Second Look: IVY by Sarah Oleksyk

Ivy by Sarah OleksykThe Story: In this graphic novel, title character Ivy is an aspiring artist trying to make it through the dredges of her senior year of high school. Ivy is coping with many struggles, both internal and external. She is trying to navigate her social circle and a difficult home life, which includes her single mother who is very adamant about what Ivy should do after high school. Internally, she’s battling with her serious desire to go to art school, a conflict which results in an equally serious fight with her mother (a rolling on the floor, cage match style fight). Unable to take the pressures of life, Ivy runs away with Josh, a fellow artist she meets at a college fair. Unfortunately, the trip he takes her on is hardly one of freedom and self-discovery.

The Low Down: Ivy’s character is so not what I was expecting in this book. I was anticipating a young girl who was being suppressed by parental and social expectations, and just needed to try to find herself and who she really was. What I met with was an unsympathetic, unlikeable bully who doesn’t even deserve to have a book written about her.

Ivy projects an overwhelming amount of bitchassness in her daily travels, enough to make me not even care what happened to her. She is a lousy friend, and is so consumed with her own drama that she never sees what her friends are dealing with. She makes a point of being cruel and mean to a classmate for no reason (except that she might possibly be  an equally amazing artist), and displays zero compassion or consideration for anyone other than herself.

On a different side of the graphic novel spectrum, the artwork is average. It’s certainly much better than anything I could ever draw, but I’ve seen more impressive, striking artwork in other GN’s. Every page was busy and overwhelming, and the story jumped around at times and sometimes made me wonder if a few panels were accidentally left out.

ivy-comic

I was also a little surprised by the sexual content in this book. Sex, drugs, and drinking happen in young adult novels, and that’s no different in graphic novels. Ivy drinks. Ivy does a few hits on a joint. And Ivy has sex. No big. The author was trying to convey that Ivy was undergoing a tumultuous period in her life, and making questionable decisions as a result. Fine. However, those concepts and feelings could have easily been conveyed without all the visuals of Ivy gettin’ her freak on with Josh. Let me tell you, there was far more frontal nudity than I ever cared to see of an illustrated teenage girl. (I have a bet going with co-workers as to how long it’ll be for the library’s copy to go missing because it’s hidden under a 13-year-old’s mattress.) Josh’s treatment of Ivy also made my inner feminist freak out a little, as Josh seems to be a fan of the hit and run (or blow and go, bang her and hang her… whatever term you prefer) which royally pissed me off.

My summary was a little misleading in that Ivy’s road trip with Josh is, in fact, one of self-discovery. It’s not a fulfilling road trip full of cotton candy and unicorns and maybe the occasional conflict like some other coming of age stories. Ivy truly had to hit rock bottom before she could realize what she left behind. For her to realize what was important in her life, she puts herself in a difficult position, so she has no choice but to confront how lucky she is. In that sense, the moral does come shining through if you can see the story through to the end.

Bottom Line: Despite being one of YALSA’s Great Graphic Novel for 2012, I’ve read better coming of age stories. Ivy’s rudeness and self-destructive begavior is more of a black mark against confused teenagers instead of a call to be patient with them for trying to figure out who they are. Miedocre artwork doesn’t do it any favors. or any folks who are a bit more conservative, I’d recommend holding off on this one due to the nudity and some strong language.

OFFICIAL RATING: 5/10

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: THE MOVIE!

After all the hype about this movie (or actually the lack thereof… I hate you, people who refuse to promote brilliant but low-budget movies!), there was no way I was waiting for the DVD release.

I was one of four people in the theater, which was kind of awesome. Kind of like having my own private showing, ya know? However. One of the fellow theatergoers decided to sit one row in front of and one seat away from me. Which didn’t really bother me until the tears (read: choking sobs) started to flow…

The movie itself is a direct take on the book. There’s not much creative interpretation (THANK GOD!) between the book and the movie, which is most likely the result of Stephen Chbosky himself writing and directing it. A few scenes from the book were edited or removed completely due to time or just because they were unnecessary for the overall film, but the movie as a whole still gives you the same warm and fuzzy feeling as the book.

Forgetting about Stephen Chbosky’s directorial skills for a second, whoever selected the cast for Perks gets mad props. I can’t really see any way in which this could have been cast any better. Logan Lerman plays loveable but naive Charlie incredibly well and really makes the character come to life. Emma Watson is definitely not what I pictured when I read about Sam, but, like Lerman, she carries her role perfectly in her first major post-Harry Potter venture. She’s definitely transcended her Hermione Granger persona, and is truly a remarkably well-rounded actress.

I’ve heard a lot of opinions about how Ezra Miller is the true shining star of this film, and, to be quite honest, I had never seen him in anything else (I hadn’t even heard of him before Perks. My bad…). I really had no idea what to expect, nor did I have anything to compare him to. But I will tell you this: this kid is a GEM. He brought out every aspect of Patrick that needed to be seen to understand the character. He portrays Patrick at his highest highs and lowest lows, and elicits feelings for the character that I didn’t feel when reading the book. I felt like I got to see a whole different side of the same character.

