Book Review | Almost American Girl by Robin Ha

Authour:
Robin Ha
Format:
ARC
Publication date:
January 28th 2020 by
Publisher:
Balzer + Bray
Publisher Social Media: 
Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/
Source:
Received from publisher

Review:
 Almost American Girl is a graphic novel memoir written and illustrated by Robin Ha. Though it resembles a YA novel, it is also based on the creator’s life experience. The book starts with Ha Chuna aka Robin being told by her mother that they are going to the US to visit a friend. However, shortly after they arrive, she learns that she and her mother will not be returning to South Korea as her mother will be marrying her “friend”. The rest of the book follows Robin’s journey as she struggles to adjust to her new life while dealing with the challenges you would expect she’d face including difficult step-siblings, unpleasant food, bullying, and trying to adapt to a new culture and language.

While Almost American Girl is Robin’s story, it also reads as a “love letter” to her mother who over the course of the novel faces several setbacks but shows enormous strength and resilience. Furthermore, while Robin’s passion for art is central to this book, her love and admiration for her mother is just as obvious. I do however wish we had more time with “adult” Robin as the jump from her high school years to her adult years felt a bit rushed near the end. It would have been interesting to get more of a glimpse of her time in Korea as an adult as well as her life in the “present”. Though I understand why this was not the case since the book is meant to be more for a YA audience and of course there is not enough room to fit everything in.

This being a graphic novel, I can’t forget to talk about the illustrations. As a result of reading and reviewing the ARC, my copy of the book was mostly in black and white with only the first few pages in full colour. Personally I did not mind this as it felt as if I was reading manga plus it also helps keep the focus on Robin’s story. Other than that, I found the artwork to be simple and clean throughout. However, the art is also incredibly detailed when it came to the backgrounds and in highly emotional moments as both the detailed facial expressions of the characters and the backgrounds helped to set the mood for these scenes. Another interesting visual element in this book, which was also an example of visual elements replacing words was how scribbles and symbols were used to show the words and the occasional conversations that Robin couldn’t fully understand.

A worthwhile read, Robin Ha’s Almost American Girl is for the kid (or adult) who feels or has ever felt like an “outsider” and can relate to the awkward and painful moments of growing up in America.

 

 

 

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood by Mari Andrew

Authour:
Mari Andrew
Format:
Hardcover
Publication date:
March 27th, 2018
Publisher:
Clarkson Potter Publisher
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:

“If you stumble,” she said, “that’s a great sign. It means you found your edge. You tried something that didn’t work, and now you know.”  (p. 15)

If you are on Instagram, you may be familiar with the name, Mari Andrew or have seen illustrations her Instagram account, bymariandrew where she posts meme like illustrations that are incredibly relatable, especially if you are in your twenties and still struggling to find your way through life. However, not only is she a talented artist, she is also a writer!

Am I There Yet? The Loop-de-Loop, Zigzagging Journey to Adulthood is her first book, a memory graphic novel that collects her illustrations alongside essays that give readers insight into the stories behind her drawings. Of course, the main draw for me was the drawings, however, I did find a few of her essays interesting and they do perfectly compliment the illustrations.

Divided into eight sections, my favourite is her section on “Finding Purpose” in addition to the one titled, “Finding Yourself”  as I love the travel illustrations and stories and the advice contain in both chapters. I also enjoyed the chapter called, “Love and Dating” since it contained the most entertaining and hilarious illustrations. I loved sharing the illustrations with my friends as there were several drawings that they felt truly captured their life and feelings in their twenties.

Am I There Yet? is the perfect book for anyone who feels as if they should have had all their sh*t figured out by their twenties and are stressed to find that this not the case now that they are in their late twenties. By sharing her own (ongoing) journey to adulthood, filled with heartbreak, love, loss, rejection and of course adventure, Andrew creates a comforting read assuring readers that they are not alone in this feeling of confusion. And that’s where ever you decide to go or whoever you decide to be, you’re going to be okay.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Book Review | My Japanese Husband STILL Thinks I’m Crazy by Grace Buchele Mineta

WOA

For a listing to the links for all the other review posts for the Words of Asia blog event click here.

About the Authour:
Though, a native Texan Grace has lived all over the world. Currently she works as a freelancer in Japan where she currently lives with her husband, Ryosuke. My Japanese Husband STILL Thinks I’m Crazy, is the second book of comics that she has published and now her third book, Confessions of a Texan in Tokyo is now also available.

