Pumpkinheads: A Chick Lit Wednesday (Graphic Novel) Review

Every autumn Deja and Josiah know they’ll be working at the best pumpkin patch in the world, right in their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. They know they’ll be making succotash at the Succotash Hut (it’s all about the stirring). And most importantly, they know that their friendship will pick up right where they left off at the end of last year’s pumpkin patch season.

Except this year is different because they’re seniors. While Deja knows they’ll always be able to come back, Josiah isn’t so sure that anything can stay the same once they leave for college.

After a stellar season (and another Most Valuable Pumpkin Patch Person star for Josiah), Josiah is fully prepared to spend their final shift ever moping. But Deja has bigger plans to help both of them say goodbye to the patch with a proper sendoff while also giving Josiah one last chance to talk to the Fudge Girl he’s spent three years pining after.

With snacks to eat, exes to run into, and hopefully at least one date to make Deja and Josie’s final shift is sure to be an adventure in Pumpkinheads (2019) by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks.

Find it on Bookshop.

This story is completely self-contained and as satisfying as the first pumpkin sighting of the season. Hicks’ full color illustrations bring the pumpkin patch to life in all of its zany glory with dynamic artwork filled with fun details and the motion inherent to a frenetic crowd.

Rowell’s dialog contrasts well with Deja and Josiah’s body language and things left unsaid as both friends try to figure out how to say goodbye to the patch and to each other–or if they even have to.

Pumpkinheads is a charming ode to fall filled with puns, pumpkins, and a really sweet romance. Recommended for readers looking for a bubbly, seasonal read and anyone hoping to try a graphic novel for the first time.

Possible Pairings: Hungry Hearts edited by Elsie Chapman and Caroline Tung; Snow in Love by Melissa de la Cruz, Aimee Friedman, Nic Stone, and Kasie West; 10 Blind Dates by Ashley Elston; The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo; There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon; Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills; My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins; This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura

Comics Will Break Your Heart: A Review

cover art for Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin HicksArguably, Miriam’s family should be rich. After all, her grandfather co-created The TomorrowMen. But he also signed away his rights to the series in an acrimonious deal in that has left nothing but bitterness in its wake. Miriam’s mother says they have enough to get by. But just barely. And certainly not enough to let Miriam consider college in any serious way.

Then there’s the new guy in town, Weldon, who is really cute and really off limits once Miriam finds out he is the grandson of the man who cheated her grandfather all those years ago.

Knowing their families, Mir and Weldon are wary of starting anything together. But their hearts have other plans. Will mutual attraction, friendship, and maybe even love be enough to end a decades long feud? in Comics Will Break Your Heart (2019) by Faith Erin Hicks.

Comics Will Break Your Heart is Hicks’ prose novel debut. Chapters alternate close third person perspective between Mir and Weldon.

Hicks’ prose debut is a uniquely Canadian, very comic-centric, and distinctly funny story. The story opens with a meet cute that escalates from bookstore shelf organizing to a fistfight and the stakes only climb from there.

Comics Will Break Your Heart is filled with witty banter, pop culture references (both real and fictional), as well as a deep and abiding affection for geek culture and the fandoms who love them. Recommended for anyone who’s ever scrambled to buy tickets opening day or stayed up way too late for a midnight launch party.

Possible Pairings: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira; Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett; Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley; Now a Major Motion Picture by Cori McCarthy; Prince Charming by Rachel Hawkins; The Romantics by Leah Konen; Tweet Cute by Emma Lord; Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills; Truly Madly Royally by Debbie Rigaud; This Time Will Be Different by Misa Sugiura; Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

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

The Divided Earth: A Graphic Novel Review

*The Divided Earth is the final book in Hicks’ Nameless City trilogy which begins with The Nameless City and continues in The Stone Heart. This review contains spoilers for book one.*

cover art for The Divided Earth by Faith Erin HicksThe Nameless City is once again at the center of a conflict. Erzi, now General of All Blades, holds the city even as forces forces from his own ranks try to rally the Yisun to unite and overthrow him. The city’s residents, the “Named,” remain are caught in the middle.

