While I’m not always the best at knowing about new books and their release dates, I am blessed to be surrounded by people and – in some cases – things (*waves at Amazon algorithm), that know me well enough to give me a gentle nudge in the right direction. Whether it be a friend making reccomendations, a knowledgeable staff member at my local shop, or some strange Goodreads based rabbit hole I’ve fallen into, there are a lot of great ways to hear about what’s new in the world of comic books.
Thanks to my many resources, I’ve managed to make a very nice discovery. In the interest of trying to include myself in that grand network of book sharing, I wanted to use my post this month to let you know about one of my latest finds that is truly enjoyable.
Bloom – written by Kevin Panetta, Art by
Bloom has everything I love in a book – romance, emotional growth, and baking. And yes, you read that right – baking!
The story doesn’t really break that much new ground. After graduating from high school, Ari is itching to leave his home town to join his friends in the city and seek success making music. Ari doesn’t get too far as his father asks that he keep working in the charming yet struggling family bakery until a suitable replacement can be found. In walks the enthusiastic Hector, who not only reminds Ari of why he used to love baking, but also challenges him to think about what it is he truly wants.
What follows is a very solid coming of age story that is both sweet and satisfying.
So, what makes this book so good?
Maturity is hard and for most of us, it doesn’t come overnight. Ari has a lot of growing up to do, and that journey feels very natural in this book. He goes from being passionate and relatable in one scene to stubborn and resentful in the next. Kevin Panetta writes Ari in a way that never feels forced. Instead, it feels natural as Ari struggles to choose his next steps. Hector, on the other hand, is older and has learned from his experiences. He sticks up for himself and encourages Ari to work harder. The chemistry between these two characters is very real and while I was reading, I couldn’t help but root for them both.
Bonus – hot baking action
I’m a sucker for a book that focuses on food, especially when food is used to connect family and community. In this book, it’s the act of baking that provides the space and spark that bring Ari and Hector together. There’s meaning in the sharing of recipes and experiences. This book illustrates that beautifully.
As I mentioned before, there isn’t a lot in this book that is groundbreaking or new, but it doesn’t really matter. There are books that are warm, comfortable, and enjoyable even if you know where the plot is going the entire time. You are still taken along with the story and have a great journey along the way. Bloom is that kind of book. So if you’re looking for something undeniably tender and warm, this book is made for you.
My partner in crime, Mr. Menace, has oft-voiced the complaint that ladies don’t support each other enough. This is why, he says, the WNBA is just not that popular – women don’t support other women. We don’t see the value in going to those basketball games just to advance ladies in sports. Similarly, in his view, we don’t support other ladies in politics and art and all manner of other things, and until we do, there will continue to be arenas in which we are under-represented.
And as a general rule, I think he’s right. There are plenty of exceptions, of course, but there seem, from what I can see, to be plenty of ladies who think we no longer need feminism. (Or, you know, think it’s kind of pointless to begin with). As our resident gender defender (I’m the person everyone sends links to with the “you’ll get really angry about this” note) I thought we at The Ladies of Comicazi should do something to buck that trend and actively support ladies who are out there creating the books, movies, and comics that we enjoy, and so I bring you a new feature – The Honorary Lady of Comicazi! This will be a little showcase/lovefest/plug for ladies making things we love.
And who better to kick off such a feature with than the one and only Libba Bray?
“Who is Libba Bray?” you may be asking yourselves, if you do not follow trends in YA literature as closely as we here at LOC do. I answer that Ms. Bray is the Printz Award-winning author of such books as Going Bovine, the Gemma Doyle Trilogy, Beauty Queens, and most recently, The Diviners. I was first introduced to her works years ago by my good friend, Nandi, who was at the time studying to be a librarian (she has since BECOME a librarian via arcane rituals). She’d read Going Bovine and been intrigued by its picaresque tale of a young man with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (more commonly known as the human strain of mad cow), his friend Gonzo, a hypochondriac dwarf, and their traveling companion, the Norse God Baldur (who was trapped in the form of a garden gnome at the time). She felt that I, too, might be taken in by the book’s whimsical and somewhat heartbreaking charms – and so I was! This led me down the primrose path to reading the Gemma Doyle trilogy, a series of a young Victorian lady who turns out to have both power and the requisite responsibility for it beyond her wildest dreams – or nightmares.
I quickly devoured everything that came out after that – Beauty Queens, with its teen pageant queens, desert islands, and broad political satire – and The Diviners, a creepy 1920s-set tale of a flighty young flapper whose latent psychic abilities put her in the path of a very scary serial killer. Bray has this amazing ability to write in a variety of styles, from the straight Gothic horror of the Gemma Doyle books, to the over-the-top silliness of Beauty Queens, to the silly on the surface but poignant beneath story of Going Bovine, and I love her for it.
She is also, appropriately to the opening of this post, deeply feminist and with a keen eye for social justice, and manages to do this (Beauty Queens and its deliberate satire aside) without beating you over the head with it. Female characters are shown tied down by the constraints of whichever era their stories take place in, but are also shown rising above these constraints and wanting more. The characters are diverse without it being a big deal – there are black and Asian and Hispanic and gay characters in equal measures in all of these books and none of them are singled out as tokens – they interact with the other characters in the books in the same ways they would in real life.
And all of this is wonderful, but the thing that won me over to Team Libba more than any of that? The main reason I’m nominating this woman for honorary inclusion in our esteemed ranks? It’s her blog.That last entry I linked particularly gets to me – I’ll wait if you want to go read it. La, la, la. Okay, are you done? Do you understand what I’m saying here? She doesn’t post as often as I’d like, but those posts are so emotional, and honest, and real, and they always make me feel like a better person for having read them. (or like the first link they are very, very, silly, but the heart of them is important and true.) She makes me want to cry and laugh, often at the same time, and her best writing, whether on the blog or on the book, stirs deep emotion in me. That’s worth holding on to.
So that’s why for me, Libba Bray is an honorary Lady of Comicazi. So go read her books, okay? Then come back and tell me what you think in the comments!