Go With the Flow by Karen Schneemann & Lily Williams


Go With the Flow by Karen Schneemann & Lily Williams
Publisher: First Second
Genre: Middle Grade, YA, Contemporary, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Good friends help you go with the flow.
Best friends help you start a revolution.

Sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are fed up. Hazelton High never has enough tampons. Or pads. Or adults who will listen.

Sick of an administration that puts football before female health, the girls confront a world that shrugs―or worse, squirms―at the thought of a menstruation revolution. They band together to make a change. It’s no easy task, especially while grappling with everything from crushes to trig to JV track but they have each other’s backs. That is, until one of the girls goes rogue, testing the limits of their friendship and pushing the friends to question the power of their own voices.

Now they must learn to work together to raise each other up. But how to you stand your ground while raising bloody hell?

A guide to periods, but with friends and not a manual? I’m in.

I wish I’d have had this book when I was the age that I got my period. While I got the cursory explanation at school, this would’ve been a lot more helpful. Periods are normal. They’re something menstruating people deal with. It’s scary when periods show up the first time, but it shouldn’t be. This book helps get rid of the stigma.

Sasha is a younger student at the high school and one day she gets her period. Some make fun of her, but a few girls take her in, help her out and help her feel normal. It’s a common thing that happens at schools all over the place. Abby, one of the friends, realizes there are issues with getting period products at school. There is a bit of a political bend to this story, but it’s not so much to take away from the story. It showcases that there are issues some deal with and others won’t ever understand.

I liked this story of friendship, finding a place to belong, finding a cause and standing up for one’s self. It’s a cute tale and does take the stigma out of getting your period. If you’re looking for another way to talk about this topic, then this might be the right book for you.

The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman


The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman
Publisher: Pantheon
Genre: YA, Graphic Novel, Historical, Ages 16+
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A brutally moving work of art—widely hailed as the greatest graphic novel ever written—Maus recounts the chilling experiences of the author’s father during the Holocaust, with Jews drawn as wide-eyed mice and Nazis as menacing cats.

Maus is a haunting tale within a tale, weaving the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father into an astonishing retelling of one of history’s most unspeakable tragedies. It is an unforgettable story of survival and a disarming look at the legacy of trauma.

Haunting, sad, but also educational.

I picked up this book because I was told it was a fantastic read. It was. The art is great and depicts the characters as mice, cats, dogs and some pigs. The characters might be animals, but the meaning shines through. The Holocaust was a terrible time in human history and should be dealt with. We should all learn about it so we’re not destined to repeat it.

I cried during this book. I didn’t think a graphic novel would make me so emotional, but I got invested in the characters. I wanted to see them survive. Art Spiegelman’s father is the main character in this book. The story is told through his stories to his son about his time in the war and concentration camps. The emotional fragility, the strength, and the colossal devastation are evident in this character, his situation and his future. It was painfully obvious this man saw stuff and it messed with him.

I wouldn’t recommend this to a younger read, but this is powerful stuff and would be better for an older YA reader. It’s hard to read, emotionally, in spots, but worth the read.

White Bird by RJ Palacio


White Bird by RJ Palacio
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Historical, Graphic Novel, YA, Ages 16+
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In R. J. Palacio’s bestselling collection of stories Auggie & Me, which expands on characters in Wonder, readers were introduced to Julian’s grandmother, Grandmère. Here, Palacio makes her graphic novel debut with Grandmère’s heartrending story: how she, a young Jewish girl, was hidden by a family in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II; how the boy she and her classmates once shunned became her savior and best friend.

Sara’s harrowing experience movingly demonstrates the power of kindness to change hearts, build bridges, and even save lives. As Grandmère tells Julian, “It always takes courage to be kind, but in those days, such kindness could cost you everything.” With poignant symbolism and gorgeous artwork that brings Sara’s story out of the past and cements it firmly in this moment in history, White Bird is sure to captivate anyone who was moved by the book Wonder or the blockbuster movie adaptation and its message.

Haunting, beautiful and sad.

I picked up this book because I’ve been on a history binge and a graphic novel one, too. I’ve not read any other stories by RJ Palacio, so this was my first. I have to say this was a haunting book. I can’t imagine being in Sara’s place, nor dealing with what she did. I had a hard time staying in my house during the pandemic – I love fresh air – so living for a whole year in a barn is beyond my wheelhouse. Reading about Sara being there for that long made me appreciate my situation much more.

Sara is a Jew living in France, but it’s during World War II and Jews aren’t welcome in France after the collapse. I can’t imagine being her, living in a barn, hiding in the straw, living off scraps and hoping for the end of the war because no one should have to live like that. She lost her mother during the war and even her best friend. It was sad and I was very much emotionally invested.

I liked how her father would swing her around like a bird and that verbiage, along with Julien’s friendship and help, got her through the war. I hated the ending, even if the war did end – I won’t give away spoilers, but when you read it, you’ll see. I knew that would have to happen, but I was hoping it wouldn’t. It tore at my heart and made me think.

If you’re looking for a graphic novel that’s another way to learn about the Holocaust, the travesties of war and the strength of human resolve, then this might be the book for you.

Recommended.

Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe


Gender Queer: A Memoir by Maia Kobabe
Publisher: Oni Press
Genre: Contemporary, Non-Fiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.

Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.

A touching read that will stay with the reader far after the last page.

I saw this book listed on a banned books list and had to know more. I’m glad I did. This book is touching, sweet, saucy and even has moments that made my heart ache for Maia. The book deals with Maia’s journey to accepting who they are. They were born a female, but always felt male and eventually just wanted to be themselves. This is a journey to finding acceptance with family, society and self.

The art in this book is frank, too. If you ever wondered what it was like to be in Maia’s shoes, then this is a no-holds-barred look. It’s a good way to understand Maia’s journey, too.

I recommend this book to anyone who is struggling with identity, who wants a strong story, who wishes to understand the journey of someone coming to terms with their identity and those who want a good story with great art. Recommended.