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Book Review: Finding Bluefield by Elan Barnehama

September 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Picture of two women together with a brown border.Summary:
It’s the 1960s, and Barbara thinks she has enough on her hands handling medical residency as a woman.  She doesn’t need the complications of dating women on top of that…or the risk to her profession of rumors that she’s a lesbian.  But when she meets local cook, Nicky, all these cautions go out the window.  Soon they’re a couple, and Nicky is determined to have a baby for them to raise together.

Review:
I read this book because my previous read from this indie publisher (Bold Strokes Books) was such a unique, well-written piece of GLBTQ lit, and I was excited to get more.  Unfortunately, the quality of this book does not come close to that of Lemon Reef.  Admittedly, Lemon Reef is by an entirely different author, but one does expect similar quality levels from the same publisher.  That was, unfortunately, not the case this time.

The plot is moderately common in lesbian fiction.  Girl meets girl. Couple wants a baby. Girl gets pregnant. Can they raise the baby and keep the relationship going.  With the added backdrop of prejudice and changing rights from the 1960s through the 1980s, it had the potential to be more unique and add an interesting twist, particularly since Nicky is supposed to be involved in the Civil Rights movement.  Unfortunately, none of this really pans out.  There are tantalizing teases of something more or something unique such as when Nicky gives a ride to a black man trying to escape from mob “justice” in the small town or when Barbara cheats on Nicky in New York City, but none of these ideas are brought to fruition.  In fact, the whole book feels more like a moderately fleshed-out plot outline for a future book.  Like, here are the key points, and I’ll flesh them out later.  Only this is the finished book.  There will be no more fleshing out of the plot.  It’s frustrating to read because just when you think something is about to happen, the idea gets dropped and you skip ahead a few years.

Similarly, the characters are never fully realized.  They are extremely two-dimensional, even the two main characters.  I actually found myself mixing Barbara and Nicky up repeatedly, which is intensely problematic.  They are two separate people, and their relationship is the focus of the novel, yet even after the entire book they are mostly unclear to me, except that Nicky has green eyes.  They simply don’t feel like real people to the reader at all, which is a problem in general but even more so when the book is trying to both be character-driven and address rights issues.

A book needs at least a compelling plot or engaging characters to be readable and both to be great.  This book has neither.  I can see potential in the plot and sentence structures for good writing, but the author needs to work on both expanding into greater plot detail as well as on improving characterization.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Netgalley

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Book Review: I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly (Graphic Novel)

June 22, 2011 1 comment

Green-tinted girl pointing at herself against red background.Summary:
Barbara is a middle school student with one intense focus–she must learn how to kill giants before it is too late.  She doesn’t fit in much at school or have many friends, but she doesn’t really care, because she needs to be ready for the giant.  The giant is connected to a secret at home, you see, and this secret takes over her life too much to care about all those silly things the other girls talk about.

Review:
I picked up this graphic novel because it was getting tons of buzz as being an excellent graphic novel.  I also wanted to know what this big secret was in Barbara’s life.  Does the graphic novel address something that isn’t discussed much in polite society but is still an issue for many middle schoolers out there?  I was dying to know!  Unfortunately, I found myself incredibly disappointed with this graphic novel.  I can’t discuss why without spoiling what the giant is, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip this review.

I was expecting the giant Barbara is facing at home to be something like abuse or incest.  Instead, it turns out Barbara’s mother is dying of cancer.  Um. Ok.  I’m sorry, a big scary giant doesn’t seem to be quite the right metaphor for a dying parent.  What makes this little girl think she can fight death?  I guess I just don’t get it.

Additionally, I just really didn’t like Barbara.  I honestly get tired of graphic novel writers always making the main character a geek.  This little girl–shocker–plays D&D.  She is cruel to her classmates.  She judges them.  She’s even mean to the one girl who for some unearthly reason shows an interest in Barbara and what she likes to do.  She, quite frankly, rubs me the wrong way, and I don’t think she’s supposed to.

Then there’s the art.  I also didn’t like that, especially how he drew Barbara.  Why does she have bunny ears?  What’s up with that?  The drawing style never feels artistic.  Not once did I find myself sucked into the pictures to get further into Barbara’s world.  They felt more like badly-done newspaper comic strips than a graphic novel.

Overall, I’m disappointed that I even bothered with this book.  It’s one of those few instances when if I’d known the spoiler ahead of time, I’d have saved myself some time.  I can’t even imagine handing this over to a middle schooler dealing with a terminally ill relative, because I don’t think it particularly presents healthy coping mechanisms or solutions to unhealthy ones.  Why this book is so popular remains a mystery to me.

2 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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