What the invading forces don’t know is that Erzi is determined to hold the city at any cost–even if it means destroying it. Desperate to prevent further bloodshed, Rat and Kaidu must join forces again to try and steal back the formula for deadly napatha before Erzi can use it to destroy everything they’ve come to love within the city walls in The Divided Earth (2018) by Faith Erin Hicks.

The Divided Earth is the final book in Hicks’ Nameless City trilogy which begins with The Nameless City and continues in The Stone Heart.

After learning the city inside out and coming to love it as his own, Kaidu has to risk everything to help Rat save it. As forces approach the city Hicks expands the world of this series introducing new characters and further situating the Nameless City in a larger world.

While some of the character motivations remain thin, particularly in the case of the villains, this series is still utterly entertaining. Hicks’ full-color artwork is used to especially good effect in this installment that is filled with high speed chases and fight sequences. The Divided Earth is a satisfying conclusion to a gripping, action-filled series. Recommended.

Possible Pairings: The City of Brass* by S. A. Chakraborty, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff; Truthwitch by Susan Dennard; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi; Last Descendants by Matthew J. Kirby; The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag; Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson; Compass South by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock; Bone by Jeff Smith; The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

*Bear in mind that The Nameless City is a middle grade graphic novel while The City of Brass is adult fantasy so while both books explore similar themes the intended audiences are vastly different.

The Stone Heart: A Graphic Novel Review

*The Stone Heart is the second book in Hicks’ Nameless City trilogy which begins with The Nameless City. This review contains spoilers for book one.*

The Stone Heart by Faith Erin HicksKaidu and Rat are still recovering after stopping the assassination of the General of All Blades. In the wake of the assassination, the Nameless City seems peaceful and there is reason to hope things will stay that way.

The General of All Blades and Kaidu’s father are working to create a council of all the nations that claim the City as their home to stop the constant fighting to claim the City as territory. But not everyone supports the idea of a council and its promise to change the Dao way of life in the city forever.

As conflict begins to fracture the Dao nation from within, Kaidu discovers a formula for a powerful weapon–a secret that has been protected for generations and something Rat might be able to decipher. Sharing the formula with the Dao could mean giving the City’s current conquerors a dangerous edge. Hiding it could make peace even harder to achieve. Kai and Rat already did the unthinkable by becoming friends and saving the General of All Blades. Will they be able to do it again to bring peace to the City before its too late? in The Stone Heart (2016) by Faith Erin Hicks.

The Stone Heart is the second book in Hicks’ Nameless City trilogy which begins with The Nameless City. This review contains spoilers for book one.

The Stone Heart picks up a few weeks after the conclusion of The Nameless City bringing readers back to the City that Rat calls home and the place Kai is coming to care about.

Hicks uses the relative calm at the beginning of this installment to expand the world of the City as Rat shows Kai more of her world and introduces her to several new characters. This expanded view helps to bring the City into clearer focus and situates the story within the larger context of the world Hicks has created based on thirteenth century China (as mentioned in an author’s note which talks a bit about her research process). Hicks’ full-color artwork is as stunning as ever and once again brings Kai and Rat’s story vividly to life.

When the uneasy truce that Kai and Rat helped bring to fruition falls apart spectacularly,  the story moves in an unexpected direction and new villains emerge. Will Kai and Rat be able to save the City? Will the mysterious formula Kai and Rat found fall into the wrong hands? Readers will have to wait for trilogy’s exciting conclusion to see how everything comes together. Recommended for readers looking for a new comic adventure and those who enjoy their adventure served with a side of strong-but-unlikely friendships.

Possible Pairings: The City of Brass* by S. A. Chakraborty, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff; Truthwitch by Susan Dennard; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi; Last Descendants by Matthew J. Kirby; The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag; Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson; Compass South by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock; Bone by Jeff Smith; The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

*Bear in mind that The Nameless City is a middle grade graphic novel while The City of Brass is adult fantasy so while both books explore similar themes the intended audiences are vastly different.

