Monday, April 9, 2012

Americus

Critics who say that graphic novels are not worthwhile reading material should check out Americus, MK Reed's graphic novel that may convince them that young readers should not be prevented from reading what they love.

Neil is a nerdy freshman who loves the fantasy series The Chronicles of Apathea Ravenchilde and misses his best friend, Danny, who was sent away to military school for loving the novels and being gay. Danny's mother and her conservative church group decide that the series does not belong in the local library, and begin a crusade to ban it. From his job as a page at the library, Neil gets a ringside view of censorship and bravery.

Most impressive are the rich and well-developed characters. Aside from the very authentic Neil, there are many side characters who round out his town. My favorite, of course, was the cool librarian, Charlotte, who loved the Apathea Ravenchilde novels as much as the kids. She serves as a foil for Danny's mother, two extremes in the censorship battle. Also noteworthy were Devin, the punk older guy who introduces Neil to music, and Amber and Stacey, juniors who adopt Neil in shop class. These bright spots balance out the realistic drudgery of high school in a small town.

I enjoyed Jonathan Hill's simple black and white illustrations, particularly the small details in posters on the wall and CD covers. Less successful, for me, were the excerpts of Apathea Ravenchilde which were interspersed throughout the novel. I already had an idea of what those books would look like, so they took me away from Neil and his friends. The drama of Neil's life was enough for me.

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