Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

In this twist on Edgar Allen Poe’s gothic short story, a wealthy teenaged girl who can afford a special mask to protect her from the plague that decimated humanity in the mid-1800s, falls in love, becomes caught up in a conspiracy to overthrow an oppressive government, and faces the threat of a new plague. –From Novelist

“….The book’s characters are not the only ones manipulated here. Readers will twist and turn, puzzling out hero from villain, only to be left dangling and anticipating the sequel”— Booklist

I’ve never read Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, but the premise of a book based on the dark gothic short story really appealed to me.  I’m not really sure why I’ve been reading so many books on death and disease lately, but I just keep picking them up. The beautiful cover didn’t hurt either!

Writing this review is difficult. There were some aspects I didn’t enjoy: the shallow self-medicating characters, the slow moving beginning, and the love triangle. On the flip side, I liked the steampunk elements, storyline surprises, and vivid descriptions. I really thought the concept of the masks was the best part as it adds a unique level of creepiness to this world overrun with plague and death.  However, for some reason I kept picturing the V for Vendetta mask.  How did you imagine the masks?

The difference between the human experience for the wealthy and those living in poverty was unsettling.  I couldn’t imagine living in the crumbling dying lower city, while watching careless, glamorous, fashionable teens, behave scandalously. Since the poor cannot afford the masks, the masks come to symbolize the divide between the wealthy and poor. The underlying theme of science vs. religion also played an important part too.

With the amount of drugs, sexual content, violence and horrific death scenes, I would recommend this book to an older YA crowd.  Check out this book if you’re into: dystopia, steampunk, and death & disease (like me apparently).

Look for Dance of the Red Death (book #2) to be released Spring 2013.

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Review: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she’s a terrible singer. Instead she’s the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

Release date: September 2012

What a quick, fun read about middle school romance. It brought me back to my middle school days, including the awkward arms-length dances (p.105)!  I could definitely relate to the main character’s crush crazy ways, and over-analyzing every detail of the relationship.

Same sex crushes were also explored in the book; including an illustration of two boys kissing.    Throughout, the controversial topic was presented without any judgement and never made out to be more than it was. With the popularity of shows like Glee, I think younger people are increasingly becoming more comfortable and accepting of homosexuality. Therefore, I’m glad that Telgemeier included it in the book, while at the same time, making the text appropriate for the targeted reader age group.

As a graphic novel, the drawings rocked. Based on a play production, it was fitting that the story was divided into acts and even included an intermission.   I appreciated that Telgemeier included a variety of different body types and cultures throughout the book.  I also loved Callie’s facial expressions, as it was obvious when she was frustrated, happy, annoyed, disgusted, etc.

Overall, I find graphic novels are often targeted at boys.  So, I’m happy I’ve learned of another graphic novel that would appeal to young girls and their crush crazy ways. At the same time, I wouldn’t hesitate to offer this one to someone questioning their sexual identity either.

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