Review | What Does Consent Really Mean? | Pete Wallis, Thalia Wallis, & Joseph Wilkins

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What Does Consent Really Mean?

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“Consent is not the absence of ‘NO’, it is an enthusiastic YES!!”

While seemingly straightforward, Tia and Bryony hadn’t considered this subject too seriously until it comes up in conversation with their friends and they realise just how important it is.

Following the sexual assault of a classmate, a group of teenage girls find themselves discussing the term consent, what it actually means for them in their current relationships, and how they act and make decisions with peer influence. Joined by their male friends who offer another perspective, this rich graphic novel uncovers the need for more informed conversations with young people around consent and healthy relationships. Accompanying the graphics are sexual health resources for students and teachers, which make this a perfect tool for broaching the subject with teens.


My feelings for this book are complicated. On the one hand, I love that this conversation has been made so accessible and in such a cool way (graphic novel format). I also appreciate how straight-forward the message is, rather than hiding it within subtext. At the same time, I was taken aback by just how straightforward the message is; if, like me, you thought there would be an actual narrative here, with the message explaining consent, then you’ll be disappointed. It’s my feeling that this novel lacks a narrative entirely. It’s very much like those “moral lesson” books you were given in elementary school where the characters are basically having a dialogue explaining the concept you were meant to learn. There isn’t really a storyline, a plot, a climax, etc. The book is solely argumentative.

I see the merits in this for sure, especially for school age kids. However, this was another point on which I struggled; the subject matter is at times appropriate for all ages (and I definitely think it should be made to be—let’s teach our kids what consent means as soon as they learn to talk!) but there were other times where the content was definitely more mature, with swearing and semi-explicit discussions of sexual relationships, that I would never feel comfortable giving to, say, an eleven-year-old to read. On the flip side, the artwork definitely depicts the characters as younger. Even while they were swearing and talking about their sex lives, I was looking at the drawings of the flat-chested girls with baby faces thinking, There’s no way these girls are older than twelve. Yet the actual verbal content of the book suggests that they are much older than twelve.

Overall, I really appreciate that a book with such a straight-forward approach to the topic of consent has been made available, but I think there is some confusion as to the age group of the audience. I also think the author and publishers will see less success than they hope because of the lack of a narrative; it feels very much like a lesson book, and I foresee this only being read by kids if it’s mandatory.

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I received a free digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed herein are my own and do not reflect my professional associations or affiliates in any way.

Review | Bad Girls Throughout History | Ann Shen

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Bad Girls Throughout History

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Aphra Behn, first female professional writer. Sojourner Truth, activist and abolitionist. Ada Lovelace, first computer programmer. Marie Curie, first woman to win the Nobel Prize. Joan Jett, godmother of punk. The 100 revolutionary women highlighted in this gorgeously illustrated book were bad in the best sense of the word: they challenged the status quo and changed the rules for all who followed. From pirates to artists, warriors, daredevils, scientists, activists, and spies, the accomplishments of these incredible women vary as much as the eras and places in which they effected change. Featuring bold watercolor portraits and illuminating essays by Ann Shen, Bad Girls Throughout History is a distinctive, gift-worthy tribute.


I’m going to start off by saying that had this book existed when I was a kid, and had they taught us about all of the women featured in here, I would have become a self-declared feminist so much earlier. Nothing about this book is uninspiring—including the fact that it is written and illustrated by another badass woman. The best way to sum up the experience of reading this book is to say that I am so proud to come from such a lineup of women throughout history and hope to, in some way or another, make them proud of me, too.

What are the top three elements of this book? 1. The illustrations. As someone who is very much into comic books right now, having this great balance of unique and thoughtful illustration alongside the prose was a great reading experience. 2. The balance of diversity. Yesterday I went to pick up Women in Sports—which has a very similar feel to Bad Girls—but most of the examples are American. Bad Girls had women from all across the world, which opened my eyes so much to names I’d never even heard before. 3. The fun prose. Ann Shen has taken her research on each woman and condensed it into one page or less, giving you only the most interesting or significant anecdotes about each woman. It makes reading exciting and not at all boring—which is the danger of reading some biographies or non-fiction titles.

