Young Adult Comics

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I haven’t had time to prepare a proper review for today as I’m currently studying for an exam. Don’t worry though – so long as I pass, everything should be back to normal for next week!

Anyhow, instead I thought I’d use today’s post to talk about something a little different. If you follow me on Goodreads, you’ll already know that I’m also an avid comic book reader. While comics are a bit more mainstream now than they once were, they’re still often looked down upon as being of lesser value than other forms of art and literature. This is quite frankly crazy – as with the novels that I’ve reviewed, the quality of comics can vary quite wildly between titles, writers and artists.

Therefore, I thought I’d use this post to talk about my favourite comics for middle grade and young adult readers. Everything on this list (apart from Nimona) is an ongoing series so you should be able to find them at your local book store, library or comic book shop. I also should note that all of these series are all Western comics. While I do also read manga, these days I’m more of a Western comic book reader and so I’m not up on the most recent Japanese titles to recommend.

Anyhow, let’s start with some Marvel comics!

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Northern Lights

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Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass as it is known in America) is really a book that needs no introduction. It was first published in 1995 and forms the first part of Philip Pullman’s epic His Dark Materials trilogy. The novel is followed by The Subtle Knife (1997) and The Amber Spyglass (2000). It has since been adapted into many formats, including a film and graphic novel, and a companion series has recently been announced with the first title due for publication at the end of this year.

Since the death of her parents, Lyra Belacqua has been raised at Jordan College and is content roaming the roof tops and fighting the travelling Gyptian kids with her friend, Roger, and daemon companion, Pantalaimon. However, nothing can last forever. Roger mysteriously disappears one evening and, shortly afterwards, a beautiful woman named Mrs Coulter expresses an interest in adopting Lyra. Although worried about her friend, Lyra is excited to live with such a beautiful and intelligent woman. However, the Master of Jordan expresses concern about Mrs Coulter’s intentions. He gifts Lyra a rare truth telling device called the alethiometer and makes her swear to never show it to her new guardian.

The longer that Lyra spends in Mrs Coulter’s home, the more that she realises that the woman isn’t as kind as she first seemed. When Lyra discovers that she is directly linked to the Gobblers – a group of kidnappers who may be responsible for Roger’s abduction – she runs away and sets off on a journey of her own. Her goal is to save Roger and then head North in search of her Uncle Asriel – a prisoner of the panserbjørne – and deliver the alethiometer to him.

However, Lyra’s journey is filled with danger. Armoured bears, warring witch clans, and the terrible secret behind the Gobblers all stand between her and her goal. Most mysterious all is the nature of Dust, unexplained particles that drift down from the Northern Lights and stick to adults. Is it true that they pour from a parallel world? And if so, what are Lord Asriel’s plans for it?

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American Monsters

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Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews for these novels [here] and [here].

American Monsters was written by Derek Landy and first published in 2016. It follows the continuing adventures of Amber and Milo as they try to find a way to finally stop Amber’s twisted parents. The book forms the final instalment of The Demon Road Trilogy, and is preceded by Demon Road (2015) and Desolation (2016). I’d strongly advise that you read the books in sequence if you want to have any idea of what’s going on.

Amber is struggling to come to terms with her new role as the Shining Demon’s representative on Earth. She’s stronger than ever, her demonic side fuelled by vials of her benefactor’s blood, but using these is starting to come at the cost of her sanity. And then there are the things she must do – things that enable serial killers to go on killing. She knows that she needs to find a way to break her contract before she completely loses her soul.

And then there is the problem of her parents. Bill and Betty are still on the run and know that they’re living on borrowed time. When Amber finally catches up with them, they cut a deal. They know that they won’t live long while the Shining Demon is still in power. They want Amber to deliver the monster to them so that they can devour him and take his place. If Amber can do that, they promise that they’ll leave her alone to live her life.

Amber knows that her parents can’t be trusted, but there is one small problem. They’ve taken Kelly hostage and will kill her if Amber doesn’t deliver the goods within six days. With Kelly’s life on the line, Amber and Milo have no choice but to hit the road to find chains powerful enough to bind a Lord of Hell. However on the way they will encounter many old friends and enemies and, now that it’s known that Amber is the Shining Demon’s lapdog, it’s difficult to know who they can trust…

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Razorhurst

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Razorhurst was written by Justine Larbalestier and first published in 2016. It’s historical fiction with supernatural elements, focusing on two girls who see ghosts as they struggle to survive in 1930s Sydney. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

It’s 1932 and the streets of Razorhurst are bathed in blood. The fragile truce between the two most powerful mob bosses – Gloriana Nelson and Mr. Davidson – is slowly beginning to crumble and their enforcers frequently come to blows in the streets, finishing each other off with razor blades as carrying guns is illegal. It’s not surprising that with so much murder and violence, the streets are also filled with ghosts. Invisible to most, the haunt the places they died or people that they once loved. Only Kelpie seems to notice them, and that often leads to more harm than good.

