While her family tries to gently tell her that Victor probably just left her and that she needs to stop her constant searching, Joan refuses to give up on him. After a night drinking, she finds a Christian mission setting up in a parking lot. Led by a man named Heiser, the group travels around northern Ontario to Indigenous communities that just happen to be in negotiations with natural resources companies over the use of their traditional lands. When Joan recognizes the Revered Wolff as her missing husband, she endeavors to make him remember her.

Joan is great character, she's fiery and determined and very well-developed. The supporting cast isn't as fleshed out as Joan sadly, but I think if the novel had been a little longer that could've been achieved. The plot grabs you right at the beginning with almost fairy-tale like descriptions of Arcand and its people, and just keeps going. Joan's relationship with Victor is described quite poetically, you as the reader root for them to be reunited. The social commentary contained in the story is quite timely and cleverly done, something this author also did in her previous book. The ending feels a bit abrupt and dissatisfying though, but I think that was the only downside for me.

Recommendation:
A wonderfully engrossing read with representation we need more of.

Thoughts on the cover:
I love the black and grey image of the woods with the image of the green chair from Victor's dream state; the pink font of the title really pops against this.

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood - Lisa Damour, Ph.D.

Title: Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood
Author: Lisa Damour, Ph.D.
Publisher: Ballantine Books, 2017 (Paperback)
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Parenting
Started: February 11, 2020
Finished: February 13 2020

Summary:
From Amazon.ca:

In this sane, highly engaging, and informed guide for parents of daughters, Dr. Damour draws on decades of experience and the latest to reveal the seven distinct - and absolutely normal - developmental transitions that turn girls into grownups, including Parting with Childhood, Contending with adult Authority, Entering the Romantic World, and Caring for Herself. Providing realistic scenarios and welcome advice on how to engage daughters in smart, constructive ways, Untangled gives parents a broad framework for understanding their daughters while addressing their most common questions, including:


  • My thirteen-year-old rolls her eyes when I try to talk to her, and only does it more when I get angry at her. How should I respond?
  • Do I tell my daughter that I'm checking her phone?
  • My daughter suffers from test anxiety. What can I do to help her?
  • Where's the line between healthy eating and having an eating disorder?
  • My teenage daughter wants to know why I'm against pot when it's legal in some states. What should I say?
  • My daughter's friend is cutting herself. Do I call the girl's mother to let her know?

Perhaps most important, Untangled helps mothers and fathers understand, connect, and grow with their daughters. When parents know what makes their daughters tick, they can embrace and enjoy the challenge of raising a healthy, happy young woman. 

Review:
I've been meaning to read this book for quite a while. Not only do I work with teenage girls every day to the point where it feels like an extension of parenting duties, but I've also got my girls at home. This book has come recommended in a long line of parenting books specifically targeted to the unique needs and concerns of raising girls. The author states that many of the developmental transitions she discusses in her book do apply to both boys and girls, but some of the details differ regarding girls. 

Overall, this is a great general, yet comprehensive guide that covers information that will apply to most girls. Obviously if you're dealing with a child that's experiencing trauma, abuse, mental illness, etc. then this information likely won't address all your concerns, but it's a great place to start. 

One thing I love about books like these are real-life examples and anecdotes that the author has encountered in her practice that puts information in an easily accessible format. The book itself is very easy to read and it could easily be finished in a few sittings or less. 

The developmental transitions the author mentions are the following:
  • Parting with Childhood
  • Joining a New Tribe
  • Harnessing Emotions
  • Contending with Adult Authority
  • Planning for the Future
  • Entering the Romantic World
  • Caring for Herself
Parting with Childhood explains why girls all of a sudden act like they're allergic to their families and abandon many of the things they associate with childhood, while still struggling with maturity and can sometimes seem like they're flip-flopping between child and adult ('cause they are). Joining a New Tribe explains why girls attach themselves so strongly to their friends as opposed to their families, and the difficulties this can cause.

