No one wants to work overtime—even if it takes facing a dragon singlehandedly in order to cut through the paperwork.
Alina Clover has a coveted job as a receptionist for the adventurer’s guild. She spends her days filing papers and assigning quests to dungeon-delving adventuring parties who battle enemies and collect treasure from progressively more dangerous labyrinths. However, Alina’s current problem comes when a particularly difficult enemy halts progress for the adventurers, leading to excessive paperwork as the heroes grind through the same challenges day after day, creating a backlog of forms. To spare herself the headache, Alina takes it upon herself, her cloak, and her magical hammer of immense power to clear the way for the adventurers to get on with things.
Unfortunately, her outburst (not the first of its kind) catches the attention of powerful figures, including the legendary adventurer Jade—who is determined to recruit the mysterious warrior to his party of warriors. Unfortunately for Alina, she’s comfortable in her employment and forbidden from taking on work outside of her receptionist duties. What started as a way to protect her position soon becomes the thing that may unravel it all as Alina finds herself caught between her day job and her secret life—a life that may also uncover secrets that will shake her world.
With I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out on Time, Vol. 1, Mato Kousaka delivers a fun and wildly entertaining introduction to a world based heavily in the lore and lingo of traditional Role Playing Game mechanics. With references to dungeon levels and raid bosses, this series, like a number of other recent manga titles, relies on a certain amount of reader understanding of RPG gameplay to form some of the underlying rules of the world. However, those rules only set the stage for a story that manages to carve out a unique tone of epic adventure and consistent humor. As Alina fights to maintain her comfortable life, she finds friend and foe in a colorful cast of characters who populate the wider world. The people who appear are memorable, the action is bold, and the visual humor is on point as this quiet receptionist carves her way through obstacles in an effort to pay off her mortgage and clock out on time. The writing knows exactly what story it’s there to tell and delivers beat after beat of engaging storytelling.
Capturing both the fantasy-adventure and the visual comedy, Suzu Yuuki brings the story to the page in bold fashion. The fantasy elements, action sequences, and individual characters are compelling from the start—and some of the best moments come when the unimposing Alina lets a bit of her power show as she threatens those who try to stick their noses into her business. Alina spends much of her time in the meek and respectful demeanor of many manga heroines—but when she summons a weapon the size of her own body as her face gets washed in shadow to match the threats she has no reservations making—the stark contrast and surprised terror of those around her never stops being funny. There’s minimal fan-service in the writing or visuals and Alina is largely given the space to become her own dramatic character, with party leader Jade appearing in a major supporting role as he chases down the mystery that he is sworn to solve.
Yen Press gives this title a Teen rating for language and violence and this fits well with the overall content. There are some colorful words as well as combat and death, but most of this is accompanied by a comedic tone. Teens will find plenty to appreciate here while there’s plenty to appeal to older readers as well. For audiences who like the power of Saitama in OnePunch Man or the daily life explorations of adventurers in titles such as Frieren, I May Be a Guild Receptionist should have plenty to offer. The manga is an adaptation of the light novel series and there’s expected to be an anime adaptation coming as well, so any fans of the work will have plenty of chances to spend time in this world. As much as the book draws from the rules of RPGs, it also does a fair job explaining concepts for the uninitiated. For those familiar with the genre and for those looking for an entry point into manga, this title is simple without being superficial, is delivered with skill, and is truly a fun read from start to finish. I look forward to seeing where Alina’s adventures take her next.
I May Be a Guild Receptionist, but I’ll Solo Any Boss to Clock Out Time Vol. 01 By Mato Kousaka Art by Suzu Yuuki Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975365769
Publisher Age Rating: T Related media: Book to Comic, Comic to TV
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Japanese
Call Me Iggy begins with a cinematic moment – a young man, presumably Iggy’s father, leaving Columbia in 1982 for Columbus, Ohio. The hairstyles and clothing in the images, as well as the color palette of yellows and browns, give the impression of a bygone era. Then we are propelled forward to 2016 Columbus, Ohio, where young Ignacio “Iggy” Garcia is riding along with his older brother, Billy to his first day of high school—where things quickly go awry.
