Tag Archives: Teens

Adrian and the Tree of Secrets – Story by Hubert & Illustrations by Marie Caillou

Title: Adrian and the Tree of Secrets
Story by Hubert
Illustrations by Marie Caillou
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
ISBN: 978-1551525563
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 128
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

This book is for anyone who has had a problem fitting in while growing up. When you know that you aren’t like what most people are and yet cannot tell a soul. I love coming of age books and more so when they are in the graphic more and especially more so if it is about being gay and coming out as well – more to yourself than anyone else and “Adrian and the Tree of Secrets” is just the kind of book that you need if you are struggling with it. It is the perfect graphic novel for teenagers struggling with their sexuality or even not – maybe they just will come to know who they really are.

Adrian’s experiences as a teen gay boy are universal. We have all gone through it – been that road – not only for LGBT teens but also the straight ones – to know oneself and to make peace with it is not easy – no matter what your orientation. There is also the angle of bullying at school and how Adrian meets someone special and what happens thereon. At the same time there is Adrian’s mom who is a devout Catholic – you get the drift, don’t you? Well, this in short is the plot of the graphic novel.

The story by Hubert and the illustrations by Marie Caillou go superbly hand in hand. The graphic panels are sparse and minimal and that lends to the story in more ways than one. I will not talk about the ending or else I would be spoiling it for you. The story is touching, will touch a nerve and I hope will make you see the LGBTQ community differently, because at the end of the day we are all the same kind of people looking for the one true thing: love.

The House that Spoke by Zuni Chopra

Title: The House that Spoke
Author: Zuni Chopra
Publisher: Penguin Books India
ISBN: 9780143427841
Genre: Children’s Books
Pages: 256
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3.5 Stars

For the longest time, “The House that spoke” lay on my bookshelf and somehow there was no inclination to pick it up. One of the barriers was that it is written by a teenager and somehow that thought kept becoming an impediment till it did not. Till I picked up the book and finished it over a weekend and enjoyed it a lot at that.

Having said that, “The House that Spoke” also tries to pack in a lot in one book which at times does feel tedious but eventually grows on you. The book is about fourteen-year-old Zoon Razdan who is instantly shown to be witty, intelligent and above-all perceptive. She lives in Kashmir with her mother in a house – which of course is a part of the title. The objects in the house converse with her. She isn’t new to magic. There are forces beyond her control that threaten to take over her life, the house and her beloved Kashmir.

The book has a lot of metaphors given Kashmir’s situation as of today and that is laudable. Zuni is very empathetic in her writing and that shows. I think that perhaps when you are younger you aren’t influenced by all the writing around you. Of course you read a lot but then again, it isn’t what drives your writing. Your experiences do and after reading this book, I think Zuni’s writing comes from a more personal space (as it should). The characters could have been culled out in a more interesting manner but I guess that can be ignored given it is her first book and she is only sixteen (I think). The writing though is powerful and I loved how the narrative of historic fiction was blended in seamlessly. “The House that Spoke” will charm you, move you, and also make you think about what we’ve done to heaven on earth.

Hedon by Priyanka

Hedon by Priyanka Title: Hedon
Author: Priyanka
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 978-0143425953
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 312
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Hedon is a story of two people – Tara Mullick and Jay Dhillon. What’s new about it, you might ask? Well the difference is in the plot, in the brilliant nuances of the book as you turn pages effortlessly and they exist on almost every page. Hedon is the kind of book (and I say every word when I mean it) that will not let you go till you are done with it. To think it is a debut, I couldn’t believe it was one.

The book is not just about two people and their lives and how they meet on and off and what eventually happens to them. It is also about the other characters – Tara’s friends, her family, her relationship when she is at school in the US of A, Jay’s relationships and what he feels or thinks and more than anything else it is about their connection and how it plays out for them across time and distance.

Tara and Jay meet for the first time at a wedding and life isn’t the same for either of after that. Not because they met, but because of how their friendship blossoms and then the realization of love that makes you feel that void and the hurt that comes in its wake. We see life as narrated by Tara – from her Calcutta days to the time she moves to the US of A for her further studies and the back and forth that takes place – through deaths, fights, and passionate love that can only lead to the inevitable conclusion.

I think more than anything else it is the way these characters’ lives intermingle that kept me hooked. Also let me tell you at this point that Tara is but just seventeen and Jay of course is a little older – he is twenty-five. This isn’t about age as much as it is about their lives and how they come face to face again after seven years from when they first met.

The story then moves along – across time periods and hence the cultural references make so much sense and are so needed for a book of this nature. Not only that; even the secondary characters have unique voices – from Cookie and Button (Tara’s best friends – it is very intriguing to see how those relationships play out as Tara leaves the country and visits once a while – I thought even that was empathetically handled as well) to their parents and siblings views that appear once a while and the rest of the time they are in the background – maybe content being there. Also might I add the school these girls go to – that also forms a major part of the book and lends to the time from being a girl to transforming to a woman, as cliché as it might sound. It isn’t just a love story – there is more that lends itself to the story – a lot more actually – it is about the rites of passage, of growing-up, the angst that comes with it and also it is about the realization what really matters when it comes down to it – from the choices we make to what we live by as a consequence of those choices.

“Hedon” is a book that encompasses voices of times infused with waywardness, the need to belong one way or the other and most importantly of people who want to make a dent – as they go through life, love and everything in-between. To pin point and say that it is only a love story or only a slice of life story, wouldn’t do it justice. It is more than that and one can only realize that after reading it cover to cover. Hedon is a lot of randomness and somehow you see it all tying up at the end or in between, but it does come together and that is something that plays itself out beautifully.

