Reviews of the Week with Pascal Jousselin, Varian Johnson, Shannon Wright, and More!

The Review of the Day has always been a brief, early way to spotlight exceptional upcoming titles on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

Let us leap into visually alluring illustrations coupled with text as we shine our issue spotlight on graphic novels in this week’s #ReviewsoftheDay. Booklist wishes you all well.

Monday, July 6

A Peculiar Peril, by Jeff VanderMeer and illustrated by Jeremy Zerfoss

Adult best-selling author VanderMeer (Annihilation2014) turns to YA in this elaborate fantasy that in reality will enamor adult readers as much as teens. Taking the peculiar darkness of Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine series and the absurd humor and wit of Terry Pratchett, VanderMeer dreams up a wholly original tale, filled with complexity, imagination, and talking marmots. Here readers step into a multiverse, where different worlds are connected by magical doors, protected by the secret Order of the Third Door. Most people live their entire lives none the wiser, but 16-year-old Jonathan Lambshead gets pulled into the Order’s sphere and a larger magical war upon the death of his eccentric grandfather, whose house of oddities and legacy as an Order member is left to the young man.

Tuesday, July 7

Mister Invincible: Local Hero, written and illustrated by Pascal Jousselin

He may be “the only true comic book superhero,” but the chubby, yellow-clad Mister Invincible has humble aspirations: rescuing a cat in a tree, bringing baguettes to his grandma, foiling the occasional mad scientist. Similarly, a casual flip through this book, with its uneventfully standard panel grids, might suggest a run-of-the-mill tale. But it takes no longer than the second panel for the character and the book to astonish, as Mister Invincible looks down in his kitchen and spots a mugging in progress on the tier of panels right below him, then leaps down into the lower panels to intervene.


Wednesday, July 8

Lake Life, by David James Poissant

In Poissant’s masterfully crafted first novel, the bonds that hold together a dysfunctional family unravel over the course of a single weekend. Even before a tragic boating accident upends the annual Starling vacation, Richard and Lisa, career academics on the verge of retirement, announce their decision to sell the family lake house against the wishes of their sons, Michael and Thad, who wrestle with demons of their own. Michael, a not-so-stealthy alcoholic, and his wife Diane struggle to make ends meet and must confront the pressing question of whether to have children. Thad, a fledgling poet, and his wildly successful boyfriend Jake debate the future of their open relationship. Over a tense three days, dark secrets bubble to the surface and threaten to explode the family dynamics.

Thursday, July 9

Happiness Will Follow, written and illustrated by Mike Hawthorne

Born Michael Anthony Hawthorne, his last name was “swiftly pilfered from [his] father” by his Puerto Rican mother “to keep [him] safe in ways she never was.” Yet surviving into adulthood was a near-superhuman feat: his single mother’s fierce love came with horrific stipulations—her fists, her drinking, her drug sales, her withdrawal, her broken soul. Escape eventually comes through art college—and then, her death. Today, Hawthorne is a lauded Eisner- and Harvey-nominated cartoonist (DeadpoolSuperior Spider-Man), and his spectacular illustrative skills are especially evident throughout. The book itself is a remarkably revealing presentation: the mostly muted brown-and-gray cover and front matter, partially interrupted with images of damaged full-color photographs, givesway to saturated colors that flood the narrative’s actual page, turning subdued sepia into deep, piercing blues. That visual intensity amplifies every panel, relentlessly underscoring Hawthorne’s harrowing memories.

Friday, July 10

Twins, by Varian Johnson and illustrated by Shannon Wright

Maureen is a straight-Astudent lacking in self-confidence. Her identical twin, Francine, is outgoing and popular, though she sometimes feels like “the dumb one.” They’ve always been inseperable—until sixth grade. Francine begins to branch off socially, catching Maureen off guard, and as the tension between them builds—thanks to a series of miscommunications and unveiled secrets—their insecurities flare, and they end up running against each other for student-council president. In their graphic-novel debuts, Johnson and Wright have crafted a pitch-perfect story about the growing pains of middle school from a sibling perspective, and it’s more than just a rivalry story. Maureen and Francine’s family life is established with such a strong, healthy dynamic that the girls’ ensuing competition is laden with complex feelings of betrayal and guilt, as they both struggle with how to be more individual while still supporting one another.

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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