Wine Ghost interrupts the narrator introducing her and her pitiful afterlife existence for a very important delivery (it’s pizza). Except that’s not who she finds ringing the doorbell. Instead, it’s an old friend, Seb, who says he just died and “moved in” recently. Wine Ghost invites him to stay with her. Not just for pizza, but until he finds a place of his own. When they start looking at apartments the next day, it becomes painfully obvious that Seb is only out for himself and embodies the term “gaslighting”: calling Wine Ghost out on behavior that isn’t true but makes her think it might be; flirting with other ladies behind her back; and negging whenever possible. Luckily, Wine Ghost has another friend, Pepper, who teaches Wine Ghost that when someone else tells you what to think and it distorts your perception of yourself, to take a step away from that person and re-center yourself. That they don’t define you. You do.
This is an incredibly deep and thoughtful narrative that tackles some big adult themes in under 100 pages. Most of it centers around self-perception and self-degradation. Including how easy it is to be open-minded towards others’ choices and lifestyles while not giving yourself the same courtesy. Wine Ghost also presents as very self-aware until Seb comes along and muddles things up with his lies. It was nice to have the story include the emotional support of a friendship between ladies. It mimics real life situations unlike other media that only showcases women backstabbing each other, especially when a guy is involved. Honestly, it was refreshing.
Although I find the art style incredibly distracting and not to my liking, that is very much a personal preference as I can appreciate that the art reflects the characters and world built by the author. The one negative is that occasionally some of the panels appear out of order. Normally, this would be signified by overlapping panels or text bubbles connecting them in a way that draws the eye, which is the case here, but it is harder to follow. This could be because it is more subtle, or it could be the bright clashing colors. Because of the adult content (including a sex dungeon in use by a variety of hell’s occupants), this belongs in the adult graphic novel section of any public or academic library. Upper teens will likely find it as well, but may not understand the content without the life experience to back it up, so I don’t recommend it for high school libraries.
Wine Ghost Goes to Hell By Sage Coffey Iron Circus, 2024 ISBN: 9781638991052
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Creator Representation: Nonbinary, Trans Character Representation: Bisexual, Addiction
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
Best friends Gabby, Mindy, and Priya are very different, but they have the same problem: all three girls love animals, and none of them are allowed to have pets. Determined to get quality cuddle time with some critters, they try out several schemes before creating a dog-walking business, which they name PAWS (an acronym—sort of—for Pretty Awesome WalkerS).
Several clients sign up immediately, and suddenly the girls have all the dogs they can handle—maybe even more than they can handle. Conflict bubbles up: Priya plays lots of sports, so the other two keep having to walk extra dogs when she has practices or games. Mindy can really use the dog-walking money, so she’s keen to take on more dogs even when the trio is already struggling. Gabby is the youngest, and sometimes feels that the other two don’t listen to her.
When the girls finally solve these issues, more trouble pops up: Mindy’s mom starts dating, which makes Mindy feel insecure and afraid of change just as the other two girls want to ask a new friend to join PAWS. Then Priya’s family moves across town, and her parents want her to switch schools. How will the girls of PAWS keep their business—and their friendship—going strong?
This fun series will inevitably draw comparisons to the Baby-Sitters Club, another series in which tween girls form a business together and deal with professional and personal issues. Both feature characters who are very different in personality and background but are close friends: Gabby comes from a secure, well-to-do family and is a little sheltered; Mindy is a stylish, chronically-online latchkey kid with a single mom; Priya is an athlete and the child of immigrants. Hazel, who joins PAWS in the second book, is new in town and uses a wheelchair. Each book focuses on the character whose name is in the title, with occasional sections following one of the others. Like the girls of the Baby-Sitters Club, these kids work through the practical details of how pre-teens might realistically organize and run a business.
PAWS is set in Vancouver, Canada, and feels very much of the present day. The girls use some current slang, especially when they squeal over animals, calling them “pupper,” “floof boi,” “lad,” “fren,” and “king,” and exclaiming “I would boop that nose so hard!” Phones and social media also feature frequently. All of this feels natural, and while the language may eventually seem a little quirky to future readers, the storylines and themes of friendship, accepting change, and taking care of yourself are timeless.
