LJ Best Books 2016

A jury of our peers discussed, debated, disagreed, and finally declared LJ’s annual Top Ten Best Books of the year, selected by our editors, as well as Top Five lists for genre fiction, nonfiction, poetry, graphic novels, and SELF-e titles. VISIT THE WEBSITE

Graphic Novels from Osborne & Fish, Debuter Radtke, and Various Spanish Cartoonists | Xpress Reviews

Week ending November 18, 2016

starred review starOsborne, Melissa Jane (text) & Veronica Fish (illus.). The Wendy Project. Super Genius: Papercutz. May 2017. 96p. ISBN 9781629917696. pap. $12.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
Here, Peter Pan’s Wendy Darling is reimagined as a 16-year-old who survives a car accident that renders one of her brothers mute and the other missing. Is that brother’s body lost to the watery crash site, or did Wendy really see him fly away with a mysterious figure? As Wendy struggles at a new high school, the people in her life begin to resemble Peter Pan, Captain Hook, and other J.M. Barrie characters. Wendy’s therapist prescribes drawing in a sketchbook as a coping mechanism, but the journal takes on a life of its own, one that may let Wendy shape her circumstances in more ways than one. Osborne sensitively scripts this tragic scenario—which has an especially satisfying conclusion—and Fish’s (Archie Comics) well-matched artwork often fittingly resembles that of a talented teenager, with color skillfully used to denote Wendy’s visions intruding into reality.
Verdict This unexpected gem stands out among latter-day versions of Peter Pan thanks to its embrace of genuine emotion and psychological gravity. Highly recommended to all graphic novel and fantasy fans, and especially to YA readers. Some disturbing content; suitable for all but the youngest.—J. Osicki, Saint John Free P.L., NB

starred review starRadtke, Kristen. Imagine Wanting Only This. Pantheon. Apr. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781101870839. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101870846. GRAPHIC MEMOIR
imagine111816[DEBUT] At first glance, ruins are romantic. Look again, and they often speak of pain and failure. In Imagine Wanting Only This, debuter Radtke explores all manner of devastation—the detritus of a youthful relationship, the aftermath of volcanic eruption, the hollowed-out shell of a church in deeply depressed Gary, IN. She remembers her favorite uncle, lost to a rare heart defect, and fears for her own heart, literally and figuratively. She recounts the story of a long-dead ancestor who implored, seemingly successfully, God’s protection on her church during a massive firestorm in small-town Wisconsin by marching around the building’s exterior, crucifix in hand. Beautifully written, this multidirectional memoir ties threads and minutiae from Radtke’s personal and family history and history writ large to create a tender, drifting reflection on the calamity life is often built on, the nothing it will become, and the breathtaking beauty of lingering between those forgone conclusions. Her illustration abilities are somewhat stilted—she’s a writer first and an illustrator second—but the art complements her flowing prose.
Verdict A fantastic example of the graphic novel’s possibilities as a literary medium, this work is visually imperfect, lyrically beautiful, and unquestionably brave. [See Prepub Alert, 10/24/16.]—Emilia Packard, Austin, TX

starred review starVarious. Spanish Fever: Stories by the New Spanish Cartoonists. Fantagraphics. Sept. 2016. 283p. ed. by Santiago García. tr. from Spanish by Erica Mena. ISBN 9781606999448. pap. $29.99. ANTHOLOGIES
Laughter is a universal action that everyone shares and understands. While the nuances of comedy and humor in various cultures and contexts may be rooted in a country’s traditions, all can make sense of a chortle, guffaw, or belly laugh. Here, editor García (Beowulf) presents an anthology of English-language stories that evoke these emotions while also telling of economic crisis, riot grrls, time travel, and a Soviet astronaut, all depicted by such internationally renowned Spanish cartoonists as Miguel Gallardo, Paco Roca, Ana Galvañ, and Sergi Puyol. In Fermín Solís’s “The End of the World,” we see the autobiographical Little Martin come to brilliant life across a few sparse but captivating black-and-white panels, while Álvaro Ortiz’s “Melted” relates the story of intersecting lives via a melting man in delightfully inked illustrations. Although comics anthologies can run the gamut when it comes to narrative organization, this compilation stands out as well organized and balanced. A brief biography of the creator and the piece featured introduces each entry.
Verdict This best-of collection, full of emotional and humorous stories that defy geographic boundaries, will be appreciated by all adult readers.—Cassidy Charles, Madison P.L., NJ

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