Besides being the younger brother to a do-no-wrong older sibling (who is embarrassed enough by Iggy to pretend not to know him), he winds up in a Spanish class instead of the French class he wanted and he accidentally bumps into a girl at school (Marisol) and her coffee, spilling it all over her papers and books. But Spanish class turns out to be a chance to get to know Iggy’s crush, Kristi a little better so he decides to stick it out.
All of this seems rather mundane until the day when Iggy discovers his dead abuelito’s ashes in the basement and an accidental spill leads to an encounter with his grandfather’s ghost. Soon Iggy is striking a deal with his abuelito’s spirit to spread his ashes somewhere nice – in exchange for his Columbian grandfather’s help with Spanish class and impressing his crush.
There is so much about Call Me Iggy that feels timely, heartfelt, and thought-provoking all while maintaining its humor. As we find ourselves in another election year, it feels especially poignant to revisit the 2016 presidential election and what that looked like for Latin Americans. The way that the story tackles this and racism in America is well done, both realistic and hopeful.
Call Me Iggy’s author, Jorge Aguirre is, like Iggy, a Colombian-American born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and the story feels very honest and informed by life experience, despite the infusion of magical realism. The artwork by Rafael Rosado is vibrant and stunning, allowing readers to become fully immersed in the story. Panels including Iggy’s grandfather clearly depict that he is a transparent figure in clothing like those he wore in the first scene, when Iggy’s father was leaving Columbia in the ‘80s. The interactions between Iggy and his grandfather are one of the many entertaining things about the book – their banter is amusing and Iggy’s growth with his abuelito’s guidance is evident.
I loved seeing Iggy’s transformation as he began to learn more about his heritage – learning Spanish, salsa dancing, and how to cook arepas, among other things – and his burgeoning political leanings as he started to see what the future Trump presidency would mean for someone like Marisol or her family. The book is part family story, part commentary on the impact of assimilation. Getting to see Marisol’s family and their connection to their culture alongside Iggy’s own family and their journey is especially impactful.
The book is best suited for teens and will likely be enjoyed by those who gravitate towards stories of family, culture, and identity such as Laura Gao’s Messy Roots or Trung Le Nguyen’s The Magic Fish.
Call Me Iggy Vol. By Jorge Aguirre Art by Rafael Rosado Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, 2024 ISBN: 9781250204158
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Latinx, Character Representation: Latinx,
Award winning mangaka Taiyo Matsumoto brings pathos and humanity to Tokyo These Days as he examines the idea of finding one’s purpose through the lens of manga publishing. This was easily the most interesting and compelling book I’ve read in a while and the layout feels very cinematic.
The first chapter is titled “Today I’m Retiring for Personal Reasons” and this convention carries throughout the rest of the book with the chapters titled like they are calendar or journal entries. We get a glimpse at the inner life of Shiozawa, a manga editor, as he reaches a personal and professional crossroad. We’ll see the larger affect he has on his environment and its inhabitants dealing with this decision and how it opens this story up.
We find Shiozawa getting ready for work and having a conversation with his pet bird, who tells him it’s sad he’s retiring (he understands birds, but it’s not commented on.) He’s been editing manga for 30 years, but his latest magazine folded and he feels responsible. He realizes he’s spent 230 days total on this particular train getting to and from work and the scope of how entirely his life revolves around the field of manga begins to overwhelm him. He goes to meet an old colleague and we learn about just how different they are.
Chosaku is an artist who smokes, drinks, is overweight and generally overindulges in all the ways Shiozawa doesn’t. The dichotomy of these two is reflected in the lives of the other characters we’ll meet, but the thing they have in common is how they have devoted their whole lives to manga and how drained they are. Chosaku is still going through the motions, but Shiozawa points out his books have lost their shine and his heart isn’t in it. He wants Chosaku’s work to shine again, he loved that work. The rest of this first volume shows these men dealing with their sense of purpose and direction, but they wind up influencing others around them.