Now. Are you going to go see it? Yes, you are (I’m telling you… YOU ARE). Should you bring tissues. YES. You should. I was openly weeping within the first 10 minutes, and slowly progressed to hysterical sobbing by the end. It should be noted that Perks is not a sad movie. But it is very moving and emotional, especially if you’ve read the book and know what to expect and already have a grasp of the overall tone of the story.

So go see it. Right now. Bring some Kleenex, sit back, and enjoy the ride with Charlie. And then try not to cry whenever you hear “It’s Time” by Imagine Dragons… I dare you.

Want to hear more about The Perks of Being a Wallflower? Hit up:
AtLP’s review of Perks
Local showtimes of Perks in your area (thanks to Fandango) 
10 Things Learned from the set of Perks (also from Fandango) 

And here is the trailer for your enjoyment. If you tear up a bit, don’t be ashamed. We’re non-judgemental. This is a safe space.

Second Look: THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky

November 4, 2012

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you to tell you all about a boy named Charlie. He’s a bit of a wallflower, which means he tries not to get involved, but he notices things. He doesn’t just notice how you style your hair, or who you might be dating, or how many times you’ve worn that shirt with the coffee stain on it. He notices things like what kind of person you are and what you love and what moves you.

He’s had a bit of a tough life. His family is ok, but he lost a dear relative when he was 7 years old, and his best friend shot himself just last year. He’s had some difficulty adjusting, but he’s starting his freshman year of high school and he’s somewhat nervous. Eventually, Charlie gains new friends that are unlike any other. They open his world to new experiences, new people, and accept him in a way he’s never felt before. This is the story of Charlie’s freshman year with a rag tag group of friends and some of the many perks of being a wallflower.

Love always,
Katie

P.S. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a shockingly realistic look at high school life. Friends are made. Couples break up. People get hurt.  Just like real life. It deals with lots of sensitive and sometimes controversial topics such as homosexuality, mental illness, and abuse. But it is the most awesome coming-of-age novel you will every read. It’s sad, yet hopeful and inspiring all that the same time. I think everyone can find a bit of a kindred spirit in Charlie in one way or another. He makes you feel like you’re not alone with whatever drama you’re dealing with, and that it’s perfectly normal to feel a little lost and more than a little imperfect.

P.P.S. This book has historically been somewhat controversial and considered inappropriate for its intended age group because of some of the content it contains. To people who think this book is inappropriate for teenagers: You have the right to your opinions and I respect that. But you should also know that the events in this book happen to people in high school everyday. It may even be happening to your child/friend/sibling as you read this paragraph. Teenagers drink, do drugs, have sex, masturbate, swear, keep secrets, and get into fights.  And they’re probably going to do it whether or not they read Perks or any other book you feel is inappropriate.

P.P.P.S. OFFICIAL RATING: 11/10 (see amendment to our traditional 1-10 rating scale on the Ratings page).

Second Look: Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge

I’m showing some more graphic novel love with Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge, and this is one so good that I want to throw it a party and shower it with presents.

The Story: Paige Turner (yes, that is her real name) just moved to Brooklyn with her parents, away from her BFF and into a huge city with thousands of people. Sadly, she has never felt so alone. She recalls some words of wisdom from her grandmother, buys a brand new sketchbook, and starts drawing again, something she thought she was never good enough to do. Through gorgeously drawn illustrations, we see Paige’s journey as she struggles to break free of her parent’s expectations and become the person she wants to be. She makes some uber cool friends along the way, finds courage through her art, and discovers a new person who has lived inside her all along.

The Low Down: OMG I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! *ahem* Yea. Truth be told, this is a phenomenal book. Each chapter is headlined with one of nine “rules” for Paige’s new sketchbook, which actually are inspiring in themselves. Gulledge’s artwork is stunning, and very detailed. She not only displays great artistic talent, but also manages to capture Paige’s teen angst through pictures, which is quite a feat. Paige’s confusion and struggles as she tries to make a new life in New York are legit and I’m sure any teenager (or young adult… or older adult, for that matter) facing a bit of an identity crisis can totally relate. She’s unsure, nervous, and a little fearful, but she ventures out on her own to carve out a place for herself where she can be happy. The friends she makes are incredibly likeable characters, and are very understanding and supportive of her. The subject matter isn’t heavy and/or deep, but it certainly is thought provoking. By the time I got to the end, I thought to myself, “if Paige can, then I can, too!” And since we’re discussing a novel for young adults, I’m guessing that’s probably the point. Heck, it made me drag out my old sketchbook and art pencils again!

Extra Goodies: Here’s a link to one of Gulledge’s blogs for Paige, with samples of some of her artwork and snippets of info about her technique and process. For an artist-wannabe like myself, Gulledge just got even cooler.

The Bottom Line: I can’t say enough wonderful things about the artwork, and it is such an inspiring come-of-age novel that it made even ME feel like I could conquer anything. A beautiful graphic depiction of self discovery, and something that anybody, not just teens, can relate to and feel inspired by.

OFFICIAL RATING: 9.5/10 (Yup. I totally went there.)