Review – Wandering Son Volumes 1 and 2 by Shimura Takako

Title: Wandering Son: Volumes 1 and 2

Author: Shimura Takako

Star Rating: * * (Volume 1), * (Volume 2)

Genre: Graphic Novel, Transgender/Gender Identity

Volume 1

Cover - Wandering Son 1

When I heard that Wandering Son was about two kids, Yoshino and Shuichi, dealing with trans identity issues, it skyrocketed upwards on my to-be-read list. After all, there are not many stories dealing with trans realities in a positive and well-thought out manner, and I was super excited to see that this series was receiving excellent ratings. Unfortunately, volume 1 did little to endear me to the series as I thought that both the art and the story were weak.

The Wandering Son volumes are packaged in beautiful, oversized hardcover editions. Regrettably, the series would have looked better in the normal, smaller tankobon size. Takako’s art is very simplistic and sparse. While the printing is clear and crisp, by enlarging the pages so much, the blankness of many of them was emphasised, as well as the weaknesses of the character designs. While is it not uncommon for manga to have rather barebones backgrounds and similar character constructions, I felt that both were an impediment to my immersion in this story. I kept getting characters mixed up since most had the same, wide-eyed face, and even the hair styles weren’t all that different. Very little stood out to me in regards to the art, and I missed the detail that is often present in so many popular manga.

Wandering Son Example 1

Another major issue I had with the book was the way in which decompression was used. Decompression refers to the pacing of a graphic story. A decompressed story is one that moves slowly, and can take many panels to show small events or reactions. This particular technique is quite common in Japanese manga, and I usually quite appreciate the more sedate, but detailed pace. However, the decompression in this volume left too many gaps in the narrative for me to fully understand what was going on. Scenes would be quite detailed, but then the story would jump forward to a different day or week. Very little time was spent on transition scenes, and even though these can be less interesting or emotional, they are still crucial to a well-constructed story.

Finally, I am sad to admit that there was just not much happening in this volume. Yoshino and Shuichi are just starting to figure out that they may be different, and it is understandable that they need time to sort out their feelings. However, most of the manga is comprised of Shuichi looking distressed and uncomfortable while she stares at things. When dealing with an introverted character that is rather shy and withdrawn, an author has to work particularly hard to make their struggles engaging and understandable for the reader. In the Wandering Son, we don’t get that far into Shuichi’s head, and being pummeled with panel after panel of emotional angst that isn’t very well conveyed does not make me feel for the character, or want to know more about her journey.

Overall, volume one starts off with a very interesting and potentially powerful premise that unfortunately just does not pay off.

Volume Two

Cover - Wandering Son 2

Volume two is where everything really starts to fall apart for me. Technically, the book is a lot better than volume one. The story flowed a lot more smoothly, and I wasn’t getting lost between scenes. I still had many problems telling characters apart, but there were also more characters introduced that looked sufficiently different that the volume felt less same-y than before. Furthermore, the character development was more interesting, and Yoshino and Shuichi were doing more than just spending pages upon pages looking stricken and nervous. Overall, volume two was a much more enjoyable read except for one rather gigantic problem that ruined the entire book for me.

Trigger Warning: Sexual Violence

My issues with this book center on the two characters: Yuki and Shii. Yuki was actually introduced in volume one in a short, but disturbing scene. During Yoshino’s first public appearance as a young boy, Yuki hits on him rather directly despite the fact that Yuki looks to be in her twenties and Yoshino is a pre-teen dressed in a high school uniform. The scene was short, and I forgot about it until Yuki reappeared in volume 2. This time Yuki runs into both Yoshino and Shuichi wandering around as their preferred genders. She invites them over to her house, but tells Yoshino that she would love it if he came back alone one time. When the two kids come over again, Yuki expresses displeasure about Yoshino not coming on his own, and her partner, Shii, walks in just as she’s petting Yoshino’s face. He accuses her of having an affair with Yoshino, and the escorts the two kids out of the apartment. While in the elevator, he fondles Yoshino’s crotch and chest, acting quite surprised that Yoshino is biologically a girl. This leads both Yoshino and Shuichi to discover that Yuki is also transgender, and sets her up as a mentor for the two.

I have tried to come up with a positive interpretation for this scene, but I just can’t. Some have claimed the Shii tends to act spontaneously and was just trying to check to see if Yoshino and Yuki were having an affair, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that he sexually touched a minor. Under the law in my country, what he did is considered sexual assault, and the narrative even shows that Yoshino was quite disturbed and upset by the incident, yet these feelings were completely brushed aside. Given the disproportionate levels of violence perpetuated against trans and gender queer people, this supposedly gag-like scene is unacceptable. I was even more discomforted by the fact that Yuki was supposed to be a mentor for the two pre-teens despite her inappropriate behaviour.