Liliko Hayashi was a young editor who looked up to Shiozawa and seeks out his help with a troublesome artist, Aoki. Shiozawa used to edit his work before assigning him to Liliko and the relationship is in bad shape. She is frustrated by Aoki’s hollow work and terrible attitude. Aoki is frustrated by what he sees as her interference and lack of support. They both hope Shiozawa will intervene and help, but he has stepped back and no longer wants to be involved with the field.
Their development will mirror the affect Shiozawa has on others around him; everyone in his sphere winds up asking larger questions about their commitment to manga, art, their lives, their purpose and the future. Shiozawa eventually decides to try and make one last book, one perfect manga that is just for him. It doesn’t have to be successful, there is no publisher supporting him, he’s just putting his retirement money into this idea. He decides to recruit artists and creators whose work he loved, but some of them no longer work in manga and he needs to try and lure them back.
Describing this book as cinematic is to say that there are quiet moments where the story is allowed to breathe and the audience can sit in the emotional impact of what just happened. There are wide shots of the skyline or cityscape to show just how small Shiozawa feels. There are small, everyday occurrences that fill out the background and give the world a more textured and authentic feel. The art isn’t what I would describe as clean, but it is also very intentional and highly detailed. It is a believable, modern Tokyo illustrated here, and it is very much another character in the story.
Viz rated this book Teen, which I believe is the right designation for it, but I think older readers likely will experience the book differently and more fully. There is very little in the way of bad language and a character smokes. Outside of that there is nothing objectionable in this book and teen readers should have no trouble understanding this world. The emotional journey of the characters will likely land differently with adults who have experienced some of the adult life experiences the characters here reflect on. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to libraries that are looking for manga that isn’t action, adventure, love or mystery.
Tokyo These Days Vol 1 By Taiyo Matsumoto VIZ Signature, 2024 ISBN: 9781974738809
Publisher Age Rating: Teen
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
In the future, safe long distance space travel is made possible by a unique resource called alcanite. This story features the end of that era as alcanite is running out and no replacement has been found. Ada, Mallic, and Haika are a team of scavengers looking for forgotten alcanite in historic shipwrecks. The work is dangerous, especially as the competition for this resource grows and unsavory people get involved. Ada finds a clue that could lead to an alternative travel method rumored to be used by her ancestors. Unfortunately, the inscriptions that might hold that knowledge have been moved off world by a wealthy collector.
The crew takes low priority cargo at the behest of Outher, their go-to mechanic who fixes their ship. During the long manual voyage, they discover that the unknown contents of the cargo is actually people who’d hoped to escape before getting stuck away from home when the alcanite runs out. Seems like the person in charge of their transportation wasn’t invested in their health and all the passengers, minus one, perished. Ada and Haika are able to rescue Hodge and promise to drop him off at the next station. When they arrive, they have a disastrous run-in with the wealthy collector when they discover he is connected to the dead travelers and has no desire to share an alternative to alcanite with anyone not paying.
The story device of limited resources is not a new one. However, set in the vastness of space where anything is possible, it does a good job of showcasing what makes a person human. Especially when they aren’t always humanoid like Mallic the octopus or Hodge the alien. The illustrations fit the story with muted versions of brighter colors, like the colors have dirtied over time. Detail lines not only define the drawing, but give the sense of texture as well. You can see that things aren’t what they used to be.
My biggest issue with this book is that there is no indication this is the beginning of a series, and the story doesn’t even begin to resolve the main issue of how an alternative to a non-renewable resource might affect people’s lives. This book focuses on character growth and relationships instead of the plot, which is not bad, but could leave your patrons feeling unfilled if this is the full story. Because of on-page murder, human trafficking, and other emotionally charged conversations between the characters, this would work best in a collection for older teens or adults. It is relatively short for a graphic novel, but there’s a lot going on.