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

The Nameless City: A Graphic Novel Review

The Nameless City by Faith Erin HicksThe City has many names. Every time a new nation invades, they give the city a new name. Only the natives know that the city is impossible to keep and name. They call it the Nameless City.

The latest group of invaders, the Dao, have held the Nameless City for close to thirty years–longer than anyone else. Kaidu is a Dao who comes to the City to meet his father and to learn more about his own people. Kaidu isn’t sure he’s cut out to join the Dao’s military guard but he does know that he loves everything about the City he is now calling home.

Rat is a native of the City, one of the Named who call this place home regardless of its name or who currently claims it. She hates the Dao and everything they stand for as occupiers of her home. But in spite of herself, Rat starts to like Kaidu as he trades her food in exchange for lessons on how to run across the City’s rooftops.

Kaidu and Rat are unlikely friends. Unlikelier still, they might hold the City’s future in their hands in The Nameless City (2016) by Faith Erin Hicks.

The Nameless City is the first comic in a proposed trilogy.

Following both Kaidu and Rat, The Nameless City thoughtfully explores the thornier aspects of colonialism as part of the City’s larger story. The City is populated by a diverse group of people comprised of natives as well as the many conquering nations. The tension between these groups is nearly palpable as Hicks moves the story toward a climactic conclusion.

This larger arc contrasts well with the smaller but more charming story of Kaidu and Rat’s fledgling friendship. Witty, thoughtful dialogue and carefully drawn illustrations work together here to convey the two protagonists’ complex and changing relationship.

Faith Erin Hicks delivers another stunner with The Nameless City. Her signature illustration style and a unique premise come together to create a delightfully engrossing story. Great for veteran comics fans and readers eager to try the format for the first time.

Possible Pairings: The City of Brass* by S. A. Chakraborty, The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff; Truthwitch by Susan Dennard; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi; Last Descendants by Matthew J. Kirby; The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag; Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson; Compass South by Hope Larson and Rebecca Mock; Bone by Jeff Smith; The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

*Bear in mind that The Nameless City is a middle grade graphic novel while The City of Brass is adult fantasy so while both books explore similar themes the intended audiences are vastly different.

Friends With Boys: A Graphic Novel Review

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin HicksAfter years of homeschooling, Maggie McKay is starting high school. She’s kind of freaking out.

She can’t get a ride from her dad, the new chief of police, but does that mean she has to walk to school alone? Sure her big brothers will be there to watch her back, but will they have time for her with all of their other friends? Being friends with her brothers used to be enough. But now that their Mom left, it’s not the same. At all.

Luckily, Maggie meets Lucy and her older brother Alistair right away. Lucy and Alistair keep to themselves but soon they start eating lunch with Maggie. Together they even go on some small-town adventures.

All in all, things seem to be on the up and up for Maggie. At least, they are if she ignores the ghost that’s haunting her in Friends With Boys (2012) by Faith Erin Hicks.

Friends With Boys is an awesome graphic novel. Happily for all of you who don’t have access to the actual book through a store or library, it is also available online as a webcomic at friendswithboys.com! So cool.*

It’s always hard to decide where to start when I review a graphic novel and determine what is more important to the reading experience. This is doubly hard with a book like Friends With Boys which works so well on every single level.

Hicks’ drawings are filled with details and bring her characters to life with her beautiful black and white illustrations. The story is filled with charming tidbits about Maggie and her family as well as tantalizing additions to the plot.

I really enjoyed Friends With Boys it’s a guileless novel that is sweet and just filled with fun. With hints of a mysterious past for the McKay family, strong secondary characters, and a subtle supernatural twists Hicks leaves plenty of room for a sequel. I, for one, hope we get to see a lot more of Maggie and all of the boys she’s friends with (and Lucy too, of course).

*That is to say most of the story is available online. I didn’t check but I think it’s intact except for the last few pages.

Possible Pairings: Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova, Sea Change by Aimee Friedman, Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Alice, I Think by Susan Juby, A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine, Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough, Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu, Library Wars by Kiiro Yumi and Hiro Arikawa