books and reading

Nerds Heart YA Judging Round 1

As part of the Nerds Heart YA judging panel this year, I was asked to read two books from the Nerds Heart YA Shortlist.  With the help of Snarky Mamma, a decision about which of the two books to move on was made.  The two books that we read were Stargazer Volume 1 by Von Allan and How I Made it to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story by Tracy White.

Stargazer Volume 1 by Von Allan:

Marni is a young girl struggling with the loss of her grandmother.  When she takes in a strange artifact that her grandmother left her, an ordinary sleepover in her backyard with her two best friends turns into a strange adventure in another world.  As the girls navigate the new land, they meet strange creatures (including a robot), avoid a mysterious monster, and try to figure out how to get home.

Allan’s graphic novel is hailed as one appropriate for all ages and harkens back to the days when comics were supposed to reach a wide audience.  Part science-fiction, part fantasy, and part epic adventure, Stargazer will resonate with fans of graphic novels, especially if they’re partial to a little light sci-fi.  Having strong female protagonists (who are also pretty normal) doesn’t hurt, either.

How I Made it to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story by Tracy White:

Seventeen-year-old Stacy Black suffers a nervous breakdown, and after putting her fist through a plate-glass window, checks herself into a hospital.  Over the course of half a year, she learns to deal with her depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, and drug addiction.  While in the hospital, she befriends a cast of characters who represent teenagers with a wide range of problems and addresses her issues with her mother.

White’s graphic novel is largely autobiographical, and her sparse black-and-white drawings are pretty powerful.  The graphic novel is unique in that it allows for the perspective of her four best friends to answer questions and hypothesize about why Stacy acts the way she does.  These interludes are interesting and intriguing.  Much of White’s focus is on the therapy process and on getting better, with very little attention paid to why Stacy ended up where she did.  While definitely a valuable resource for a classroom library, there are other autobiographical graphic novels that are more memorable (Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home comes to mind).  Recommended for teens who struggle with depression, or eating disorders.

After some discussion, we’ve decided that Tracy White’s How I Made it to Eighteen will move on into the next round.

Can’t wait to see what happens next!

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