The art is a colorful, lightly cartoonified version of reality. The characters are expressive, sometimes becoming comically exaggerated to show extreme emotions. They are distinct and easy to tell apart, and each has an individual style, including plenty of different outfits. The animals have a lot of personality, too. While the focus is on the characters, the backgrounds are detailed enough to keep the settings—mostly parks, school, and the kids’ homes—clear and present. There are also a couple of illustrated recipes: Mindy narrates how to make gamja bokkeum, a Korean dish, and her mom’s boyfriend Mike explains how to make a kind of breakfast casserole.
There is no violence, no swearing (unless you count an embarrassed character mumbling “Oh God”), and no romantic content other than Mindy’s mom innocently hanging out with her new boyfriend. The stakes are emotional and logistical, not physical danger, except for one instance when Priya falls and hurts her leg.
These funny, relatable characters learn problem-solving and other life lessons through engaging stories. Definitely hand this series to fans of the Baby-Sitters Club, as well as to readers of other middle-grade realistic fiction, like the work of Raina Telgemeier and Shannon Hale.
PAWS By Nathan Fairbairn Art by Michele Assarasakorn Penguin Random House Razorbill, 2022 ISBN: 9780593351864
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13) Creator Representation: Canadian, Thai, , Character Representation: Black, Indian, Korean, Wheelchair User, Hindu ,
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,
Mango, Brash, Cilantro and the rest of the team are busy with other assignments when a new threat involving burglaries in Bora Bora comes up. It’s down to the B-Team of Marsha and Bongo to solve the mystery. But they’ve already been brought to task for overspending the InvestiGator’s Agents budget—flying first class, destroying expensive billboards, brutally bashing their plane into the farmers’ market, covering recovered bank bills with artisan small-batch honey, and destroying their top-of-the-line tech. The InvestiGator General is not pleased, to put it politely. After a low-budget trip to the teeny low-tech islands, can they use their brains (and not much else) to solve the break-ins and burglaries? Who is BEEhind all the pineapple tasting stuff? Can they stay undercover and under budget?
Volume two is a by-now-expected mix of constant puns and pop culture references that will amuse both the kids and the parents. There have been seven InvestiGators books, and this is the second one of the spin-off series Agents of S.U.I.T. If you haven’t read one of John Patrick Green’s books before, the storyline operates like a lot of animated kids’ movies these days; the humor operates on two levels – one for the kids and one for the adults. (For example: “One should never chase a waterfall,” and, “you’re going to like the way you look—I guarantee it.”) It’s not the 8-year-olds that would get these jokes, but there are plenty of laughs for them too: “There was NO WAY I was getting in the machine!” and, “No….wait…you were right this time.”)
This book, as with all the InvestiGator books, is perfect for kids ages 7-12, and encourage learning new vocabulary. Marsha is quite loquacious and this irritates Bongo who refuses to look a word up, even when Marsha uses it repeatedly.
This title is a standalone book. You don’t have to read the previous one to enjoy this one, but kids will want to! InvestiGators is one of my library’s most circulating middle reader comics, so having new ones to purchase is great.
The Epilogue is also very funny. Kids who like The Bad Guys, Catstronauts, or Dog Man might like this.
InvestiGators: Agents of S.U.I.T.: From Badger to Worse By John Patrick Green, Christopher Hastings Art by Pat Lewis Macmillan First Second, 2024 ISBN: 9781250852397
Publisher Age Rating: 7-10 NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)
A house can be just a place to live but a home can be so much more than that. It can be where you feel safe, where you feel loved, and where you feel comfortable. Mazie Lovie’s middle grade graphic memoir The Lucky Poor tells Mazie’s own experience growing up poor, with not always ideal living situations, until her mom becomes a homeowner through Habitat for Humanity Canada.
Mazie lives with her mom and her younger brother, Jake. They’ve lived in the Bug House, with her mom’s boyfriend, then an apartment that was way too small for the three of them. Her grandparents live on a farm nearby where she spends every weekend, the most stable and consistent home in her young life. Her grandparents have a (two room) vacation cottage home too, where Mazie gets to spend a week every summer. It’s great to live with so much family close by but when it comes to physical space, it’s not always that great.