The Hard Switch By Owen D. Pomery Avery Hill, 2023 ISBN: 9781910395707
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
“This book might seem very normal on the surface but like in any relationship once you get to know it you’ll realize this book is actually quite weird.”
This quote from the book How To Love: A Guide to Feelings and Relationships for Everyone describes the book perfectly—this is indeed a weird little book. Bursting on the scene with its bright pink cover and characters that look a bit like Easter egg-colored frogs, this book doesn’t exactly offer much guidance. It manages to feel a bit like a hug, nevertheless, with it’s affirmative language and assurance that there is no one-size-fits-all way to find love.
Alex Norris is known for their internet comic series, Webcomic Name, in which every comic has three panels and ends with “oh no” after a realization or complication. The formula sounds simple, but the comics have gained notoriety for being funny, profound, and relatable. How To Love contains a similar kind of humor—lighthearted with a darkly humorous core. But while Webcomic Name owes a lot of its humor to reflecting on our preoccupation and dependence on technology as well as our imminent destruction, How To Love takes a more hopeful, informative approach.
How To Love bills itself as a, “very different guide to relationships of all shapes and sizes,” which is accurate. What’s different about it is that the comics collected here offer quick lessons from a fully inclusive spectrum, discussing straight and queer relationships of all kinds, including asexuality and poly relationships. This feels almost unheard of; while none of these relationship types are given a deep dive, the mere mention is notable. Norris’s comics even brush upon the radical notion that someone can be happy as a single person and not lacking in any way, which is deeply validating to hear in a culture bent on—and even rewarding of—coupling up.
The book covers a wide range of subjects from crushes to consent in a concise package, tackling many different issues that arise when you are dating, starting to date, or trying to maintain a relationship. Among simple and silly illustrations is solid advice that mostly boils down to: you don’t have to do what you think you should do but do what is right for you. While not groundbreaking, it’s an affirmative little book.
Whimsical and wise, How To Love is reminiscent of Nathan Pyle’s Strange Planet, Hyperbole and A Half, the Sarah’s Scribbles books by Sarah Anderson, and other short, Instagrammable comics. As it does cover mature topics, it’s best for older teens and adults.
How To Love A Guide to Feelings & Relationships for Everyone By Alex Norris Candlewick, 2023 ISBN: 9781536217889
Publisher Age Rating: 14+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Lord Hades, king of the Underworld, ruler of the dead, maintains that he will never fall in love. However, this particular vow is complicated by the fact that Eros, the god of love, has shot Hades in the face with an arrow! Since walking around blindfolded is a major inconvenience, Hades offers to grant a wish to anyone who is able to pull the arrow out and free him from the burden of falling in love. Who achieves this feat but Kore, the goddess of spring! However, her wish is for Hades to find a consort… what could this mean?
Lord Hades’s Ruthless Marriage, Vol. 1 is the beginning of a fantasy series inspired by the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone. The first volume introduces potentially familiar characters and keeps the story moving. Hades is described as the ruthless lord of the Underworld, but he seems more curmudgeonly than ruthless. He is fear-inspiring, but he never hurts his subjects or Kore, despite her status as his prisoner after infiltrating his inner sanctum and removing the arrow from his forehead.
In return for removing Eros’s arrow, Kore’s wish leads to a parade of gods and goddesses visiting Hades, including Zeus, Hera, and Demeter, much to his vexation and the reader’s amusement. Some of the visitors, such as Hera, attempt to aid in finding Hades a consort, while others attempt to become the aforementioned consort. As such, the first volume introduces many characters that, though interesting, are only briefly explored. Hopefully, future volumes will further develop the various gods and goddesses and other supporting characters in addition to Hades and Kore.
Currently, the story has a light, comedic tone. Hades’s disgruntlement at being pressured about his marital status is initially played for laughs. However, throughout the course of the volume, Hades’s reasons for remaining aloof and single slowly become more evident. The bigger mystery is Kore: why is she in the Underworld and what is her motive behind wishing that Hades finds a consort?