Before I abandoned the series, I wanted to see what would happen with Yuki. In volume 3, Yoshino goes to Yuki when his classmates have found out that he and Shuichi are gender queer and have begun to mock and torment the two of them. Yuki acts completely inappropriately with Yoshino, asking to compare their panties, and wanting to bath together so that she can see his breasts. She encourages Yoshino to share a bed with her, and then she cuddles with him in a way that makes Yoshino uncomfortable enough to run away as Yuki is far too physically close, and saying uncomfortably intimate things. The two end up “making up” by the end of the chapter, and once again I was left feeling extraordinarily uncomfortable at the fact that a pre-teen was just molested by an adult who suffered no repercussions for her actions. For a manga that spends so much time delving into controversial and difficult concepts, it was a terrible error to write plots involving violence without unpacking them with the same care and respect as the other difficult issues approached by this series.

Final Thoughts

I was really excited to read Wandering Son when I heard that it dealt with gender identity issues. However, I wasn’t a fan of the story, and there are some extremely problematic aspects to the narrative that I just can’t brush aside. Violence, particularly sexual violence, is perpetuated against trans people all the time, and I cannot support or enjoy a story that uses this violence as a gag. Even if this is one of the few substantive stories about kids dealing with trans identities, the scenes in volume 2 make it a highly inappropriate and problematic read.

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RRRs: The Fables Spin-offs Edition

Rapid response reviews are shorter entries for books that I want to comment on, but don’t have enough time or material to finish a normal post. Given the sheer length of the Fables series, the only way I’ll ever be able to tackle most of its volumes is if I keep my comments short and sweet! My reviews for the actual Fables series are simple: go read them all! To get the whole story, readers need to finish all of the books, and even though there are 19 volumes (as of now), all of them are worth the read. Today’s RRR, therefore, is dedicated to the Fables spin-offs since they are almost as voluminous, but differ widely in their importance to the main series and their overall quality.

Title: Jack of Fables (Volumes 1-9, including The Literals mini-series)

Author: Bill Willingham

Rating: *

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Graphic Novel

Cover - Jack of Fables Series

I’m cheating a bit with Jack of Fables as I am lumping all of the books into one write-up (though I did write mini-reviews for volumes one and two here). Simply put, I hated this series. Jack of Fables is extraordinarily different from its predecessor, and very little of what I loved about Fables was present in Jack. Admittedly, the story premise is quite intriguing as these books deal with the existence of the Literals, beings that are the anthropomorphic representations of writing tools, but the titular character makes the story all but unbearable. I read the full series because there is a cross-over between it and Fables, but after trudging through these books, I am pretty sure I could have just skipped Fables 13 and saved myself the trouble. While the Literals are an interesting concept, most of the series is dedicated to showing how Jack is a terrible human being. The humour is sexist (for example, Jack sleeps with his half-sisters and this fact keeps coming up throughout the entire series as something that is supposed to be funny or admirable), the art is inconsistent, and I could not care less about any of the characters. Unless you are a diehard Fables fan, these books should be a skip. Continue reading

Nostalgic Re-Reads: Goosebumps by R.L. Stine (Night of the Living Dummy, The Girl Who Cried Monster, and Camp Nightmare)

Title: Goosebumps #7: Night of the Living Dummy

Rating: * *

GB 7 - Night of the Living Dummy

Like Monster Blood, Night of the Living Dummy is one of the central, re-occurring Goosebumps stories, but I am not a very big fan of this initial installment (though I am quite fond of the sequels). So what made this one so different? Character development is not a strong point for the Goosebumps series, but I found the main characters in this story were particularly irritating and flat. Night of the Living Dummy stars twins Lindy and Kris who find a dummy in the trash. Lindy decides to keep the dummy, naming him Slappy, and Kris becomes jealous of her ventriloquism skills and the attention that it brings her twin. To stop the two from fighting, the twins’ father buys Kris a second dummy that she names Mr. Wood. However, Mr. Wood isn’t a normal dummy, and he acts out violently, taking control of Kris’ acts. No one will believe her when she claims that the dummy is alive, so the sisters have to team up to defeat this evil marionette.

