Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky and Anissa Espinosa. First Second, 2017. 9781596438774. 220pp.
Two things I immediately loved about this graphic novel: the ghostly “bees” (there are a few on the dedication page) and the grey tones done by Alex Eckman-Lawn, which reminded me of some of Andi Watson’s best black and white art.
Greg doesn’t cast a shadow. He’s missing his mom and is more than a little angry that his dad’s girlfriend, Ruth, is moving in. His best friend Layla is super tough, and tired of his moping. The town’s mayor is always trying new attractions to bring in tourists (the latest is The World’s Largest Hairball). They mayor’s son Jake is not Greg’s favorite person. Oh, and there’s a haunted house, the scene of several murders, where the ghosts mess with whoever messes with the house.
Greg and Layla go into the house where Greg finds out he can see the very cute ghost of a teenage girl who haunts the place. He more than kinda falls for her which is good because she hasn’t had anyone to talk to for a long while. But Layla has also fallen for Jake, which isn’t good. Plus Greg is being a jerk to Layla. And then his shadow suddenly shows up.
The book is way more romantic than harrowing, and seems to be part of a wave of middle grade graphic novels about mostly friendly ghosts. All in all it’s a bit of innocent fun which touches on bullying, dealing with the romantic lives of friends and parents, and embracing weirdness.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. Simon and Schuster, 2016. 9781501124372.
Eighteen-year-old Mary North, spoiled daughter of a politician, abandons her Swiss ski trip to volunteer at the outbreak of World War II — so suddenly that she’s still in ski wear when she checks in. She’s disappointed with her boring assignment as schoolteacher. But then she creates her own excitement by seducing her boss, Tom Shaw. Everything is complicated when Mary meets Tom’s handsome roommate Alistair Heath, formerly an art restorer but currently an artillery officer, just back from the evacuation of Dunkirk.
Alistair is posted to Malta, Mary takes charge of a motley class of kids returned from their evacuation from London, and the two continue their romance in lighthearted letters, not all of which reach their destinations. Alistair narrowly escapes death many times. Mary ruffles society feathers with her egalitarian notions and by accepting a black student into her class. Mary and her friend Hilda volunteer for air raid duty, and Mary drives an improvised ambulance that carries stretchers which, empty or not, are tied to its roof!
This romance is sprawling, vivid, witty, and, though it might seem messy at first, tightly plotted and carefully constructed.
Thanks to Robert in San Diego for this guest book review!
Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota
Oni Press, 2016
The short pitch: Girl Scott Pilgrim with less video games.
Penny loses her job and her apartment but lands on her feet (sort of) by getting a job at a laundromat run by the 12-year-old son of the owners, living out of her friend’s storage unit, and crushing on Walter, the desk guy at the Y where she showers. The character dialogue and art are both super-expressive and well done, the reason I’m a big fan of Ananth Hirsh (who also writes as Ananth Panagariyra) and Yuko Ota.
I think it would be interesting to live in a storage unit — it would be like a tiny house but even more so! — in kind of the same way I liked thinking about living in a museum after I read From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.