Posts Tagged ‘urban setting’

I Am J

December 11, 2012

i am j coverAuthor: Cris Beam

Title: I Am J

Publication Date: 2011

Number of Pages: 326

Geographical Setting: Manhattan’s Washington Heights neighborhood

Time period: Present day

Genre: GLBT fiction; Realistic fiction

Series: N/A

Plot Summary: J has always known that he is a boy stuck in a girl’s body. When he was young, he could refuse to be put in dresses and goof around like one of the boys on the playground.  As a teenager, however, J’s body begins to change, forcing him to hide under layers of clothing. Feeling like nobody understands him, not even his best friend, J decides to run away and figure out things out on his own.  On his journey he makes a new friend at a special school for gay and transgender teens, finds romance with a straight female artist named Blue, and learns about testosterone – the one thing that might finally allow him to come out of hiding and become the boy he always knew he was. This is an inspiring story that can be understood by any teenager (or adult) who has ever felt isolated or struggled to embrace their identity, and how to overcome these obstacles on the path to self-discovery.

Subject Headings: Transsexuals – Fiction. Identity – Fiction. Emotional problems – Fiction. Friendship – fiction.

Appeal: Character driven, thought-provoking, inspirational, issue-oriented, compelling, leisurely paced, sobering, descriptive, well-developed characters, moving, urban setting, realistic

Three appeal terms:  Character driven, thought-provoking, issue-oriented

Three Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Luna by Julie Anne Peters

Luna also tells the tale of a transgender person struggling for self-identity, but this time the reader gets the story from the point of view of another character. Teenager Regan is the only person who knows that her older brother Liam is a transsexual, until he decides to transition and finally shares his secret with his family and friends. Readers who enjoyed the character-driven, issue-oriented tale of J in I Am J will likely get just as wrapped up in Liam’s story in Luna.

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

It’s 1968 in a small Canadian town where the parents of a baby born as a hermaphrodite struggle with how to raise their child. The father takes charge, deciding to raise the child as a boy named Wayne. The mother, however, secretly nurtures her child’s feminine side. As Wayne grows up, he realizes that he can’t ignore the part of his self that he thinks of as a girl named Annabel, and finds himself battling to decide with which gender he truly identifies.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

For readers who would like a more cheerful gay-themed book that doesn’t take itself so seriously, I suggest David Levithan’s Boy Meets Boy. The town where high-school sophomore Paul lives is described in reviews as a “gay utopia,” and this is a very fitting description. It’s no secret that Paul is gay, but nobody cares! He fits right in at this high school where the football team’s quarterback is a cross-dresser and the cheerleading team is made up of a bunch of bikers. This is an upbeat, character-driven book that shows the less serious side of finding and accepting one’s true identity.

Three Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Transparent: Love, Family, and Living the T with Transgender Teenagers by Cris Beam

Written by the same author as I Am J, this is the true story of Beam’s volunteer work at a support center for transgender teens. Beam introduces the reader to four students she meets who are challenged with figuring out who they are and how they are seen by the outside world. Beam’s narrative reveals how the struggles they face are familiar to what we all face – the desire to be comfortable with ourselves and also be accepted by those around us.

GLBTQ: The Survival Guide for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Teens by Kelly Huegel

GLBTQ teens can find advice, support, guidance and useful information in this valuable resource that has been updated since it was first published in 2003. This book is geared towards young adults who are questioning their sexual or gender identity and may need guidance and support or simply reassurance that they are not alone.

The Privilege of Youth: a Teenager’s Story of Longing for Acceptance and Friendship by David Pelzer

This book is about acceptance, which has been the underlying theme of all of these books. In this inspiring memoir, Pelzer shares his compelling story of an abusive childhood, followed by an adolescence of bullying and longing for acceptance, and how he finally escaped his home life and overcame the struggles he faced his whole life.

Name: Melissa Apple

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Ghost World

August 8, 2012

Author: Clowes, Daniel

Title: Ghost World

Genre:  Graphic Novel

Publication Date: 1998

Number of Pages: 80

Geographical Setting:  Unnamed American town

Time Period: Early 1990s

Series (If applicable):  N/A

Plot Summary:  Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Dopplemayer are best friends who have recently graduated from high school.  The graphic novel follows them through their transition into adulthood over the summer.  Their town is full of cheesy diners and record stores that never have what they want and the girls long for something, anything to excite them.  Both girls are pessimistic, but Enid revels in making people uncomfortable, especially her friend Josh.  As the days go by, the girls begin to drift apart as they grow ever more aware that their friendship is not built to last.