Harnessing Emotions was a really eye-opening chapter in that it explains that emotional growth occurs only when people are uncomfortable, so if a girl doesn't have the opportunity to experience uncomfortable emotions she won't be able to grow in this area. For example, if a parent swoops in to solve her problems so she never develops those coping skills, or if she relies on technology to vent and potentially worsen the situation rather than being able to cool down and see the potential consequences of that text message or that social media post. Contending with Adult Authority is about girls becoming savvy enough to see that people are complex and often hypocritical, so rules need to make sense and be about safety first and foremost rather than about controlling their behaviour, because they'll buck that just to prove they can't be controlled...almost like toddlers. It also explains that if authority figures are too lax girls feel insecure, so they actually want rules and boundaries even if they buck them constantly.

Planning for the Future deals with having goals and ensuring success in school, since girls need one to achieve the other and sometimes need help seeing how one directly influences the other. Entering the Romantic World is about dating and sex and the concerns that come with that relating to keeping girls safe while still allowing them some freedom. Finally, Caring for Herself is about drugs, alcohol, and risky sexual behaviours and again about keeping girls safe when they get too over their head.

Recommendation:
Great informative read if you have teenage girls of your own or work with them on a consistent basis. It explains a lot of the things teenagers do that adults often find frustrating that actually end up being quite normal.

Thoughts on the cover:
It's your average parenting book cover.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Sorcery of Thorns - Margaret Rogerson

Title: Sorcery of Thorns
Author: Margaret Rogerson
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster), 2019 (Hardcover)
Length: 453 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: October 26, 2019
Finished: November 5, 2019

Summary:
From the inside cover:

All sorcerers are evil. Elisabeth has known that as long as she has known anything. Raised as a foundling in one of Austermeer's Great Libraries, Elisabeth has grown up among the tools of sorcery - magical grimoires that whisper on the shelves and rattle beneath iron chains. If provoked, they transform into grotesque monsters of ink and leather. She hopes to become a warden, charged with protecting the kingdom from their power.

Then an act of sabotage releases the library's most dangerous grimoire. Elisabeth's desperate intervention implicates her in the crime, and she is torn from her home to face justice in the capital. With no one to turn to but her sworn enemy, the sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, and his mysterious demonic servant, she finds herself entangled in a centuries-old conspiracy. Not only could the Great Libraries go up in flames, but the world along with them.

As her alliance with Nathaniel grows stronger, Elisabeth starts to question everything she's been taught - about sorcerers, about the libraries she so loves, even about herself. For Elisabeth has a power she has never guessed, and a future she could never have imagined.

Review:
After reading the author's first book, An Enchantment of Ravens, a few years back and finding it a worthwhile read, but not something I fell in love with, I was looking forward to reading more from this author. Sorcery of Thorns is the author's second book. Very rarely do second books impress me, whether one-shots or sequels. In regards to this second book though, I stand corrected, it is absolutely phenomenal.

The author opens with this dedication: For all the girls who found themselves in books. From that one line I was hooked. I've always wanted to read a story about a young woman whose story revolves around a library, and though I have read quite a few (that plot isn't quite as rare as you'd think), this one is by far one of the most intriguing.

Elisabeth lives in the Great Library of Summershall in the kingdom of Austermeer. As an orphan, she is in the unique position to apprentice to be a librarian, but this is no ordinary job. The books in the library, called grimoires, are sentient, teeming with magic and personality. The grimoires must be guarded properly or else they can morph into Maleficts, malignant entities that wreak havoc on humanity. When Elisabeth wakes in the middle of the night to find her warden dead and a Malefict advancing on the town, she is blamed for the incident and sent to the capital of Brassbridge to stand trial. Accompanied by sorcerer Nathaniel Thorn, both he and Elisabeth are attacked by the forces of magic, taking it upon themselves to uncover the larger plot being conducted against all the libraries in Austermeer.

The world-building is exquisite here, and unlike in the author's first book, this world and its details are satisfactorily fleshed out in the first few chapters. The idea of sentient books was a lovely one, I adore the few scenes of Elisabeth interacting with the books, handling them with the care one would bestow on the elderly or a small child.