Priyanka’s writing is razor-sharp. It is biting, juicy and makes you visualize everything that is written. She captures everything to the last detail – the food eaten at a friend’s house to how the shamiana was – sort of a festival where boys and girls from various schools participate in and gather. The minute details of youth are encapsulated to a point of evoking those bittersweet feelings in you and bring them to fore.

How else then can you define or classify great writing if not this way? There is more than one way to describe it and I shall try. It is something which you perhaps have never read before. Sure you must have read something similar, but not anything like it.

There is also the element of various pop culture references that make you fall in love with the book and relate to it at that time over and over again. Might I also add, the ending is nothing like what you might expect from a regular novel, because this isn’t a regular novel to begin with.

The language of the book is easy to read and so intense that it feels like someone punched you in the stomach and you are recovering from it. The prose is laced with irony and humour in good measure, coupled with the melancholy and the pains of realizing who you really are and what or who can you call home.

The book releases on the 26th of April 2016.

George by Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino Title: George
Author: Alex Gino
Publisher: Scholastic Press
ISBN: 978-0545812542
Genre: Teens, Young Adult
Pages: 208
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

When the publisher gave me a copy of “George” by Alex Gino to read, I knew it very then that I would love it to bits and I did. “George” is a story that could be taking place around us and we would not even know of it. I think a lot has been written about the L and G of the LGBT community, but not enough on the transgender and transsexual bit (there is also a difference between the two by the way), so “George” came as a refreshing surprise when I picked it up.

George is a boy and she knows she is a girl. She can feel it deep down and all she wants is to be a girl and do the things that girls do. She hates it when people refer to her as a boy and try and expect her to do all the things that boys do. All she wants is to be Charlotte in the school play Charlotte’s web and she cannot because people see her as a boy. Even her teach won’t understand her dilemma. Neither will her brother Scott and Mom. But she has her best friend Kelly who believes in her and will do anything so she can play Charlotte.

In the midst of bullies, her situation and the need to be who she is, “George” finally comes into her own at the end of the book. How? Well that is for you to read and find out.

I absolutely loved this book. I have never read anything like this – about a transgender teen and I think it is so needed in our times more than ever. People need to be made aware and know what is going on before they judge severely or jump to any conclusions.

The tone of the book is emotional and sometimes funny but mostly it will leave you with a warm tingling feeling in your heart which is the idea anyway. Initially you might have a problem shifting between genders in your head, but when it is clear, you will breeze through that. The writing is quick and simple and easily readable and relatable at that – when it comes to coming of age.

I also would strongly urge all parents to read this book, because it would probably help them know their child better and respect differences in them, if any. I also think that it is time someone in India wrote about this – from a child, a teenager and an adult’s perspective. It is so needed given how ignorant we are when it comes to this sphere of the gender. It is more so about gender politics than actually being empathetic to their needs.

There were times when I felt the book was being rushed but I guess that’s how the author combo (yeah Alex and Gino are two people) wanted it that way. All said and done, I immensely enjoyed the journey of a ten-year old about being who he always knew he was – a girl. I was hooting for “George” till the very end and hoping that this is just the beginning for her.

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SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki Title: SuperMutant Magic Academy
Author: Jillian Tamaki
Publisher: Drawn and Quarterly
ISBN: 978-1770461987
Genre: Comics, Graphic Novel
Pages: 224
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I love graphic novels. The genre makes me smile all the time. Well, mostly all the time. There are times when I go all morose as well, but that’s only because of the plot and nothing more than that. So when I received a copy of Jillian Tamaki’s new graphic novel, “SuperMutant Magic Academy” by the publisher, I was overjoyed.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 1

What is the book about?

It is true to its title. It is about Mutants, who are in an academy, and of course who are magical. That being said, they are almost like any other teenager – bursting with puberty, adolescence making them think otherwise and going through the same old pangs of growing up and deciding whether to love or not and how does one then become popular.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 2

Why should you read this book?

There is humour in the book, loads of it and also sprinkled with a whole lot of irreverence and not to forget their paranormal abilities that are juxtaposed brilliantly against the everyday teen concerns. The world is but surely familiar and yet it is the abilities that come along in the book, that take you by surprise and sometimes shock.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 3

I cannot talk about individual characters because there are so many of them, but needless to say that you might just fall in love with each of them and their little quirks. It is a mash-up of Hogwarts and Gossip Girl (I know some of you might be cringing but that’s what it is and it is a delightful read at that).

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 4

Tamaki’s illustrations are almost perfect and invite you to a world like none other. Her characterization is sharp and full of detailing, page after page and that is what also will appeal to the serious reader in some of you. Tamaki has a knack to understand the psyche of her characters and to bring each nuance to life through her illustrations and story-telling capacity. There are just right enough doses of angst, hopelessness and so much hope at times that you will wonder where that came from in the book.

Supermutant Magic Academy - Image 5

“SuperMutant Magic Academy” will take you through vignettes of every single character and their kinks – from Trixie, a dinosaur girl to Everlasting Boy who is immortal, to Wendy who has cat ears and also you will meet Marsha, the grumpy friend who carries a secret torch for Wendy and many more, equally weird and strange. The thing though is that you will fall in love with each and every one of them and hope that the book doesn’t end. I could not stop thinking about them long after I had finished the book and I am almost certain that I will go back to it. This is also the kind of book that can be enjoyed by anyone – from teenagers to the middle-aged readers. I wish there is a sequel in line for this one.

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