Bad Girls Throughout History is a must-own for anyone who calls themselves a woman. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m surprised Emma Watson hasn’t selected this as one of her feminist titles to-read. It’s so empowering and awe-inspiring—I continue to be blown away even days after finishing it. Ann Shen—well done.

Review | Magic for Sale | Carrie Clickard & John Shelley

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Magic for Sale

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A young boy tracks down an elusive ghost in the hidden rooms of a fantastical magic shop.


This book is so cute and fun! While the syntax is not always right, the rhymes are witty and enjoyable for all ages. Adults who loved Harry Potter will get a kick out of the illustrations, which very much feel like a search-and-discover game. Easter eggs abound!

There is one minor plot hole towards the end regarding a large pink monster–where did it come from? Why has it suddenly shown up? Otherwise, a wonderful little picture book!

*I obtained a BLAD of this book as Sales, Marketing & Publicity Assistant for Thomas Allen & Son, the distributor of this book in Canada. Canadian librarians and booksellers can order their copies here.

 

Release date: July 25, 2017

Star Talk 2

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We’re, like, halfway to the release of the next movie (AAAHHHH!!!), and so I find myself again wondering about Rey’s backstory.

I recently watched an interview conducted with Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Mark Hamill (if you don’t know this, SHAME SHAME, but: Luke Skywalker). In the interview, Daisy said that by the time The Force Awakens wrapped and we get to the end of the movie, she had originally thought that the question of who her parents were had been answered.

Um, what?

I definitely didn’t get that, and I think basically everyone else not involved in the making of the films agrees. I do, however, have theories. I have two theories that I think are the most plausible outcomes, though I am happy to hear of others (comment below!)

First of all, what do we know? Rey was abandoned on Jakku as a little girl, has the Force, has this really special connection with Han Solo from the second that they meet, and finishes off the movie by finding Luke Skywalker, presumably for training and also possibly to bring him back into contact with Leia and the Rebellion. I think we can also assume that she’s anywhere between the ages of 18-25, and that we can put her in roughly the same age-range as Kylo Ren.

What about the backstory leading up to The Force Awakens but following Return of the Jedi? Han and Leia had a son, Ben (is it possible he’s named after Obi-Wan? Anyway.). Luke tried to re-instate the Jedi by taking a bunch of young children to train, but something went wrong. We know that Kylo Ren was persuaded by the Dark Side to turn on Luke and follow General Snoak. Somewhere in all that, Rey was abandoned on Jakku.

This leads to my first theory, and the one I believe is most plausible and likely. Rey is Luke’s daughter. If we take Daisy’s words literally, with the end of the movie showing Luke and Rey’s (re)union it is also showing us who Rey’s father is. The way he looks at Rey, as if he has been expecting her, potentially goes well beyond his Jedi skills and sensory abilities and speaks to a more innate familial connection. During A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, the only characters with the Force are Luke, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Obi-Wan (who dies early on, before Rey could have been conceived—given the age difference between her and Luke), and Yoda (who is not a human and therefore could not be related to Rey). It is suggested that Leia does have the Force, but it is weaker in her and we’re not given any indication that she tries to strengthen her powers between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, though we do know that she created a Force-infused offspring. There could obviously be more people with the Force, but Daisy says that by the end of the movie we’re supposed to have caught on to who her parents are: that means it’s someone in The Force Awakens.

Again, I think it’s Luke. I’m not sure who her mother would be, but to break it down: Luke has a daughter, Rey. I believe she’s likely a year or two younger than Kylo Ren, because I believe that when Kylo Ren turned to the Dark Side and ruined Luke’s attempts at reinstating the Jedi Order, Luke placed Rey on Jakku to protect her. (It’s also totally possible that Luke turned to the Dark Side for a period and someone else put Rey on Jakku to protect her, but we don’t have anything to back that fan theory up yet.)

LET’S ALSO NOT FORGET THE FACT THAT LUKE’S LIGHTSABER CALLED TO HER I MEAN OMG.