Ueji Yuho’s art is gorgeous. If anyone would like to look at pretty Greek gods and goddesses, they need look no further than this manga. Yuho has a knack for comedic expression as well, and humor is deftly conveyed through the art at no expense to the quality. Though great attention to detail is paid to the characters, the backgrounds are not ignored, and the art never feels cluttered.
The manga is currently being translated into English. It has a publisher rating of Older Teen, but adults may find the story and art appealing as well. The story is in tune with its Greek mythology roots, and many characters, such as Zeus and Poseidon, possess the same wanton tendencies as their mythological counterparts. Some characters, such as Eros, are drawn in provocative poses and wear clothes that leave little to the imagination. The popularity of the Hades and Persephone myth, particularly as it has been reimagined in current books and comics, will endear fans of the duo and of Greek mythology in general.
Lord Hades’s Ruthless Marriage, Vol. 1 By Ueji Yuho Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975369385
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
In a far off land, in a time long ago, there are monsters called Karmas. Karmas are a blight on the land and the people, growing more powerful as they absorb the sins of those poor souls they devour. The only ones capable of defeating a karma are the Children of Impurity—an order of monster-hunters who can destroy a Karma forever by taking the evil into themselves.
While the Children of Impurity are respected, they are not well-liked. The darkness they absorb tends to slowly make them more inhuman in behavior and appearance. They also tend not to live long, either dying in battle or falling prey to the evil that consumes them from the inside out.
Ran is a Child of Purity who has trouble relating to people, even ignoring the difficulties of his curse. He attracts the attention of Torue, a third-generation bard, whose songs he enjoys while passing through a village in need. Torue has memorized all the sagas of old, but longs to create her own songs and stories. This leads her to follow Ran (who she thinks is quite handsome, even if his smile is kind of creepy), hoping to write an epic ballad about his great deeds.
One can’t help but be reminded of The Witcher while reading The Poetry of Ran. There seems little effective difference between the Children of Impurity and the Witchers in practice. True, Ran is more awkward than anti-social, and his sidekick is a perky lass who worries about her breasts being too big. In terms of action, however, Ran and Torue invite comparison to Geralt and Dandelion.
Thankfully, while The Poetry of Ran’s plots may be standard fantasy fare, the supporting cast make it memorable. This is a mixed blessing, however. Some of the supporting characters, like the dragon hunter Jill and the elven Child of Purity, Mina, are far more interesting than the stoic Ran and spoony Torue. They seem to be set up as recurring characters, but one wishes they were the leads.
The artwork is a larger problem than the stock plots. Yusuke Osawa is a great character designer and crafts unique looks for all the characters. Unfortunately, their action sequences are overdrawn and there’s little sense of flow between the panels, particularly in chapters three and four. I found it incredibly difficult to tell what was going on thanks to the intense close-ups of Ran fighting various giant Karmas.
This volume is rated 15+ by Titan Manga. I find that to be a fair assessment of the volume and the series to date. There is some bloodshed, but not as much as one would normally expect in an Older Teen manga. There is some mild sexual content, between all the references to Torue’s large chest. There is also a scene in which Mina flirts with Torue and makes her feel very uncomfortable. It is unclear, however, if Torue is just uncomfortable with sex in general or embarassed to think of herself in comparison to the inhumanly beautiful Mina.
The Poetry of Ran, Vol. 1 By Yusuke Osawa Titan, 2024 ISBN: 9781787741645
Publisher Age Rating: 15+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Shay Melendez is a human working for the Ghoul Agency, an advertising company in a highly competitive market of humans and supernatural beings. From Action Lab, Gene Selassie and Orlando Baez deliver The Dagmar, the first volume in this series of inter-office politics and supernatural corporate scheming.
The Dagmar unfolds in a somewhat episodic story that gradually builds into a larger narrative. With a quirky cast of characters who often struggle to mesh into a functional corporate entity, the story opens with Shay jumping into the fray to salvage a faltering corporate contract—bringing herself to the attention of the board of directors in the process. What follows is an escalating series of events as the Ghoul Agency goes to war against one of their largest competitors over a lucrative new contract. Office espionage, personal ambitions, and the threat of eternal banishment collide as Shay and her golem assistant, Greer, rush to stay ahead of a situation rapidly spinning out of control.
