Review: All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Reading this coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel about summer and friendships back-to-back with Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared made for a great reading experience, since both revolve around similar adolescent themes that naturally occur with the peak of summertime.All Summer Long 2-- bookspoils

Thirteen-year-old music-loving Bina has a long summer ahead of her. She and her best friend, Austin, usually do everything together, but he’s off to soccer camp for a month, and he’s been acting kind of weird lately anyway. So it’s up to Bina to see how much fun she can have on her own.

I’ll start off by noting that I was a tiny bit thrown off from the start with the author’s choice to include “Infiniflix” and “Filtergram” (aka Netflix and Instagram) as I personally prefer not to have social media in books if it’s made up names. But once I gradually got used to it, I was yet again left scratching my head upon seeing Bina rip CDs from her friend… Does Spotify not exist in this world then??

Aside from that minor hindrance, I did have an enjoyable time reading about Bina’s summer adventures, so I’d like to highlight some of the noteworthy moments (both random and not) that I gathered from All Summer Long:

All Summer Long 3-- bookspoilsA band called “ASMR” was worth it all.All Summer Long 4-- bookspoilsBold artwork that shows itself in show-stopping panels like the above.

All Summer Long 5-- bookspoilsI highlighted the above because having Bina call someone out on their act by acknowledging the important distinction between being nice and appearing nice was grand.

All Summer Long 1-- bookspoilsHe probably got fired from Del Taco because they got a new thing called FR E SH A VOCA DO.

All Summer Long 6-- bookspoilsAnd true to the comparison I presented at the start of my review with Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared, this graphic novel ended on a sweet note for more and more.

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: May 1st, 2018

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying All Summer Longjust click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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Summer Camp, Russian Culture, and Belonging | Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Having adored Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol, I was keen on checking out her spin with this gripping and hilarious middle-grade summer camp memoir.

All Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

I’m gonna jump right into discussing the book by highlighting the dreaded sleepover scene that still gives me chills… and it’s been over a decade for me. All the more painful to relive it through Vera’s young eyes. She’s trying her hardest to assimilate as smoothly as possible by pulling together a sleepover (by replicating her friend’s version), but then her mother gives her Russian twist on it.

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As a child of Russian Jews (like I mention in my review for Natasha and Other Stories), I know all too well that you’re donzo if your third-grade classmates see those Russian letters on the cake…

It’s these intimate moments of struggling to belong and navigating your own culture that stood out to most when I read Anya’s Ghost back in 2016. So I was glad to see it delve deeper with Be Prepared. I mean, the painful courage it took to include the sleepover must’ve been tremendous.Be Prepared 2-- bookspoils

Moving along to Vera finding out about a Russian summer camp “build around fostering Russian community” and deciding to join in the hopes of finding people that’ll get her. But she’s not quite prepared for the conditions set in the middle of nowhere.Be Prepared 3-- bookspoilsYou pretty much knew what to expect with this introducing letter:Be Prepared 5-- bookspoils“Dear mom, could you pick me up as soon as you get this? PLEASE! I’m desperate”

What follows is a journey of self-acceptance and resilience, finding friendship within the right people, and more and more summer hardships to overcome. I read it in a heartbeat.Be Prepared 4-- bookspoils

All in all, I more than keen on reading more of Vera Brosgol’s graphic memoirs, especially with that ending we got from Be Prepared!

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Expected publication: April 24th, 2018

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Be Preparedjust click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Roller Derby, Girl-Power, and Friendship

I was pumped to read this middle-grade graphic novel all about recognizing female empowerment within the roller derby community, especially after having read and loved Pamela Ribon’s SLAM! Vol. 1, which is a YA comic bundle set around the same premise.Roller Girl 1-- bookspoils

Twelve-year-old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. So when Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too. But Nicole signs up for dance camp with a new friend instead, and so begins the toughest summer of Astrid’s life. There are bumps and bruises as Astrid learns who she is without Nicole…and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.

Roller Girl tackles a lot of important issues within the story arc, such as the giddy start of a new blossoming friendship, growing apart from childhood friends, standing up for yourself and those in need, the power of positive role models, and channeling your inner TOUGHER, STRONGER, FEARLESS-self.

Plus, I know I really enjoyed a middle-grade book when I can’t wait to share it with my little sister. She adored Raina Telgemeier‘s work in the past and has been on the search for anything and everything similar, so she’ll be pleased to know that Roller Girl reads like the perfect follow-up book.

I do have to note that, personally, the story hit a bit of rut when it focused too heavily on supplying all the technical terms in roller derby, but thankfully it more than made up for that with its following character-defining moments.

So without further ado, here are some of my personal favorite bits from Roller Girl:

Roller Girl 2-- bookspoilsThat resilient moment of overcoming adversity is an ever-shining star.

Roller Girl 3-- bookspoilsI was all smiles reading the many descriptions and was even pleasantly surprised to see my name, Natalie, included… until I read her silly defining characteristic.

Another comical moment happens in the following hair coloring scene:Roller Girl 4-- bookspoilsThis brought to mind how Louis C.K. has a whole standup bit just around kids names.
Roller Girl 5-- bookspoils“3-4 weeks” got me good.

Roller Girl 6-- bookspoilsGentle parenting and patience is key.

Unrelated: I find it funny that this is the second book I’ve read that featured both my name as well as my sister’s (Rachel).

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Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Roller Girljust click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!