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Okay, so for theory number 2: Rey is Han and Leia’s daughter. This one’s a bit more of a stretch for me, but hear me out. She has inherited the Force, which we know Leia also passed on to Kylo Ren. She has this crazy connection to Han Solo—I mean, this is emphasized in such a way throughout the movie that I think we’re supposed to sit back and go, Okay, this is significant and means something MORE for the plot arc as a whole. Never once do Han or Leia say that they only had one child. Daisy Ridley also looks a lot like a young Carrie Fisher—casting decisions are never a coincidence, you guys.

What if this is what happened: Han and Leia have Ben (Kylo Ren). He shows that he has the Force and Luke takes him under his wing to train him. A few years later, Han and Leia have a daughter, Rey. But by now, Ben has started to become swayed by the Dark Side and things are becoming dangerous. To protect his sister from the same fate—and perhaps to keep her hidden in case she shows that she has the Force and Snoak takes an interest in her?—they send her away. She’s possibly still a baby at this point, or very young—young enough that she doesn’t remember her parents when she meets them again as an adult. At some point, events in the galaxy take a turn for the worse and Rey is abandoned on Jakku—possibly out of concerns for her own safety, possibly as a result of irresponsibility. Therefore, when she meets up with Han and Leia as an adult, they have no idea what their daughter would look like or where she would have gone as a child, and she has no idea who they are, but they have this inexplicable connection. Let’s not forget that she and Kylo Ren have this really interesting connection too; Kylo Ren can feel it, and so can she, but she’s resistant to his attempts to sway her to the Dark Side.

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Overall, I think it’s all super fascinating and I can’t wait for the big reveal. One fan theory that is gaining traction, but that is totally impossible is the theory that Rey is Obi-Wan’s daughter. Let’s remember how old Obi-Wan was by the time A New Hope started. Yeah, sure, he could have produced a kid. But with who? For all of Luke’s life he was known as the hermit on Tattooine. This theory just doesn’t have a lot of ground and doesn’t hold its own, in my opinion. Anyways, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below.

And now I’m off to see the new Spider-Man! Catch you later.

Image Sources:

https://www.reddit.com/over18?dest=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.reddit.com%2Fr%2FStarWars%2Fcomments%2F47gjm6%2Fwhy_rey_is_must_be_spoiler_all_evidence_listed%2F

http://comicbook.com/2015/12/18/star-wars-do-han-solo-and-leia-know-who-rey-is-/

 

Review | A Little Something Different | Sandy Hall

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A Little Something Different

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The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together. Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and despite their initial mutual crush, it looks like they are never going to work things out.  But somehow even when nothing is going on, something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. Their creative writing teacher pushes them together. The baristas at Starbucks watch their relationship like a TV show. Their bus driver tells his wife about them. The waitress at the diner automatically seats them together. Even the squirrel who lives on the college green believes in their relationship.

Surely Gabe and Lea will figure out that they are meant to be together….


Here’s the thing: this romance is super cute and the way the story is told really is “a little something different.” But I would go so far as to say that the story is TOO cute. There’s not much substance here, to be honest. For example, two of the viewpoints come from a squirrel and a bench, and it’s kind of ridiculous in a roll-your-eyes way. Then you have the fact that all these different characters are basically the same: they talk the same ways, they think the same things, they feel the same about stuff. Even the one character, Victor, who is supposed to hate Gabe and Lea (our couple) doesn’t actually hate them. (The author tells us over and over that he does but then he’s as obsessed with them as everyone else and it makes no sense.) It’s a prime example of telling, but not showing, and it is–quite frankly–weak writing. 

I would argue that Hillary has the potential to be one of the most unique characters and yet her parts are very short, AND Sandy Hall does her a HUGE injustice by slotting her into the “blonde bimbo” trope. I mean, COME ON.

In second place is Danny (yeah for LGBTQIA!) but he has the least amount of sections (boo!), and again, he is slotted into a few stereotypical “gay college boy” tropes.