The idea of a paranormal ad agency is a fun one, with lots of potential for comedy and zany hijinks. It’s clear that Selassie intended to create a workplace comedy in these pages. Unfortunately, the end result falls remarkably flat in humor and storytelling. Most of the characters are underdeveloped, existing either in the background or as perpetual punchlines never given the time to shine on their own. Even Shay, who sits at the center of the narrative, is hardly better developed, despite her implied family difficulties and ability to command respect. The narrative, similarly, jolts from place to place with minimal development beyond the superficial: Shay is good at her job. Another company behaves unethically. Shay is the only one who can stop them—but not without the help of her friends. It’s a basic plot delivered in rough strokes and never given the chance to shine in comedy, character, or story.
Baez’s art also fell short for me. Stylized and cartoonish, it fits the unserious tone of the book well enough, maintaining distinct characters and occasional moments of supernatural humor. Unfortunately, the disjointed story doesn’t translate well to comic panels. There are never any particularly gripping moments in the illustrations, and I found myself skimming over the images as I was waiting for the book to reach its inevitable conclusion. Baez is not untalented, but this book is not a great showcase of what he’s likely capable of.
Action Lab doesn’t give an age rating for this title. Though there’s nothing particularly objectionable in the content, the book would probably be most appealing to older teens and adults due simply to its focus on the world of corporate advertising and office politics. The most engaging moments come from the fleeting humor of one member of the board of directors known simply as The Elder, a haunting grim reaper-like being who is always primed to mete out supernatural punishment. Even with that, there’s simply not much here to appreciate for an ambiguous target audience of kids or adults. I went in with high hopes and, regrettably, The Ghoul Agency‘s first volume just doesn’t deliver much beyond a premise full of potential.
The Ghoul Agency, Vol. 01: The DAGMAR By Gene Selassie Art by Orlando Baez Action Lab, 2022 ISBN: 9781632296177
Publisher Age Rating: ages 9-12 NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Maomao finds herself sold into service at the Inner Court after being kidnapped while harvesting plants in the area near her home. Although she tries to keep a low profile, Maomao warns two distinguished consorts that their face powder is poisonous to their babies. Unfortunately, only one heeds the warning and the other loses her baby soon after giving birth. Once Sir Jinshi, the eunuch in charge, learns that Maomao is an aspiring apothecary, he puts her to work as a lady-in-waiting for Consort Gyokuyo. Maomao’s primary job is to act as a food taster, but Sir Jinshi has other problems where he can use her skills. Maomao is not only good at detecting poison but also at deducing motivations and linking series of events. Her medicinal skills outshine the doctor on staff as well.
Over the course of the first four volumes, Maomao helps identify a poisoner, nurses a distinguished consort on the brink of death back to health, saves a courtesan and her patron during a short visit home, explains a bullying situation within the Inner Court, and is dismissed from service before her term is officially complete. Although she misses her family, Maomao discovers she enjoys working in the Inner Court, especially when her other option is to sell her services as a courtesan in the brothel she was raised in.
Normally, I prefer some element of fantasy in my historical stories. However, there is very little reference to anything paranormal or fantastical in this series. Instead, I was captivated by the hidden depth of our main character, Maomao, and the court intrigue of the Chinese imperial palace. I have no idea how accurate any of the portrayals are, so I can’t speak to authenticity, but it makes for a very compelling story. Besides giving each character their own growth throughout, the author develops the relationships between characters with the same care. There are plenty of mystery elements and procedural tropes sprinkled in to add another layer to everything.