Where Does it Take Place?
Mostly in Tokyo and various parts of Japan that Grace and her husband travel to.

JPStill

What’s it About:
This is Grace’s second comic book, and once again we get more adventures of her and her husband living in Tokyo as broken newly weds. Follow Grace, her husband Ryosuke and Marvin (Grace’s over-active imagination who appears to her as a talking rabbit), as they experience both the joys and hardships of living abroad.

My Thoughts:
Ordinarily, I don’t really feature self-published books though once in a blue moon I make an exception. I’ve been a fan of Grace’s blog and comics for a while in fact I was one of her original Kickstarter backers.

Grace’s storytelling style is both accessible and entertaining, and I love reading the comic strips that show the unique and compelling perspective of a young American woman who is married to Japanese salary man and how they live their lives being broken newlyweds. Grace and her husband are incredibly adorable and if you get the chance you should check out a few of her YouTube videos featuring the two of them. They are definitely a couple that I would love to meet and befriend in real life.

Being somebody who is extremely interested in learning more regarding the Japanese culture, as I hope to visit one day the essays Grace includes throughout the book were one of my favourite parts of this book. Even the essays that weren’t directly concerning life in Japan, I still enjoyed reading. In particular, found them incredibly relatable especially the one concerning deciding to settle for doing things until they were “good enough” for you and not being a perfectionist. As always, the comics were quite amusing and I loved the one on takoyaki as it is definitely relatable since I’m just as obsessed with takoyaki and can totally picture myself eating it all day also. My Japanese Husband STILL Thinks I’m Crazy is another adorable portrayal of Grace’s life and as always I adore the light-hearted manner she takes when it comes to tackling serious topics akin to depression, anxiety, discrimination.

jpstill1
One of my favourite comics, that shows just how adorable Grace and her husband are. From page 12 of My Japanese Husband STILL Thinks I’m Crazy.

You’ll like this book, if you love:
Comics and reading about what’s it to being in an interracial relationship.

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.

Graphic Novel Review | Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Authour:sisters
Raina Telgemeier
Format:
Advance Reader Copy, 197 pages
Publication date:
August 26th 2014
Publisher:
Scholastic
Source:
Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review:
I first was introduced to Raina Telgemeier’s work when I met her at TCAF a few years ago. It was there that I learned about her graphic novel, Smile and having worn braces for almost half of my life I could relate to the main character in that book who also needed to get braces. So when I heard that there was going to be a sort of sequel to Smile, I was excited to go back to reading her work. This time around, in her newest book Sisters she writes about the relationship between sisters and having an older sister myself, I could relate to some of the things in this book.

As always Raina’s artwork is adorable, however as I have an advance reader copy of her graphic novel, there are only a few pages in colour with the rest in black in white. The final copy will be completely in colour and while I think the artwork is lovelier in colour, I don’t mind the black and white pictures as I am used to it having grown up reading manga (Japanese comics). Additionally in this case I felt that having illustrations that are mostly black and white made me focus more on the story I was reading. The story itself, which follows Raina, her younger sister and her mother on a road trip captures the sibling relationships quite well to be honest. Coming from a family of three with two girls and one boy who is the youngest there were some similarities that I found in the sibling dynamics that Raina’s family had with mine. In fact, if you ask my sister, she’d probably say I was quite emotional and grumpy as a pre-teen and even as a teenager.

Another aspect I love about this book which I find is a common theme in much of Raina Telgemeier’s work is her talent for finding the humour in otherwise serious situations. This is one of element that I love about her storytelling style, and it is what draws me to her work time and time again. That and the fact that she tells stories that are realistic and messy, just like real life, not everything is solved to everyone’s satisfaction and relationships and friendships are never perfect.

Altogether I liked her graphic novel Smile slightly more, but Sisters is still a nice read and I’d recommend it for not just kids, but also to anyone who has or had a sort of “complicated” relationship with their siblings growing up as they can definitely relate to the story. As well, tweens and maybe even teen who are fans of Raina’s other works will probably enjoy this book too as it touches upon serious family issues and topics but present them in a way that’s accessible to everyone especially young readers.

If you like this book, you’ll love: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Regardless of how this book came into my possession, the above review consists of my honest opinion of the book and my opinion only.