In third place is Charlotte, who starts off as a character I could like but then turns into all the other characters (they are honestly the same–take away their names and you wouldn’t know the difference). AND everyone’s obsession with this couple for sure crosses into creepy. My frustration for this book bubbleith over.

Not to mention that there’s nothing about Gabe or Lea that is particularly likeable. Not that there was anything wrong with them; I liked them both just fine. But they are tertiary character material at most. While everyone is going gaga over their supposed romance, I’m sitting here as the reader going, “But why?” Honestly, they’re so boring! And everything that happens between them is SO. BORING. Another prime example of the author going, “Oh, they’re so cute, they look great together, we love them” and providing zero actual substance for these assertions. The author was shoving this down my throat and I was choking on it going, “BUT YOU ACTUALLY HAVEN’T PROVEN ANY OF THESE THINGS!”

So much potential. So do not recommend.

Review | Paper Girls, Vol. 1 | Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, & Matthew Wilson

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Paper Girls, Vol. 1

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In the early hours after Halloween of 1988, four 12-year-old newspaper delivery girls uncover the most important story of all time. Suburban drama and otherworldly mysteries collide in this smash-hit series about nostalgia, first jobs, and the last days of childhood.

Collects Paper Girls #1-5.


When I picked this graphic novel up, I wanted something unique, girl-strong, and with compelling artwork, and Paper Girls, Vol. 1 has all that. The plot is very much a Stranger Things with an all-girl cast. Is the plot therefore super unique? Not necessarily, but it was still 100% enjoyable. Enough so that I’ve purchased Vol. 2 and am reading it now.

I love the diverse cast, and that the main character is an Asian girl. At the same time, I do feel like the spotlight is stolen from her by Mac more than once, what with her potty mouth and tough-shit attitude. But I do want to give props for the fact that two of the four girls aren’t white…now if we can just get to a point where this is the norm, or where they are ALL from different and/or non-white backgrounds, that will be awesome!

*SPOILER ALERT*

The time travel thing is still confusing. I’m hoping it’ll be answered a little more in the second volume. It’s also not clear how or why certain people are just disappearing from this town. This first volume leaves the reader–and the four girls–very much in the dark as to what is going on. In a way, I suppose this is a good thing. As the reader, you’re very much one of the gang, along for the ride and figuring things out as they do. 

The language that the futuristic minions speak is hard to get the hang of. Once you do, it’s kind of interesting and, at times, funny, but is also sort of ridiculous? Like, I just don’t get why it’s a thing. Hopefully that will also be explained. It just doesn’t make sense to me why the minions speak that way but their leader speaks normally.

At the end of the day, it’s really action-packed and I love the artwork. This series definitely has its own style that I’m digging. I can’t wait to get through the second volume and find out more about what’s going on.

Review | Ravina the Witch? | Junko Mizuno

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Ravina the Witch?

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Ravina the Witch, from the supremely talented visual artist Junko Mizuno, is a dark, fantastical illustrated tale featuring talking animals, giant birds and dancing mushrooms. When Ravina is given a magic wand by a mysterious old woman, she turns from a lonely girl living in a dump… into a witch?


Some initial thoughts of mine were that this artwork is fantastic–and it really is. The imagery on the cover is consistent throughout the comic in what I would describe as sugar-skull-esque/Mexican-heritage/chibi-infused design. It’s very unique and the colouring of the ink is really fantastical.

But pretty quickly, I realized that the artwork was most of what the comic had going for it.

The storytelling was really lacking; there were times where it just made NO SENSE whatsoever, plot points were added in willy-nilly and then abandoned, and nothing seemed to truly drive the plot–yet it continued forward. It felt very much like the type of story you tell on the spot while sitting around the campfire, put to paper and then never edited for consistency or sense. I’m glad I own it because the artwork is beautiful; however, that is partly influenced by the fact that I can’t take it back so I have to accept that I have it. I do not recommend buying this comic book.

*Also*: You won’t get this from the cover or the back description, but there are some very mature themes in this comic. It looks, for all intents and purposes, like a kids’ comic or at least a teen, but it’s very mature.