I started my own relationship with this world by watching the anime first, then discovering the manga when I grew impatient waiting for new episodes to release. I do prefer the colorful anime sequences, but the manga’s illustrator does a great job capturing the right amount of detail and emotion without becoming too busy or losing the important moments. Each character’s eyes are expressive and the clothing style differences for each layer of society does a great job setting the scene. There is some discussion of the emperor’s nightly visits and a consort’s job to produce heirs, as well as discussion of the dangers of ingesting too much poison. This is not the main focus and there is no on page sex depicted. This series will have wide appeal from early teens though adults and will do well in any public library collection. I highly recommend this series.
A note about the anime: The second part of The Apothecary Diaries is set to simulcast on Crunchyroll this winter. Part one featured twelve episodes that animate the events drawn in volumes one through four of the manga. The anime follows the manga closely, so if you have readers who can’t wait for the next anime episode to release, the first ten volumes of the English manga are available for purchase in physical format. If you have readers who are looking for even more of this world and these characters, there are several volumes of light novel that have been translated into English in electronic format. However, they will not start becoming available for purchase in physical format until May of this year.
The Apothecary Diaries, vols 1-4 By Natsu Hyuuga Art by Nekokurage Hollendonner Square Enix, 2020 Vol 1 ISBN: 9781646090709 Vol 2 ISBN: 9781646090716 Vol 3 ISBN: 9781646090723 Vol 4 ISBN: 9781646090730
Publisher Age Rating: Teen Related media: Anime
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Can romantic love truly last beyond the spark of a “first sight” crush, or is it bound by the forces of luck and fate? These themes and questions permeate the romantic drama comedy of award-winning creators Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Dragon Hoops) and LeUyen Pham’s (Friends series) Lunar New Year Love Story, a riveting graphic novel of unrequited love spanning across multigenerational and cross-cultural dimensions of family dynamics.
For fourteen-year-old Valentina (Val), love fell into and out of her life. Her imaginary best friend Cupid inspired her to send anonymous cards of encouragement to her classmates every year on Valentine’s Day. Later in life, a dark family secret illuminates the truth behind why her mom abandoned her dad. Crestfallen and jaded by this shocking revelation, Val loses the joy in sending out Valentine cards. Shortly thereafter, Cupid transforms into a shadowy specter christened Saint Valentine and proposes a challenge: Find true love within one year’s time, and if she fails, entrust her heart to him in exchange for protection from the pangs of love. Is Val’s yearning heart, like her parents’, destined for a life of fractured relationships, trapped in a persistent cycle of unfulfilled love? How can she break this curse, or is she doomed to succumb to its indomitable fate?
After a chance encounter with two attractive boys at a lion dance performance, Val decides to join their troupe. Through a series of plot twists, turns, and loops, the story delves into dramatic detours enhanced by expressive tonal colors. Characters partake in celebratory activities at a Têt festival—Vietnamese Lunar New Year—ensconced in varying shades of maroon. Scenes unfold through a montage of panels depicting cultural activities energized by lion dances choreographed across full-page spreads. Noir-like panels saturated with dark shades of charcoal gray herald the ominous wraith-like Saint Valentine hovering on the sidelines, intent on winning Val’s broken heart.
This tour de force of storytelling amplifies the plot through interethnic and intergenerational engagement between Vietnamese and Korean American cultures. Through this intricately crafted story, Yang and LeUyen combine captivating dialogue and symbolic metaphors to heighten the pursuit of genuine heartfelt love that transcends typical romances. The remarkable interplay of love, fate, family secrets, grief and loss, fractured family relationships, and reconciliation blend with supernatural and magical realism to produce an unerringly well-paced story. Radiating with intimate warmth and love through nuanced characters, this multilayered graphic novel will captivate young adult readers and beyond, a testament to the ingeniously plotted and exquisitely sculpted characters populating the backdrop of rich cultural traditions in diverse Asian American communities.
Lunar New Year Love Story By Gene Luen Yang Art by LeUyen Pham Macmillan First Second, 2023 ISBN: 9781250908261
Publisher Age Rating: 14-18 NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18)
Creator Representation: Chinese-American, Vietnamese American Character Representation: Korean-American, Vietnamese American