Kelpie is a street urchin, orphaned and left homeless at a young age. Although she knows that ghosts usually aren’t to be trusted, she makes the mistake of following one’s advice in the hope of finding fresh food. What she stumbles across instead is a murder. Jimmy Palmer – Glory’s favourite lieutenant – has been brutally slaughtered. Although Jimmy’s ghost tells her who committed the crime, there is no way that Kelpie can come forward with this information. If she did, she’d have to explain exactly how she came across it.

Instead, Kelpie finds herself fleeing across Razorhurst with Dymphna Campbell – Jimmy’s girlfriend and Glory’s prized moll. Dymphna has already earned the nickname “Angel of Death” since her partners never seem to last long, and knows that she’s likely to be found responsible for the most recent murder. Dymphna knows that Glory’s hold is weakening and dreams of taking her place, yet most importantly she knows that she must survive. Meeting Kelpie seems to be fate as Dymphna has never encountered another who shares her supernatural power. Together, she knows that they can rise to the top.

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The Name of the Star

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The Name of the Star was written by Maureen Johnson and first published in 2011. It’s a paranormal fantasy story which focuses on a teenage girl who is drawn into a supernatural murder investigation. The novel forms the first part of the Shades of London series and is followed by The Madness Underneath (2013) and The Shadow Cabinet (2015), as well as a prequel novella titled The Boy in the Smoke which was published for World Book Day 2014.

Sixteen-year-old Aurora “Rory” Deveaux is thrilled to be leaving Louisiana to study at a real London boarding school. It’s always been her dream to visit England and she can’t wait to get stuck into her new life. However, she arrives in the city at a terrible time. A brutal murderer has just struck, replicating Jack the Ripper’s first murder to the tiniest detail, and London is rife with gossip as people wait to see if he will kill again.

Although her new friend Jerome is fascinated by the case, Rory is more interested in focusing on her difficult classes and overcoming her culture shock. However, this proves impossible when the Ripper strikes on the school grounds. To make it worse, Rory might well be the only witness to a crime. She had thought it odd to have seen a strange man in the square but the weirdest thing was that her roommate, Jazza, claimed not to have seen anyone.

Following this encounter, Rory’s life just gets weirder and weirder as she continues to see people that no one else can. When she is approached by a strange young policeman who seems to want to help her, she starts to realise that nothing is as it seems. She has abilities that might just be able to catch the Ripper. But who will be his next target, and how do you stop someone that isn’t exactly human?

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Podkin One-Ear

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Podkin One-Ear was written by Kieran Larwood and illustrated by David Wyatt. It was first published in 2016 and is a middle grade fantasy story which tells the tale of a warrior rabbit. While the novel reads as though it’s the first book in a series, at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

Every bunny has heard of Podkin One-Ear – the legendary hero who saved all rabbitkind from the monstrous Gorm. Stories are told of the battles he fought against giants and vampire rabbits. Yet as a bard approaches the Thornwood Burrow on Bramblemas Eve, he brings with him a different tale. You see, he knows the true story of Podkin’s origins. And it’s not what a young rabbit may expect.

Before he was a warrior, Podkin was the spoiled son of a Chieftain. He knew that one day he’d inherit his father’s burrow and didn’t really care, instead shirking from his lessons to sleep or play. Yet things changed on Bramblemas Eve when the Gorm invaded his home. The Gorm were once rabbits but since they uncovered an evil artefact they became monsters of flesh and metal. Their leader – Scramashank – murders Podkin’s father and forces the young rabbit to flee into the night with his sister and brother, Paz and Pook.

That could have been the end of things, but Podkin took with him the Starclaw – a magical copper dagger sacred to his burrow. Somehow, the Gorm realise this and begin to relentlessly pursue him through the forest. Alone, Podkin and his family have no hope of escaping the monsters. Yet Podkin has an incredible destiny and soon finds that allies can be found in the strangest of places…

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Nature’s Confession

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Nature’s Confession was written by J.L. Morin and first published in 2015. It is a science fiction novel (falling into the sub-genre of “cli-fi”), set in a futuristic and heavily-polluted Earth. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of Morin’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Planet Earth is dying. For years, the people who lived there have ignored renewable energy sources and instead plundered resources of fossil fuels. The Emperor of Earth and Ocean is keen that no one argues against him, and thus has turned schools into places were children are encouraged not to think for themselves, rewarding only those that conform to his capitalist philosophy and keep their mouths shut.

