Wars in Toyland by Joe Harris, Adam Pollina, Brent McCarthy, and Nolan Woodward

Wars in Toyland*war isn’t pretty unless it’s drawn well*

A graphic novel aimed at adults but would be equally appropriate for teens, this book has charm, style, wit, and a message (that isn’t too message-y). Younger brother Matthew follows his toy soldiers into toy box after his big brother Alex goes missing. Having already earned the respect of his toys, Captain Matthew leads his troops through a strange yet familiar landscape in hopes of defeating the evil Rottenstuffs and find his brother. It sounds simple but this gnovel has so much to offer. If you don’t want to consider the underlying moral to the story, feel free to stay on the surface of this book by admiring the artwork and appreciating the puns. Either way, I’m guessing you’ll be like me and find yourself happily surprised by what you find.

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Home Front Girl by Joan Wehlen Morrison

Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America*even war can’t stop teen troubles*

Joan Wehlen grew up in the Chicago area in the years leading up to and during World War II. She was encouraged to write by more than one teacher -and she loved doing it- so it shouldn’t be a surprise that she kept a diary. In these chronologically organized entries, Joan mostly talks about school and boys, but she also mentions world events. Sprinkled with her own drawings and personal photographs, this book provides a first person account of a time gone by.

Sailor Twain: or The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel

Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson

*beware mermaids on land or water*

This graphic novel mixes a little bit historical, fairy tale, and horror story onto its pages. Our adventure begins at the end of caused so many, so much misery. The 1887 as Sailor Twain is bribed by a mysterious lady into revealing the secrets that havemore he shares the stranger the tale and the more desperate his audience becomes, going from wanting to needing to hear the truth of what happened to her love. As the book draws to a close, readers have to wonder if “The End” is really the end after all.

How To Tell if Your Cat is Trying to Kill You by The Oatmeal

How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You

*pages of offbeat unexpected original humor*

A must read for both cat owners and those rare, strange folk -cat haters. This graphic novel focuses mostly on the Bobs, two cats who have work cubicles and torture their co-workers. If you’ve never seen the author’s website? And you like a good laugh? You really need to check out theoatmeal.com. Be warned that some of the content is mature and you might want to take a look at it at home or away from public until you decide where you might be most comfortable viewing the content.

From the Kitchen of Half Truth by Maria Goodin

From the Kitchen of Half Truth

*life is hard -so be kind*

Meg May had a magical childhood, even including some of the tougher times she and her mom had living in a fourth floor flat in London. It’s the fantastical tales her Mom tells of floating in the air after eating feather-light meringues or chasing runner beans around the kitchen that were really just too fast to catch that created the feelings of being special and different and amazing! Then Meg turned eight, the other kids at school turned mean; Meg decided her best chance at being happy was to only believe facts that could be scientifically proven. No more outlandish fantasies for this girl -no way! Now Meg is twenty-one and well on her way to earning her college degree in genetics, with a very logical, practical boyfriend to boot, creating a very straightforward, stable sort of life. Except Meg’s mom is dying. Returning to her mom’s childhood home in Cambridge, Meg wants to make their time together matter-maybe even she can even get her to admit the truth behind some of the more outlandish tales? Or perhaps Meg has a lesson of her own to learn? Could it be the embellished memories make a better past than cold, hard facts?

Meg’s mom has the gift of a wildly vivid imagination and it makes everything around her that much more special -and Meg knows this even when she’s attempting to make her mom stick to verifiable facts. Each of these ladies has a strong and justifiable need for their approach (facts or fantasy) to life -and readers will never feel the need to pick a side or label them as the good one or bad the bad one. Get your tissues out (you’ll need a few) and savor every page of this book that will leave you with plenty to think about for days to come.

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

*don’t look back, change your now*

In the town of Never Better, a mysteriously small and almost impossible to find place -in person or on a map, Jeremy Johnson Johnson can hear voices of the dead. Jeremy isn’t bothered by it -and why should he be? Jeremy copes with stranger things in his everyday world, including the fact that his Mom left town with a complete stranger and never returned without one word of explanation, ever. A father whose spirit was so crushed by his wife’s desertion he can’t cope with anything or anyone. And owning a bookstore that is stocked only with the books his grandfather wrote -just the two and no more. How lucky that Jeremy’s ghost is Jacob Grimm, one half of the well-respected Grimm Brothers who spent years gathering fairy tales for future generations! Or could it be that Jacob has an agenda of his own? When Jeremy’s classmate Ginger. leader of the popular girls and consistent instigator of mischief, decides to begin including Jeremy in the fun, it might just be impossible for him to resist -or for him to remain unchanged.

Fairy tales, dark ghost stories, changing what was into what you want it to be, and tangled relationships give this story more than its fair share of reasons to be read by all ages. The end is sweetly sad and satisfying.

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

just one day
*timid girl blossoms into adventurous spirit*

Allyson is a good girl; she is respectful of authority, does what is expected, and aims to never disappoint anyone. While on a Teen Tours! European vacation, a high school graduation gift from her parents -along with an uncomfortably large, heavy gold watch- Allyson and her best friend Melanie take the first stuttering steps toward change. Allyson’s small, almost unnoticeable, acts of rebellion are actually the exact moments that bring her to the place where she finds herself living the One Day that changes her life forever.

Loving this author’s previous titles: If I Stay and Where She Went, I was ready to be filled with joy, sorrow, happiness, and satisfaction of a story well told as I opened this book. I think I set the bar too high for my own enjoyment. As an adult reader -I wish Allyson hadn’t gone from 99% repressed to 100% independent. I’m pretty sure teens won’t be bothered by that hiccup. I did enjoy Allyson’s final relationship with her mother, her friend Dee -who should get his own book please!- and the ominous ending which left me curious to see what happens next.

Relish: My life in the kitchen by Lucy Knisley

relish
*tempting treats fold love into lifetime*

Using the graphic novel format, Lucy Knisley shares her journey from a small child into adulthood by showing how food made or changed the relationships in her life. There’s a wonderful amount of food knowledge packed onto each page and the recipes Lucy illustrates sound delicious, but the most unexpected part -for me- was how funny this was!

I laughed out loud (in a coffee shop) repeatedly -and I laughed just as much when I read it again. What’s not to enjoy in a book filled with descriptions of food, loving family/friends, interesting artwork, and a sense of humor? This would be one to own!

You Against Me by Jenny Downham

You Against Me

“tragedy or misunderstanding, trust is gone”

Ellie and Mikey meet through the worst set of circumstances; Ellie’s brother has been accused of sexually assaulting Mikey’s younger sister. But Ellie and Mikey find a sense of peace with each other that they’ve never felt before. Can they possibly find a way to be happy together, or has the trouble in their family doomed their relationship from the start? A difficult topic is covered with thought and sensitivity through characters and relationships which feel true.