The characters, however, are what really make this novel shine. Elisabeth is sufficiently spunky and persistent, you know, your basic YA heroine, except she's not as annoying as the type usually is. Nathaniel is hilariously caustic with a traumatic backstory (plus he's bi, yay for non-token LGBTQ representation!), and his and Elisabeth's relationship is a well-developed, slow burn type of love that is realistically portrayed. Silas though, Nathaniel's demonic servant, steals the show in my opinion. His character is not only wonderfully three-dimensional, he's also the most interesting by far, to the point where I want a whole book just about Silas now.

If there is a downside to this book, I'd say that the ending feels a bit rushed and is overly convenient. This isn't really a huge detriment in my opinion, the pros well outweighed the cons here.

Recommendation:
This is must-read. The writing and world-building pulls you in, the characters are appealing (I'd argue that people read this for Silas alone), and it showcases a love of books and knowledge (plus adventure, romance, and snarky demons...what's not to love?)

Thoughts on the cover:
The same illustrator that did the cover for An Enchantment of Ravens graces us again with the cover image for Sorcery of Thorns, and boy is it pretty. The colour scheme of dark greens and blues is aesthetically pleasing, and apparently there is an alternative/special edition cover that was done in a purple colour scheme as well.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Saenz

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2012 (Hardcover)
Length: 359 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: September 3, 2019
Finished: September 18, 2019

Summary:
From the inside cover:

Dante can swim. Ari can't. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair-skinned. Ari's features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But when Ari and Dante meet, they bond. They share books, thoughts, dreams, laughter. They teach each other new vocabularies and begin to redefine each other's worlds. And they discover that the universe is a large and difficult place.

This is the story about two boys, Ari and Dante, who must learn to believe in each other and the power of their friendship if they are ever to become men.

In breathtaking prose, American Book Award winner Benjamin Alire Saenz captures those moments that make a boy a man as he explores loyalty and trust, friendship and love.

Review:
The last book I reviewed, We Contain Multitudes, was often compared to Aristotle and Dante in publications and other reviews. I've been meaning to read it for years but hadn't quite gotten around to it until now. I'm disappointed that I let such a gem of a book go unread for so many years, but I'm glad I've read it now.

Aristotle "Ari" Mendoza and Dante Quintana are teenage boys growing up in El Paso, Texas in the late 1980s. The book follows the pair across a couple of years, from age fifteen to seventeen, as they grow from tentative, unsure boys to confident young men.

Ari acts as our narrator, beginning as a boy who admits he's lonely but prefers to keep to himself. With a dad dealing with the traumas of his time in the Vietnam War, and his family struggling with the ghost of his older brother Bernardo in prison, Ari has questions about a lot of things but few answers. In comes Dante like a summer storm, gently but persistently involving himself in Ari's life, even across a great distance later on in the book. Eventually the two of them discover the answers they are seeking, while discovering love for each other.

The writing is beautiful without being pretentious, and the boys themselves are very well-developed as characters as well as realistic teen boys. The novel does a good job of developing the theme of what happens when secrets fester as opposed to having open lines of communication, which we see not only through Ari and Dante but also with Ari's dad and brother.

Recommendation:
This is a beautiful book that everyone should read. Not only is it an awesome story with good themes, it also has wonderful LGBTQ and Latino/a/x representation.

Thoughts on the cover:
The night sky with Ari's truck is a great choice for a cover image, and the colour scheme is very pleasing.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

We Contain Multitudes - Sarah Henstra

Title: We Contain Multitudes
Author: Sarah Henstra
Publisher: Penguin Teen (Penguin Random House Canada), 2019 (Hardcover)
Length: 377 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: August 17, 2019
Finished: August 23, 2019

Summary:
From the inside cover:

When Walt Whitman fan Jonathan Hopkirk and football player  Adam "Kurl" Kurlansky are partnered in a weekly pen pal assignment, they don't expect to get much out of it.