However, Boy finds that he is immune to their brainwashing mist and starts to question why his teachers refuse to answer his questions. Boy is a code writing genius and is soon contacted by a mysterious benefactor who wishes for him to design a programme that allows all who use it to upload ideas. The seas are poisoned and it’s not going to be long before the air becomes unbreathable. The stranger wants to give the people a platform that they can use to voice their ideas regarding how the environment can be saved.

Boy creates his program but quickly learns that his benefactor was not being entirely truthful. It is instead the spark that will allow machines to become self-aware, leading to the possibility of creating artificially intelligent androids. As the beloved benefactor of these robots, Boy and his family soon find themselves catapulted across the universe. When the Emperor sets his sights on destroying other worlds, only they can raise awareness of his crimes and fight back.

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Dew from a Dark Mourning

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Dew from a Dark Mourning was written by Brenda McGee Holdsworth and first published in 2012. It is a Christian horror story which focuses on a group of teenagers who are targeted by a faceless entity. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s earlier work to fully appreciate it.

Jessica is fifteen years old and wants to fit in with her friends. They’re all good teenagers but there is only one problem. None of them are Christian like she is and Jessica is worried that they won’t take her seriously if the find out. She is also nervous about whether her boyfriend, Maurice, is really into her. All her friends seem to be in close relationships with their partners, yet Maurice hasn’t even held hands with her.

However, Jessica’s worries turn out to be very small when she and her friends are stalked by a strange creature. The sinister being takes the form of a man but its face is oddly blurry and indistinct. When the being causes their car to crash on the way to the beach, Jessica awakes to find herself trapped in a shadowy world. The creature plans to take more than just her life and Jessica and her friends soon find themselves battling a monster with the power to turn their fears and insecurities against them.

Yet the being isn’t content in tormenting Jessica alone. It soon turns its sights on her family and other members of her community. Their enemy isn’t the kind that can be defeated by brute force, but is their faith enough to save them?

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Nevernight

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Nevernight was written by Jay Kristoff and first published in 2016. It is a dark fantasy novel about a teenage girl who seeks revenge for the murder of her family. The story forms the first part of The Nevernight Chronicle, though at the time of writing no further instalments have been announced.

When Mia Corvere was just ten years old, she watched as her father was executed for the role he played in a rebellion against the Senate. Yet the tyranny of Consul Scaeva did not end there. Her mother and infant brother were sentenced to a lifetime in the bowels of the impenetrable prison known as Philosopher’s Stone and Mia was sentenced to death. Scaeva did not like to leave loose ends.

This could have been the end of Mia’s tale, yet it was then that she discovered that she possessed a terrible power: the ability to control the shadows to flit between patches of darkness or make herself invisible. The revelation came from Mister Kindly – a talking cat made of pure shadow – who immediately joined her as a companion. Lost and with nowhere to go, Mia was taken in by an elderly assassin named Mercurio who agreed to train her in his art. Mia studied hard to become a killer. It was the only way that she could avenge her family.

Six years later, Mia makes her first successful kill. Mercurio deems her worthy of the journey to the Red Church – the place where the greatest killers study under the eternal gaze of Niah, Goddess of the Night. Yet life at the academy will be Mia’s biggest challenge. Of the thirty students, only four will prove worthy enough of becoming Blades. The rest are destined for a life or servitude or a sudden, gruesome death…

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Ratchet the Reluctant Witch

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Ratchet the Reluctant Witch was written by Sara Pascoe and first published in 2015. It tells the story of a fourteen-year-old girl who is forced to find a way home when her magical powers shunt her back in time. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Rachel “Ratchet” Hollinsworth has been living in foster care ever since her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia and she hates every minute of it. To make matters worse, she’s worried that she’s also developing a mental disorder. Lately, she’s been seeing things that aren’t there and hearing cats talk. If anyone finds out, she knows she’ll be locked away like her mother.

Desperate for independence, Ratchet runs away to London and her life soon starts to look up. She finds herself a job in a nice café and a homeless psychic named Pavel reveals to her that she is actually an Integrator (witch). He even starts to teach her how to control her powers. Her situation still isn’t perfect but Ratchet is content. That is, until her social worker tracks her down.

It turns out that the social worker – Bryony – is an Integrator too and had been keeping an eye on Ratchet. When one of Ratchet’s friends is injured, the grief triggers her powers and sends her hurtling back in time to the Essex Witch trials. Bryony and her wisecracking familiar, Oscar the Cat, hurry to bring her back before the Witchfinder General can catch her. Yet things go from bad to worse when Ratchet jumps to 17th Century Istanbul and finds herself as a fortune teller to the murderous Sultana. Will she live long enough to get back to her own time?

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