1. Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir
Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.
I’ve been on a graphic novel kick lately, but Honor Girl is my first graphic memoir. The story depicted is quite bittersweet, but in a quiet, realistic way. The art threw me a bit at first — I was expecting the cover to be indicative of the art style as a whole, and while the style is similar the colors aren’t as muted or evocative. That being said, once I got into the flow of the story I found myself becoming mesmerize. Much like Maggie, I also attended summer camp every year, and the story took me back to that awkward adolescence phase in a way that felt very true even though my experiences were completely different.
Maggie’s discovery of her crush and what happens afterwards really depicted that sort of eager yearning that’s so present in the high school years. Reading about how Maggie learn to navigate such a relationship was done really well, and I found myself rooting for her. The only thing I wasn’t such a huge fan of what how abruptly the book ended. I know it’s a memoir and life is messy, so I wasn’t expecting the same ending I would from fiction, but I was expecting a bit more of a conclusion. Still a worthwhile read. 4/5 stars.
2. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Darkest Corners is a psychological thriller about the lies little girls tell, and the deadly truths those lies become.
There are ghosts around every corner in Fayette, Pennsylvania. Tessa left when she was nine and has been trying ever since not to think about it after what happened there that last summer. Memories of things so dark will burn themselves into your mind if you let them.
Callie never left. She moved to another house, so she doesn’t have to walk those same halls, but then Callie always was the stronger one. She can handle staring into the faces of her demons—and if she parties hard enough, maybe one day they’ll disappear for good.
Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved, and childhood friends just have a way of losing touch.
But ever since she left, Tessa has had questions. Things have never quite added up. And now she has to go back to Fayette—to Wyatt Stokes, sitting on death row; to Lori Cawley, Callie’s dead cousin; and to the one other person who may be hiding the truth.
Only the closer Tessa gets to the truth, the closer she gets to a killer—and this time, it won’t be so easy to run away.
3. Asking for It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture and What We Can Do About It
Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s arrest. Congressman Todd Akin’s “legitimate” gaffe. The alleged rape crew of Steubenville, Ohio. Sexual violence has been so prominent in recent years that the feminist term “rape culture” has finally entered the mainstream. But what, exactly, is it? And how do we change it?
In Asking for It, Kate Harding answers those questions in the same blunt, bullshit-free voice that’s made her a powerhouse feminist blogger. Combining in-depth research with practical knowledge, Asking for It makes the case that twenty-first century America—where it’s estimated that out of every 100 rapes only 5 result in felony convictions—supports rapists more effectively than victims. Harding offers ideas and suggestions for addressing how we as a culture can take rape much more seriously without compromising the rights of the accused.
Asking for It is an important book. Many of the statistics and arguments aren’t new, but what makes Asking for It so worthwhile is that it’s a) well-researched, b)relevant(many of the examples used are contemporary — of course as the book age that might not be so, but in 2016 many of the cases mention feel all too fresh), c) synthesizes all the different facets so effortlessly, which is probably the most important part. There are other books and blog posts on this subject, BUT Asking for It is basically the height of good nonfiction writing in my opinion, even putting aside the topic for a moment. Bringing different stories and different sides together is not easy, but this book flowed so well. I think everyone could benefit from picking this book up, because while it does give a primer to the idea of rape culture, it goes beyond rape culture 101 to 102, 103, etc. Whether the term is completely new to you or you already know all the facts mentioned, I think the book is well worth a read. 5/5 stars.
4. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnson
Hermione Winters has been a flyer. She’s been captain of her cheerleading team. The envied girlfriend and the undisputed queen of her school. Now it’s her last year and those days and those labels are fading fast. In a few months she’ll be a different person. She thinks she’s ready for whatever comes next.
But then someone puts something in her drink at a party, and in an instant she finds herself wearing new labels, ones she never imagined:
Victim. Survivor. That raped girl.
Even though this was never the future she imagined, one essential thing remains unchanged: Hermione can still call herself Polly Olivier’s best friend, and that may be the truest label of all.
Heartbreaking and empowering, Exit, Pursued by a Bear is the story of transcendent friendship in the face of trauma.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear is a different take on a story that has been told several times before in YA: that of sexual assault. I like YA book that deals with dark issues, so I’ve read a LOT of them, many of them quite good. However, there do tend to be similarities in the story told about sexual assault, which is what makes Exit, Pursued by a Bear standout. Hermione does not have an easy time in this book. She is traumatized greatly, BUT her narrative is different than that typically found of survivors in YA. Those books are important, and true, but Hermione’s is important too. Not everyone reacts to traumatic events the same way, and it’s important for fiction to show that.
Hermione doesn’t have an easy go of it, BUT the narrative in this book is ultimately one of hope. She is surrounded by supportive people who love and care for her. While she does have to address comments head-on, everyone believes her. There is hurt and anger(of COURSE there is), but there’s a lot of hope too. Plus, Hermione’s friendship with her best friend Polly was amazing — one of my favorite YA friendships. 4/5 stars.