Subject Headings:  Graphic Novels, Female Friendship, Teenage Girls

Appeal:  Measured Pace, Contemplative, Earnest, Edgy, Melancholy, Flawed Characters, Eccentric, Open-Ended, Character-Centered, Urban Setting, Heavy Profanity, Conversational, and Informal

3 terms that best describe this book:  Melancholy, Heavy Profanity, Character-Centered

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

The Art of Daniel Clowes: Modern Cartoonist by Alvin Buenaventura (editor)

An in-depth look at Daniel Clowes’ art and stories, the book includes some of his most famous works and some never before seen pieces.  For those who liked the art of Ghost World, this book is a great companion.

The 1990s by Mark Oxoby

This nonfiction book looks at American popular culture throughout the 1990s.  While Enid and Rebecca would probably have scoffed at the majority of people and events mentioned in the book, it is important to see what sort of world the girls were living in.

Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga, and Graphic Novels by Scott McCloud

Focusing on comics as a literary medium, this book combines information on why you should create a comic and how to do it.  Fans of Ghost World who want a chance to tell their own story will appreciate McCloud’s authoritative voice and helpful tips.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Sleepwalk and Other Stories by Adriane Tomine

A collection of the first four of Tomine’s series comic series Optic Nerve, this book follows different characters that seem well-adjusted on the outside, but on the inside are struggling to make connections with those around them.  Set in a similar time period (late 80’s, early 90’s) to Ghost World, Sleepwalk also looks to explore the subtleties of human nature.

I Never Liked You by Chester Brown

This graphic novel steps away from the female protagonists of Ghost World, but keeps with the alienated youth theme.  The story follows Chester and his group of friends as they grow up.  While the art and dialogue seem simple on the surface, the story underneath is anything but.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Persepolis tells the author’s story of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  Through her eyes, we see the toll it takes on her family and her country.  While Marjane’s adolescence and adulthood is very different from the girls’ in Ghost World, the irreverent tone and desire for more is found both.

Name: Erin Sloan

The Alcoholic

April 18, 2012

Author: Jonathan Ames (writer) & Dean Haspiel (illustrator)

Title: The Alcoholic

Genre: graphic novel

Publication Date: 2008

Number of Pages: 136

Geographical Setting: New York

Time Period: Present day

Plot Summary: Jonathan A. became an alcoholic after his very first drink.  At fifteen he was at a party with his best friend Sal when the two got drunk for the first time.  It made him feel confident and cool for the first time in his life.  From then on he would spend every weekend drinking and vomiting.  He learned to use the weekdays to recover and prepare for another binge.

The Alcoholic is the self-narrated story of two and a half decades of Jonathan A.’s life of alcoholism and sobriety.  The story centers on Jonathan’s character and the interpersonal relationships that are all encompassing in his life.  Jonathan puts all of himself into a small number of these relationships, all of which end sooner than he expects. The pain of separation drives him back to alcohol and drugs over and over again.  Jonathan repeats the process of self hatred and self repair that he began as a teenager throughout the rest of his life.  Although Jonathan grows to understand this process, it is not clear if he will ever overcome it. The book is illustrated in a realistic black and white style, which adds to the gritty and melancholy tone of the book.

Subject Headings: alcoholics – fiction, New York – fiction, graphic novels, September 11, 2001 – fiction, fictional memoirs

Appeal: addiction, character centered, urban setting, novelists, alcoholism, realistic art, 9/11, rehabilitation, failed relationships, therapy, family deaths, gritty, bleak, dark, melancholy, explicit, candid, disturbing

3 appeal terms that best describe this book: melancholy, character centered, addiction

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Alcohol addiction, recovery, and relapse are at the center of this memoir.  This book shares an urban New York setting with The Alcoholic.

American Widow by Alissa Torres (author) and Sungyoon Choi (Illustrator)

This autobiographical graphic novel chronicles Alissa Torres’s struggles with the loss of her husband, Eddie.  Eddie was killed on 9/11, the second day at his new job.  This graphic novel shares the time and place setting of New York during the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Unwasted: My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Z. Scoblic

In this candid memoir, Scoblic documents her life of addiction and recovery. Her addiction began in high school and followed her through college and her early adult life.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors

Filthy Rich by Brian Azzerello (writer) and Victor Santos (illustrator)

This bleak and gritty graphic novel is set in New York City.  Richard Junkin was a failed pro-football player and now a failed car salesman.  Things only go downhill from there after Junkin takes a new job as a bodyguard.  The black and white realistic illustrations add to the gritty tone of this noir-style graphic novel.

Richard Stark’s Parker: the Hunter by Darwyn Cooke (writer, illustrator) and Richard Stark (author)

This graphic novel is a gritty and bleak adaptation of Richard Stark’s crime novel Hunter.  The story is set in New York City in the 1960s.  The dual toned artwork sets a dreary and melancholy mood.