With each letter, however, the two are led deeper into a friendship that eventually grows into love. But faced with homophobia, bullying, and devastating family secrets, Jonathan and Kurl must struggle to hold on to their relationship - and each other.

This gripping, gorgeously written novel celebrates love and life with engaging characters and stunning language, making it perfect for fans of Jandy Nelson, Nina LaCour, and David Levithan.

Review:

"Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

      - Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself"


This excerpt from Walt Whitman's epic poem is included on the first page of the book in place of a dedication or a preface (perhaps not intentionally but I thought it interesting). It serves to highlight what I think is a theme that runs through this novel: people are complicated.

Adam Kurlansky ("Kurl") is eighteen and redoing his senior year of high school. He's a star football player recently let go from the team and has a reputation for picking fights. Jonathan Hopkirk is a slight, fifteen-year-old boy passionate about Walt Whitman's poetry to the point where he even dresses like him. These two seemingly polar opposites are paired together through a shared English teacher's assignment to write weekly letters to each other.

The novel is written in epistolary format, through letters written by Kurl and Jo back and forth to each other. At first the boys' only interactions with each other are through their letters, but as time progresses Kurl and Jo eventually spend more time together at and after school, which does make the format grate a bit at times. Jo can say "oh, I want to hear your account of the same event we were both present at" all he wants, but it still gets annoying.

The novel is beautifully written, I have to come right out and say that. The language at points has the ability to make you feel like you've been sucker-punched in the gut, it's that moving. The author is an English professor in Toronto (yay for local Canadian YA lit!), so that doesn't surprise me in the least. The only thing about the writing that bugged me a bit was that since the novel is told through letters, we're supposed to believe that all this beautiful writing is actually coming from eighteen and fifteen-year-old boys. I teach teenagers, few boys (heck, even girls) are capable of this level of writing, especially at age fifteen...I'd be more inclined to believe Kurl's letters are possible coming from an eighteen-year-old, but I really shake my head at the sophistication of Jo's letters. Here's some examples:

When asked by Kurl why he continues to dress in period costumes when it just makes him a bigger target to the bullies who already harass him for being gay, Jo responds:

"I do it on purpose, because I want to be mindful of the decades and centuries behind us of people making beautiful things designed to last. I want to walk down the hallways of Lincoln High with one part of me in the eternal, the timeless, and the other part of me slipping so fast through the here and now that nobody can pin me down, not even the butcher boys" (Jo, pg. 126).

No fifteen-year-old writes like that, not even the brilliant ones that are gifted in language (unless they all attend a very exclusive private school that I could only dream of teaching at). So I went through the book thinking Jo was, essentially, a unicorn.

After Kurl and Jo admit their feelings for each other and actually discuss their relationship in their letters, Kurl describes Jo as such:

"Your scent, Jo. It's like wool and bread and something else. I don't know. A scent like if laughter had a scent, or daybreak. You filled the whole car with a yellow light like daybreak. I swear it felt like light pouring into my veins" (Kurl, pg. 188).

Again, coming from Kurl it's slightly more believable, but still not something I would assume came from a teenage boy.

When Jo is contemplating revelations about his deceased mother, Raphael, and likening them to a Whitman poem:

"More bitter than I can bear. I was remembering, just now, those suffering words from Walt. You burn and sting me. Is that how Raphael feels to Lyle and and Gloria as well as to me? The lost Raphael, the ghost of Raphael? Or is it different for those who remember her, who knew her before she was a ghost?" (Jo, pg. 358)

Again, the writing is sophisticated and beautiful. These lines were a joy to read in a YA novel, we could use more complex writing in YA books as a whole. I just think the writing would more believable if written in third person rather than in a series of first-person letters by teenaged boys.

On to the story. Kurl and Jo's romance is realistic in how it unfolds and plays out, though there are more than a few questionable instances related to consent that I wish had been better explored or called out more than they were. There is quite a train wreck of climactic events that at first appear quite out of character for both boys until you remember that these are, in fact, teenagers, and they've both been dealing with the after-effects of a boat-load of trauma. That whole "people are complicated" bit comes in handy here.

