Tag Archives: First Second Books

Garage Band by Gipi. Translated from the Italian by Spectrum

Garage Band by Gipi

Title: Garage Band
Author: Gipi
Translated from the Italian by Spectrum Publisher: First Second
ISBN: 978-1596432062
Genre: Graphic Novels
Pages: 114
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I just finished reading this very heartwarming graphic novel about four teenage boys, their band, and a garage in which they practice. More than anything it is about these four lives, their individual strife and struggles, their dreams and ambitions, and their relationships with people around them – friends and family.

Garage Band is the kind of graphic novel that doesn’t make any point. It doesn’t want to. It is that slice-of-life graphic novel that lets you soak in the moment, the characters, the simple story of them just wanting to create music, their sometimes-misplaced ideology, and what growing-up or on the road to growing-up is all about.

Garage Band is just a bittersweet meditation on teenage life and how whether it is Italy, America, or India, adolescence is just the same. Giuliano’s father kindness leads to the band getting his garage as practice space. That’s where the story begins. They are extremely passionate about their music and are deeply connected to each other.

Gipi’s characters fit in any landscape. The country doesn’t matter. The story does. We get to know the boys and before you know it, the book is over at about 114 pages. The watercolours are restrained but extremely engaging and it all comes alive in contrasting panels. At some point I thought more could have been fleshed out, but I was wrong as I read further. It wasn’t needed at all. Garage Band says a lot and hides a lot. There is telling and showing and in good measure. It is one of those graphic novels that will most certainly stay with me for long and I will reread it very soon.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki

Title: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me 
Author: Mariko Tamaki 
Illustrated by Rosemary Valero O-‘Connell 
Publisher: First Second 
ISBN: 978-1626722590
Genre: Graphic Novels, LGBT
Pages: 304 
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 5/5 

Just as the title goes, the book is about Laura Dean, the popular girl at school who keeps breaking up with her girlfriend, Freddy Riley. Well, in a nutshell, this is what the book is about, but there is so much more to it. This graphic novel goes to the heart of teenage dating, sexual orientation, and how does one cope with all of it and more growing up.

This is about a toxic relationship and what it takes to get out of it, or to even understand oneself better while in it or not. Mariko Tamaki does an amazing job of depicting the on and off, and off and on cycle – so amazing that it hits home too hard. At one point, the reader can see themselves in the book, because of course relationships are the same – well almost, and so is the toxicity sometimes that comes with it. At the same time, though the protagonists are teenagers, this book will resonate with readers of any age. We have all been down that road, after all, in one way or the other.

Rosemary Valero O-‘Connell’s illustrations in pink and grey are gentle, grounded in angst and romance. The LGBT cast so to say in the book is diverse, and the plot makes you turn the page faster.  The narrative is sometimes quirky but it all fits in beautifully at the end.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me is about realising your worth in relationships – be it any kind and told with great sensitivity. I wish this book was written when I was younger – basically in my teenage years and needed to know so much more about loving oneself and how sometimes the one you love the most will keep breaking your heart, over and over again. Till you put a stop to it.

Book Review: Laika by Nick Abadzis

Title: Laika
Author: Nick Abadzis
Publisher: First Second Books
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novels
PP: 208 pages
Price: $17.95
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Any preconception that I had about graphic novels presenting simplistic or cartoonish stories was shattered by this book. Laika, is a complex story that focuses on the deep relationships that can be formed between humans and animals. The graphics and text work in concert to portray the action and emotion in this story, especially in the dream sequences where Laika imagines that she is flying. Readers who are familiar with graphic novels will appreciate the quality of the artwork and dialogue. Readers who are new to the genre will be easily caught up in the story that is being told.

Laika is the story of the first dog to go up in space. It’s not a spoiler to tell you that she doesn’t come back. But Laika is really the story of the dog’s — and her people’s — life before she’s launched in Sputnik II’s tiny compartment. The Cold War, the space race, the USSR during that time, common human cruelty, loss, privation, powerlessness… all these provide a context and backdrop to Laika’s story, so the heavy feeling starts a few pages in and continues to the end of the story. There are compassionate and kind people throughout, of course, which only increases how sad you feel while reading it.

Laika’s entire story, as conceived by Abadzis, is heartbreaking but there are certain moments towards the end that I found particularly easy to identify with. When Comrade Yelena visits Laika for one last time she can hear the dog saying her name with every bark, even when Yelena is too far away to hear them. She dreams that Laika is calling out to her for help. That she’s scared and uncomfortable and just wants to get out and play. Anyone who has ever owned a pet will be familiar with this feeling. When the pet is missing or in pain, it’s difficult to keep from emphasizing with it. How much worse then when the dog in question is imprisoned in a capsule and shot into the sky? Abadzis doesn’t just show Laika’s plight. He makes you feel it in the core of your being.

The last page of this book contains a quote that offers a 1998 statement from Oleg Georgivitch Gazenko. In it, he laments the way that Laika was misused. “We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog.” It’s a dead dog book. Anyone who knows the story of Laika will be aware of that. But above and beyond the obvious this is an ode to dogs themselves. To the animals that we befriend and love and, ultimately, destroy. It’s also about history, humanity, and the price of being extraordinary. No one can walk away from this book and not be touched. Consider Nick Abadzis a name to watch from here on in.