Blame by Michelle Huneven

This novel tells the story of Patsy MacLemoore’s guilt over the tragic results of her alcohol addiction.  This addiction story centers on themes of guilt and redemption.

Name: Noel M.

Curious Notions by Harry Turtledove

March 16, 2011

0765346109.01._SX220_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg (220×355) Author: Harry Turtledove

Title: Curious Notions

Genre: Science Fiction, alternate history

Publication Date: 2005

Number of Pages: 272 pages

Geographical Setting: San Francisco, CA

Time Period: About 100 years in the future

Series: Crosstime Traffic (second in the series; also works as a stand-alone title)

Plot Summary:
Teenager Paul Gomes and his father travel to the San Francisco of an alternate timeline, one where Germany won World War I and America is dominated by the Kaiser’s Germany.  Their mission is to bring home produce for their own resource-depleted timeline.  To locals like Lucy Woo, a 16-year old who works full time to support her family, Paul and his father are known as the keepers of an electronics shop called Curious Notions.  When both the German police and the Chinese triads get suspicious about the technologically advanced goods at Curious Notions, Lucy and Paul are caught up in an adventure that threatens their families and the secret that Paul and his father are guarding.

Subject Headings: Alternate History; Chinese Americans; Father – Son Relationships; Germans in the US; San Francisco; Time Travel; Undercover Operations.

Appeal: accessible, action-oriented, compelling, dangerous, descriptive, detailed setting, linear, plot-centered, resolved ending, suspenseful, urban setting, well-drawn characters

3 terms that best describe this book: alternate timeline, well-drawn characters, compelling plot

3 relevant NF works and authors:

The Lucky Ones : One Family and the Extraordinary Invention of Chinese America, by Mae M. Ngai – a memoir of Chinese Americans and cultural assimilation in San Francisco.

Hitler’s Uncercover War: The Nazi Espionage Invasion of the U.S.A., by William Breuer – a tale of Germans in the United States, but in this book it’s they who are undercover.

Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics and Science Fiction, by Paul J. Nahin – explores the theory of time travel and draws on examples from science fiction.

3 relevant fiction works and authors:
The Privateer, by James Doohan and S.M. Stirling – a plot-driven science fiction novel with well-drawn characters and uncercover operations.

Hominids, by Robert J. Sawyer – a compelling science fiction novel of an alternate timeline; involves well-drawn characters and inter-dimensional travel.

Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow – a science fiction novel with a dark tone, about a young male protagonist engaged in covert activity in San Francisco.

-Noelle Nightingale


Devil in the White City

November 11, 2009

Author:  Erik Larson

Title:  Devil in the White City:  Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

Genre:  Nonfiction

Publication Date:  2003

Number of Pages:  370

Geographical Setting:  Chicago

Time Period:  1890s

Series:  N/A

Plot Summary:  Daniel Burnham is an architect who has done well for himself and has his name attached to many a great building.  “Devil in the White City” is the tale of how Burnham came to oversee designs of the World’s Fair held in Chicago in 1893.    But it also the story of another man.  H. H. Holmes also became notorious because of his involvement with the World Fair, or rather, the murders he committed all during its celebrations.  This book intertwines the two lives and vividly depicts just how eventful the fair really was.

Subject Headings:  Chicago; World Fair – 1893; Murder;  Identity Theft;  Architecture

Appeal:  alternating points of view, detailed and accurate Chicago setting, resolved ending, knowledgeable details of architecture and engineering, urban setting, cryptic, cunning villain, steady incline of tension, well-drawn conflicts, distant characterization, heavy description, minimum dialogue, unhurried pace

3 terms that best describe this book:  Dark, Descriptive, Foreboding

Similar Authors and Works
3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors:

“Chicago Architecture:  1885 to Today” by The Chicago Architecture Foundation, Edward Keegan, and Lynn J. Osmond.  A visual supplement to the buildings in Larson’s text, and maybe even some of those described within.

“Murder and Mayhem in Chicago’s Downtown” by Troy Taylor.  A description of other violent scandals that have taken place in the Second City.

“The Strange Case of Dr. H. H. Holmes” by John Borowski.  Another account of the murderer, as he is portrayed as very mysterious by Larson,

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

“Murder in the Pharmacy” by Charley Doyle Mills.  Like Holmes, this perpetrator uses his connection with pharmaceuticals to commit his crimes, and for a further similarity, the reasons behind the gruesome intention are seemingly unknown.

“Honeymoon” by James Patterson.  This tale centers on a female character who takes lovers, murders them, and acquires their assets.  Perhaps she and Holmes would have been a good match.

“The Lost Symbol” by Dan Brown.  This book also interweaves historical architecture with the quest to catch a murderer.  A tad more graphic, but compelling nonetheless.

Name:  Melissa