Once again it’s Monday – so time for Monday Minis! A very eclectic combination of books this week – a teen mystery, an occult comic and a pandemic YA set in a juvenile detention facility. Many thanks to the publicists who sent me review copies or eARCs, all opinions are my own as always.
I’ve had The Five Clues by Anthony Kessel for a while. And I read it quite a while ago. But I found reviewing this book very hard – I struggle to write reviews that are predominately negative, especially if a book is from a small press and there isn’t a whole lot out there. There are just some things that I struggled with and that I felt undermined the premise of the book as a whole. First and foremost I just could not deal with the inciting incident being that a supposedly loving mother (who was in fear for her own life) would leave her pre-teen daughter ACTIVE instructions to track down the people she thinks might KILL her?! What mother would put their child in danger like that? Not Edie, the main character, randomly finds something that leads her to believe that her mother’s death might not have been an accident. But her mother basically leaving a trail for her to follow. I was interested in reading the book because it is written by a public health physician and is marketed as teaching young readers to better deal with grief, something that is very dear to my heart as I too have lost my mother at a rather young age. However, I didn’t feel that this came across very well in the finished product, and would recommend other books for this purpose.
I’m once again on a graphic novel binge, and so I was excited to get to read Shadow Service Volume 2: Mission Infernal by Cavan Scott and drawn by Corin M. Howell. I enjoyed the first volume earlier this year, and this continues Gina Meyer’s story as she runs from MI666, the secret division responsible for the supernatural. Gina is a witch, kicks ass and does not play around. Her adventures in this volume take her to Rome where she has to face a new threat and perhaps work together with old enemies to survive. Shadow Service is a very fun comic series, extremely fast paced – a little to the deterrent of character work, I think, I would prefer if it slowed down a bit and let us discover some more about who these characters are, rather than just their backstories – and it once again ends on a massive cliffhanger that has me very keen to read the next volume. While this isn’t one of my all-time favourite comics, it is one that I really enjoy reading and it has a lot of the elements that make me pick up a story. And every time I’m thinking, ah, I’m getting a bit bored, this story doesn’t quite feel like the right thing for me, they come up with some sort of twist or cliffhanger that ends up getting me hooked again, making the series very addictive. It feels a bit like that comforting thing you can read without having to think too much, similar to how I’ve been binging Riverdale again. A fun series for those of you who like occult action-packed stories!
At The End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp is a hard book to talk about. It took me quite a bit to get into it, probably because I tend to struggle with prison settings – I didn’t look up what the book was about before I started reading as I loved their last book, Even If We Break, and knew I would want to follow what they wrote. That the book deals with a virus breakout doesn’t help either, it hits very close to home as the characters struggle to survive after they’ve been forgotten by the world around them. But damn, once you get into the book, it grips you. The way Nijkamp manages to build tension through the rapid switch of PoVs, the addition of lists, transcripts of phone calls and left messages and similar scenes is brilliant, and as the story goes on, you end up not as close to any single character as you’d be in a traditionally told story, but caught up in the fraught atmosphere of the world. It is an excellent book, and one with great disability rep – there is a deaf character and an autistic character, both of which are really well written. Generally, Nijkamp’s a great bet if you’re looking for queer and diverse YA, and this one in particular is one for you if you like to tear your heart out and stomp on it. Be prepared for all the pain.