As Mazie starts getting older, she admits to herself she needs more space, her own dedicated space without Jake barging in. Jake is autistic and it’s not always easy for Mazie to be patient with him. It’s not until she joins a group with other kids with autistic siblings that she feels safe admitting this. It’s a lot of emotions for a tween to handle, dealing with being poor and not having her own room, but Mazie knows her family is part of the lucky poor, the group of people who dance around the poverty line but always have a roof over their head.
When Mazie is 13, her mom is the recipient of a house from Habitat for Humanity Canada. The family is required to complete 500 volunteer hours and maintain the upkeep of the house. The House, as it’s referred to in the book, gives Mazie a taste of the classism that’s been lying within some of her family members. They think Mazie’s mom doesn’t deserve the house. There’s people worse off than they are, they already had a place to live, why should they get a free house? The Lucky Poor does a gentle job of dealing with these heavy topics, as Mazie looks within to try to understand why anyone would feel this way. Readers will also see how hard her mom works at being the perfect homeowner and her need to continue to prove they deserve it.
The book primarily focuses on Mazie’s family but delves more into her friendships as she gets older. The House becomes a space for community; her Girl Guides group uses it as a meeting spot and it serves as a help for other members of her troop. Readers can use the story as a kickoff to think about what their living situation means to them and how it may serve as a place beyond just where their family lives.
The story told in The Lucky Poor ties into the book itself, with Mazie deciding what she wants to do with her life as it ends. Lovie’s art style is colorful and cartoonish, reminiscent of a webcomic in the best way. It may potentially attract younger readers but the narrative of Mazie’s life is more on the older middle grade side. Readers who’ve personally experienced housing insecurity may find this graphic memoir particularly emotional at times and it could evoke big emotions in readers of any class background.
There’s a lot of heart and love in The Lucky Poor, along with potential for discussion about classism and dealing with discrimination, even from the people you love. It’s recommended for readers of other graphic memoirs for middle grade readers, such as The Tryout and Chunky.
The Lucky Poor A Habitat for Humanity Story By Mazie Lovie Iron Circus, 2024 ISBN: 9781638991250
Publisher Age Rating: 11-13
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
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)
Don’t let its cute manga-inspired art fool you. Matchmaker, the queer slice-of-life comic book by Cam Marshall, addresses plenty of serious topics in its compact print volume, such as: staying safe during the Covid-19 pandemic; the stress of being unemployed or underemployed in a capitalist society; work life balance; and asserting and affirming sexual and gender identities.
In six chapters, the book reveals the lives of three young friends struggling through life and searching for romance, with fully realized side characters to round out the story. Transgender, nonbinary lesbian Kimmy attempts to set up gay cisgender Mason with the perfect guy. Meanwhile, Kimmy develops feelings for their mutual friend Marlowe. The relationships unfold at a natural pace while the reader waits to find out if Kimmy’s matchmaking will succeed. Romance is the core of the plot but subplots such as artist Marlowe’s wrist injury; animator Mason’s desperate search for decent paid work; the friends’ thorough efforts to protect immunocompromised Mason from Covid while others remain lax; and Mason’s sister Sam’s questioning of sexual identity balance out what would otherwise be a one-dimensional story.
Marshall’s art is in black, white, and gray. It is arranged in panels with full page artwork at the beginning of each chapter. The dialogue and images fit neatly within the panels and each enhances the other, especially in terms of humor which is depicted textually and pictorially. Exaggerated facial expressions and well-placed onomatopoeia give a fun, goofy vibe to the story. Picture a winking Marlowe handing a receipt with her phone number on it to love-struck Kimmy with a BAM! while Kimmy’s eyes spiral in a classic “knocked out” expression (151). The print book is about 5.5 inches tall by 5.5 inches wide, an unusual size for an adult section book. But it’s conveniently portable and surprisingly, the art and text are not negatively impacted.
The youthful sense of humor, timely existential woes, and art style of Matchmaker will mostly appeal to folks in the mid 20s to mid 30s age range. Recommend this charming book to fans of slice-of-life stories such as Giant Days or Wet Moon.
Matchmaker By Cam Marshall Silver Sprocket, 2023 ISBN: 9798886200294
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Creator Representation: Nonbinary , Character Representation: Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Nonbinary, Trans, Depression
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)