It’s probably no surprise that most librarian like to read, and I am definitely one of those book-loving librarians. Most of what I read tend to be comic books, science fiction/fantasy, and YA, although occasionally I dabble in non-fiction.
So, out of all the stuff I’ve read recently, here’s a few of my favorites. The MA Library has all of these books, so stop by and check out something new to read over the upcoming school breaks.
Alex is the middle daughter in a family of brujas, the Latin American version of a witch. Her mother and sisters use magic in their daily lives, but after a traumatic experience with the spirit of her dead aunt and the mysterious disappearance of her father, Alex hates her powers. When a cantos, or spell, to destroy her magic backfires and sends her family to Los Lagos, a sort of bruja purgatory, Alex and a neighborhood brujo teenage boy named Nova descend into the underworld to bring them back.
Pros and Cons: Unlike a lot of protagonists in YA SFF, Alex doesn’t want to be the Chosen One. She hates her uber-powerful magic and will do anything to get rid of it. She learns quickly that you can’t cheat code your life and sometimes the only way to deal with a difficult situation is too long to get through the setup, and that sometimes Alex’s vehement rejection makes her sound whiney. Fortunately, the action set pieces, the vivid descriptions of magic, and Nova’s to work through it. There’s teenage rebellion, cultural immersion, and risky adventure all set to the tune of a tough-talking Brooklyn Latina teenage girl. My only real negatives are that it takes charm more than make up for the smaller flaws.
Verdict: Magic and myth collide in this creative YA fantasy book. If you’re looking for a YA fantasy story with Latinx characters written by a Latina author, Labyrinth Lost is a good place to start (it’s also the first in a new series: Brooklyn Brujas). This is a cracking good read about teenagers on an adventure quest in the Latin American mythological version of Purgatory.
The young man once known as Nettie Lonesome and now called Rhett Walker, is adrift. The events from the previous book have shaken him to his core, but his destiny as The Shadow don’t let him wallow for long. A chance encounter pulls him into the orbit of an abusive, murderous warlock who is enslaving shapeshifters to build his own private railroad across the country. He is also chopping off their body parts and using their magical bones for very nefarious purposes. Rhett, with the help of his shapeshifting friends and human allies, must stop the warlock before he kills again. But along the way Rhett discovers more about his true self through deepening friendships and budding romances.
Pros and Cons: I absolutely LOVE this book. It’s currently in my top 3 best books of 2016, and will likely remain there through the rest of the year. This is the second book in the series (Wake of Vultures is the first). Where the first book is all about Rhett’s (then Nettie) physical hardships of presenting as a woman despite identifying as a man, the second is about the emotional turmoil of transitioning and navigating platonic and romantic relationships while in flux. That’s all layered on top of a twisty, off-kilter Weird West YA fantasy story about shapeshifters, warlocks, and mythical creatures. That said, for readers less interested in romantic entanglements, the middle act might be a bit sluggish. Some might also find the sexier sections a little too steamy, but while those scenes get hot and heavy they steer clear of pornographic.
Verdict: If you like westerns, oddball fantasy, and diverse characters, or if you’re looking to read something with a trans and/or PoC protagonist – Rhett is a half-Black, half-Native American trans teenage boy – then this is perfect for you.
Collection of short comics and poems by and about Indigenous peoples. Stories range from traditional folklore to steampunk to futuristic sci-fi and represent Native cultures from across North America.
Pros and Cons: There are a lot of comic books out there. Like, A LOT. But you’d be surprised as to how many aren’t of the caped crusader variety. Alternative and independent comics have come a long way since their heyday in the 90s, but in terms of diversity all of the big publishers have stagnated. DC and Marvel regularly attempt representation but often undermine their own diversity by cancelling low-selling but deeply loved diverse titles, hiring the status quo to write minority voices rather than hiring more minorities, and depicting minority characters in sexualized or demeaning ways. Even publishing companies like Image, a well-respected publisher committed to telling diverse stories, has an almost exclusively male and white production side.
Fortunately for readers looking for underrepresented voices, many excluded creators have forgone the big publishers and started creating and distributing their own comics. That’s where Moonshot comes in. There has never been anything like this series before (volume 2 was successfully Kickstarted and will release next summer). Native American stories written by Native American authors are few and far between, even more so in comic books. Moonshot takes matters into its own hands by creating their own comics and giving a voice to creators normally excluded from the narrative. The stories vary in quality and intrigue, but the anthology as a whole is excellent.
Verdict: Moonshot is ideal for Indigenous readers or those looking for non-traditional stories and reluctant comic book readers or long-time comic book geeks tired of caped crusaders. Think Afropunk but for Indigenous content.
Offers a detailed look at asexuality as written by a member of the asexual community. Includes discussions on asexuality as a sexual identity or orientation, various aspects of the spectrum, such as gray-ace, demisexual, aromanticism, etc., discrimination within and without the queer community, representation in pop culture, and myths about asexuality and asexual people. This book also provides tips on coming out and how to be an ally.
Pros and Cons: This is actually a re-read for me, but I got so much out of it the first time I figured it merited a second read. A few years ago when I was still struggling with my sexual identity, this was the book that helped me figure out I was ace. It’s detailed yet not overwhelming and dense with information yet written in an open and accessible style. The author isn’t a scientist or psychologist but an ace/aro woman who has spent years as an activist within the asexual community. Her frankness about her own sexual history, the way she breaks down the myths and stereotypes, and her tips for the reader for figuring out whether or not they fall under the ace umbrella are revelatory. Because Decker isn’t on the science side, the book does lack stats and hard data, and it would be nice to have more scientific backing for asexuality. But she is also careful not to substitute anecdata for data.
Verdict: This is the ideal book for those looking to understand this lesser known sexual identity, for those who think they might be ace but aren’t yet sure, and especially for those who already identify as ace and want to feel a little less isolated and alone.