Audrey’s Magic Nine: A Graphic Novel Review

cover art for Audrey's Magic Nine by Michelle Wright, illustrated by Courtney Huddleston and Tracy BaileyAfter ten long years in foster care and increasingly worse foster home situations, it finally looks like Audrey’s luck is turning when she is adopted. Her adoptive parents are a bit over-zealous with the extracurriculars and a bit too enthusiastic but Audrey has her own room and plenty of food which is more than she could say before. It could be worse.

Turns out it could be stranger too. Audrey doesn’t know much about her puppet Asa–just that she’s had him since she was a baby. When Asa starts talking, Audrey realizes she isn’t the only one with a mysterious past. Turns out Asa is part of a legendary council of magical creatures. The council of nine fought evil but during their last battle something went wrong and transported Asa and the others to Earth where they have been turned into puppets.

Once she sketches out a plan Audrey is ready to help but finding the puppets is only half the battle as she and Asa try to figure out how the portal sent the council to Earth and how to get them home in Audrey’s Magic Nine (2018) by Michelle Wright, illustrated by Courtney Huddleston and Tracy Bailey.

Audrey’s Magic Nine is a webcomic turned graphic novel. The first volume follows as she (spoiler) tracks down the first three puppets. Like a lot of comics, things end abruptly but the book includes four bonus comics to flesh out Audrey’s world.

The comic features full color illustrations along with Audrey’s own sketches of her life (and her plans to help Asa). The story blends humor and action as Audrey braves a startling puppet theater and a sentient slide in her quest for answers.

Audrey is a young black girl adopted by white parents. I didn’t love the way that the foster care and adoption situations were portrayed–one as painfully horrible and the other as comically simple–but it works well to get the story moving (and isn’t too different from anything we see in many middle grade novels). While Audrey’s parents initially adopt her as a prop to keep up with their popular neighbors they do begin to genuinely bond with Audrey. The story also gives Audrey plenty of space for Audrey and readers to see that her adoptive parents are absurd and misguided in many ways.

Audrey’s Magic Nine is a rollicking adventure filled with action, humor, and powerful friendships. Not to mention a healthy dose of magic. Recommended for graphic novel readers and fantasy readers alike.

Possible Pairings: Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk, Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke, All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson, The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner, Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande Velde

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

The Possible: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

“What if life was all about letting go?”

Kaylee doesn’t remember much from when she was really young. She knows her biological mother is in jail but the details of her arrest for killing Kaylee’s brother and the trial are memories from another life.

Kaylee is happy now with her adoptive parents and her perfectly normal life. She’s a rising star on the school softball team and she is working on a plan to attract the attentions of her longtime crush. Simple.

Until a woman shows up at Kaylee’s house wanting to interview her for a podcast investigating Crystal.The Possible podcast is going to spend a season looking into the telekinesis claims that made Crystal a media sensation as a teen, her trial after her son’s death, and what she’s like now in prison.

Kaylee is desperate to be special. To be noticed. Being involved in the podcast seems like the perfect chance to see if maybe, just maybe, she might have some of Crystal’s powers. As the podcast starts to air Kaylee gets exactly what she wants. But she does’t count on the bitter taste of notoriety or the secrets that begin to surface when she looks into her own past in The Possible (2017) by Tara Altebrando.

Find it on Bookshop.

In her latest thriller Altebrando taps into the wide popularity of investigative podcasts as she and her characters ask a simple question: “What if?”

Kaylee is a totally reliable narrator but she’s also eager to be swept away and believe that some of the hype surrounding Crystal, and by extension herself, might be true. Kaylee is athletic, a little self-centered, and striving for that elusive better, more popular, and generally more appealing version of herself. In trying to embrace telekinetic powers and familial connections that may or may not exist Kaylee realizes that she has to let go of what she wants other people to see when they look at her and focus on being herself in whatever form that takes.

The Possible is a tense, fast-paced story focusing squarely on Kaylee and the podcast. Most of the novel is narrated by Kaylee with pieces of the story being told in newspaper articles, podcast excerpts, and interview transcripts. While Kaylee reaches some conclusions for herself by the end of the story, the narrative stops short of actual answers leaving readers to decide the truth for themselves in this gripping story. Perfect for fans of psychological thrillers, true crime, and anyone who’s ever asked themselves “what if . . . ” Recommended.

Possible Pairings: Like Never and Always by Ann Aguirre, The Devil You Know by Trish Doller, Breaker by Kat Ellis, The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle, The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee, My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier,  We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Soulprint by Megan Miranda, Pretending to Be Erica by Michelle Painchaud, Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Be sure to check out my interview with Tara!

How to Save a Life: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

How to Save a Life by Sara ZarrJill MacSweeney wants to go back to the life she had before. But that’s impossible because her father was alive before and now he isn’t. She had friends and a boyfriend before and now she can barely talk to anyone without biting their heads off. She and her mother had Jill’s dad to bridge the gap between them before. Now all Jill has is her mother making the insane decision to adopt a baby after exchanging a few emails with the mother. How can  anything be normal with that looming?

Mandy Kalinowski knows she might not be the best mother for her baby. That’s why she was so happy to find Robin–an older woman with a stable life who wants a baby to love. It should be the perfect arrangement. Except Robin’s daughter seems to hate Mandy on sight. And as her due date looms closer and closer, Mandy starts to wonder if making the right decision for her baby might not be as simple as she thought.

As Jill and Mandy get to know each other, everything starts to change. The question is will the changes make things worse or better in How to Save a Life (2011) by Sara Zarr.

Find it on Bookshop.

How to Save a Life was an interesting read. At the beginning of the novel Jill is so angry and Mandy is trying so hard to manipulate everything to go her way, that it was initially quite hard to connect with either character. I even skimmed to the ending because I  was uncertain of if I wanted to finish the book. Still, I persisted and even with that sneak peek at the outcome, this was an interesting read.

Zarr’s writing is eloquent and does a great job bringing Mandy and Jill’s landscapes to life. Unfortunately, Zarr packs so much into the story with Mandy’s complicated past and Jill’s grieving that ultimately both characters feel thinly drawn because so much is happening rather than well-developed because of it.

Watching Jill and Mandy’s transformations throughout the story was interesting if not earth shattering. It was also refreshing to see some present and engaged parents in a YA novel (along with the more expected horrible parents). How To Save a Life does manage to take a potentially predictable book in an unexpected direction with characters that always feel real.

Possible Pairings: Teach Me to Forget by Erica M. Chapman, Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark, The Revolution of Birdie Randolph by Brandy Colbert, Where She Went by Gayle Forman, Drawing the Ocean by Carolyn MacCullough, The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta, I am Princess X by Cherie Priest, Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez, A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell, How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford, Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein, Wherever Nina Lies by Lynn Weingarten