Recommendation:
This book is a real treat for language and poetry lovers; it's a beautifully written story about that hesitant first love between teenagers that also happen to be boys and the challenges that go along with that. There are some aspects of the novel that I took issue with, but they don't necessarily take away from the overall enjoyment of the piece. I highly recommend this, it has received its fair share of hype for a reason.

Thoughts on the cover:
The image of Kurl and Jo laying on the grass (perhaps inspired by the park scene?) is a nice image that intrigues without spelling out the contents of the story. The limited colour palette with a pleasing aqua/turquoise background is a nice touch.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Beauty and the Beast: Act Three - Megan Kearney

Title: Beauty and the Beast: Act Three
Author: Megan Kearney
Publisher: The Quietly, 2019 (Paperback)
Length: 292 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Adult; Graphic Novel, Fairy Tale, Fantasy
Started: July 12, 2019
Finished: July 12, 209

Summary:
From the back cover:

It hurts to love a wild thing...

Released from her contract, Beauty returns home but cannot escape the memory of The Beast's embrace. Meanwhile, as he prepares to make one final sacrifice, The Beast finds himself drawn to the truth at the heart of the labyrinth...

At what cost came Beauty's freedom? Can love save a life? In this final volume, both Beauty and The Beast must face the truths they've kept from themselves and learn that sometimes you have to fight for the one you love.

Review:
It's bittersweet when a series you love comes to an end. You're happy to get a resolution after years of reading and waiting for instalments, but at the same time you realize that there will be no more of this thing you truly enjoyed. I discovered this locally-created series one night while scouring the internet several years ago and fell oh so hard for it. I still remember the sleep-deprivation the day after staying up until the wee hours catching up on years worth of comics in one sitting (it was worth it!). For those who missed my prior reviews, here they are for Act One and Act Two. And below is the lovely series in its entirety, which has a devoted spot on my bedside table.



For those who haven't read Acts One and Two, this author's version of Beauty and the Beast is by far my favourite adaptation of the tale. Ever. And I've read practically all of them, so that's saying a lot. 

The author incorporates the original aspects of the story and expands upon them, so the story is as much uniquely hers as it is the classic tale. The artwork here is beautiful and so incredibly expressive, I especially love how the author draws Beast's expressions. The characterization really shines as well. The author flushes out all the characters so that you're emotionally invested in everyone (I personally had a soft spot for Beauty's sister Temperance). The plot is much richer here, with flashbacks from Beast and Beauty's pasts that play into the larger story. There's also a lot of detail for bookworms that's easily missed if you only read the dialogue and ignore the backgrounds. There's so much in terms of mythological imagery and symbolism, the language of flowers, as well as literary references, you could spend hours cross-referencing everything. The author truly did her homework here. 

Moving away from the work as a whole and focusing solely on Act Three, this is the emotional equivalent of being struck by a 2x4. Beauty and Beast are separated from each other, and both are miserable. Beauty has to figure out exactly what she wants and learn to communicate this to her family (and later Beast) without running away. Beast is confronted with his past actions and has to learn to embrace the person he once was and learn from those experiences rather than simply wish that part of him didn't exist. The themes present here really hit home, which is why I think adult readers would get more out of this than younger readers. Swan Mom (nickname for Beauty's mom) has a particularly poignant quote that I wish I had learned in my younger years, it would have saved me a lot of heartache, "No matter how much one might want to save someone from themselves, it can't be done. We can only love them and stand by as we wait for them to decide whether they save themselves or not. Otherwise, you will both be dragged down." 


Recommendation:
As with the other volumes, and in fact the series as a whole, just go read this. It has beautiful, fluid artwork and superb storytelling that actually holds up to our modern criticisms of the original tale, wonderful characters, and a depth of detail that I haven't seen in many other graphic novels. All three volumes can be purchased here. You can read the entirety of the comic online here.

Thoughts on the cover:
Again, I love when covers have continuity from one instalment to the next. This last volume is in blue (with a plethora of blue accents in the illustration), which pairs well with the red of Act Two and the green of Act One.