Review for: Paper Girls, Vol. 1, created by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
The first volume of Paper Girls begins innocuously. Our point of entry into the story is 12-year-old paper girl Erin Tieng, who’s having a rather vivid and unsettling dream in which the devil is out to kill her little sister, Missy. Erin wakes with a start, sees that her sister is alive–albeit sleepy–and begins her early morning routine. Erin is a paper girl in Stony Stream, Ohio in 1988.
Her usual route goes a little awry the morning after Halloween, though in the process of being harassed by some local hooligans, she is rescued by and introduced to three fellow paper girls — Mac, KJ and Tiffany. This is how we come to understand that the foundation of this story is budding female friendship, in the same way that the foundation of Batman’s story is traumatic loss.
What happens from there is a little more difficult to describe. In fact, I’m still not entirely sure what I read, though maybe that is the beauty of reading an ongoing comic book series. There are time-travelers, various monsters — including some sort of floating eyeball called an editrix — and alien dialects. In short, there is a lot of coded information packed into five collected issues. First-time comic readers may be a little put off, but otherwise the art is largely accessible. The color palette is beautiful and Chiang’s art is compelling as it is faintly horrifying. This is science fiction, after all.
Review for: A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness
A Monster Calls tells the story of Connor, a troubled 12-year-old boy. One night, Connor awakens from his regularly scheduled nightmare at 12:07 AM on the dot. He hears someone calling his name outside, and is surprised — but not scared — to find a monster made of branches and leaves from a yew tree beckoning him. The monster will tell Connor three true stories, and in turn, Connor must tell one of his own, or the monster will eat him. Connor isn’t perturbed, and it becomes clear that he has a lot more on his mind than scheming princes, greedy apothecaries and invisible men.
Connor’s mother is battling cancer and undergoing chemotherapy. His grandmother seems to detest him, his father is too busy with his new family in America and he is being bullied at school. Each of the monster’s stories is meant to demonstrate something about the nature of truth though Connor finds himself getting increasingly frustrated with the supposed morals.
The black and white illustrations in A Monster Calls are breathtaking. Oftentimes the illustrations overtake the words, in the same way that the monster’s stories encroach upon Connor’s repressive solitude. The writing itself is very matter-of-fact and easily digestible as well. All 214 pages really pack an emotional punch without being overly saccharine, as is common in books about grief and coping.
Analysis of Reviews for Paper Girls
- School Library Journal — This review was published on August 29, 2016, though the first collected volume of Paper Girls was released in April. The review mentions strong language and pinpoints a specific audience that it would be appropriate for — that is, older teens and adults. The reviewer also mentions Vaughan’s pre-existing work, like Saga. As with all SLJ reviews, the reviewer also includes meta information about the book, such as ISBN, price and publisher.
- Publisher’s Weekly — This review was published on April 11, 2016, just 10 days after the first volume was released. I liked how succinctly the reviewer described some of the chaos embedded within Paper Girls, as I struggled to do that in my own review above. This review also takes note of the setting, and therefore the periodic references.
- Library Journal (accessed via Books in Print) — This is the most comprehensive of the three professional reviews I chose. The reviewer was the only one who specifically talked about the pacing of the book. Other key points: the reviewer describes Chiang’s art style in detail, and mentions the colorist (Mark Wilson) by name, which indicates that they are an experienced graphic novel reviewer.
- Indie Comic Review — This review is extremely useful for readers and librarians who are looking for an in-depth analysis. The reviewer breaks it down section-by-section, and makes it a point to mention the diversity. It really is lovely to see four young girls at the helm of a comic book series. Also, the reviewer did a good job curating specific panels to highlight.
- Black Nerd Problems — The tone of this review is much more informal than the previous one — its first sentence is simply, “Whoa.” The reviewer specifically highlights attributes of all four of the main characters, which indicates that they were paying close attention to the dialogue.