The idea of a living dummy is nerve-racking, and the Slappy and Mr. Wood characters are scary because they seem to be sociopathic, unkillable monsters. The part of the story involving the dummies doing evil things worked well because it is pretty chilling to think about strange, living dolls wandering around your house at night, destroying things and trying to mess up your life. However, I could have done without Kris. I generally do not have a problem with well-written, unlikeable characters, or young characters that act their age. Kris, on the other hand, just gives me a headache. She’s so intensely jealous of her sister, and I felt that there wasn’t enough pushback against her bad behaviour in the narrative telling her that she should just chill out and figure out her own way to shine. I know that the relationship between twins is unique, but one would think that she wouldn’t want to strive to do the exact same things as her sister. I also felt that her parents should definitely not have encouraged Kris to try and steal the stoplight from Lindy so obviously. However, if they had done that, we wouldn’t have had this story, so the awkward characterisation can be forgiven as it led to a particularly memorable villain.


Title: Goosebumps #8: The Girl Who Cried Monster

Rating: * * ½

GB 8 - The Girl Who Cried Monster

Lucy is obsessed with monsters. She’s always looking to learn more about them, and her favourite activity is scaring her little brother with monster stories. However, she talks about monsters so often that no one believes her when she sees a real one! When she stays late in the library one night, she sees the local librarian turn into a disgusting creature that eats flies! Though she tries all sorts of things to prove to her parents that the librarian is a monster, all her efforts fail, and he discovers that she knows what he is. Lucy is convinced that she’s going to get eaten when her parents invite him over for dinner, but the tables are turned rather quickly when Lucy’s parents devour the librarian before the rest of the community is alerted to the presence of monsters among them. As it turns out, Lucy is obsessed with horror story creatures because she is one!

The Girl Who Cried Monster is a solid horror book for kids. Lucy is a bit obnoxious, but within reason for a precocious twelve year old. The plot is a fairly typical one, with Lucy getting herself into all sorts of suspenseful situations trying to get proof that the librarian is a monster. However, it is the ending that really makes this particular addition to the series stand out. I did not guess that Lucy’s family were monsters, and it was a delightful creepy ending to a creepy story.


Title: Goosebumps #9: Welcome to Camp Nightmare

Rating: * * *

GB 9 - Welcome to Camp Nightmare

Camp Nightmare is a strange story, but it certainly delivers in terms of scariness. This Goosebumps stars Mike, a normal 12 year old heading off to an overnight camp for the first time. However, his trip seems cursed from the start as the bus that was supposed to take all the kids to camp drops them off in the middle of nowhere, leaving them to be attacked by strange, dog-like creatures. They are saved by the camp director, but it seems that the troubles with this camp are just beginning. One of Mike’s campmates is bitten by a snake, but the camp has no nurse to treat him, and he disappears overnight. Slowly, members of his cabin fall victim to mysterious accidents, but the camp staff don’t seem to care. Mike finally decides he has to stand up to this callousness when the camp director orders the campers to hunt through the forest with tranquilizer guns for two run-aways. With this choice, he finds out he passed the test that his parents were putting him through in order to take him along on a scientific expedition to an alien world: Earth!

The idea that a camp could exist that is so careless towards the children that it is responsible for seems pretty unlikely, and as a reader, I was trying to figure out what the catch was from the very first few pages. However, with the twist reveal at the end, suddenly the callousness and neglect makes sense, even if the plot was a bit silly. Despite the ridiculous plot, Camp Nightmare is great for scaring younger readers. Camp can be a frightening experience at the best of times, and this story plays on those fears of abandonment and danger. Camp myths turn deadly, and Mike has no adults to turn to. He must survive on his own, and stand up against those who are supposed to be protecting him. All in all, this is one of my favourite books in the Goosebumps series.

Nostalgic Re-Reads – Goosebumps by R.L. Stine (Say Cheese and Die, The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, Let’s Get Invisible)

Title: Goosebumps #4: Say Cheese and Die

Rating: * *

GB 4 - Say Cheese and Die

Say Cheese and Die is certainly creepy, but it suffers from some weak writing choices. In this story, Greg and his friends find a mysterious camera hidden in an abandoned home. Greg figures out pretty quickly that the camera takes photos of horrible future events, but the rest of his friends refuse to believe him and want to use the camera at a party. When one of their closest friends disappears after her photo is taken, Greg tries to take the camera back to its hiding place. There he is cornered by the man who has been guarding the camera for years. In a fight to escape, the camera accidentally goes off and takes a photo of the man, resulting in him dying in fear over what it would show. Greg stashes the camera back in its hiding place, but the book ends with two new kids finding the evil device.

The characters in this novel are dumb as empty film canisters, and the story itself is rather silly when you think about it. However, as a children’s horror book, as long as your suspension of disbelief is high, it can offer the reader a fair number of chills and gasps. The fact that terrible futures in the photos often did not happen instantaneously added to the suspense, though most of the time I was distracted by the desire to throttle the kids for all being so thoughtless.


Title: Goosebumps #5: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb

Rating: * *

GB 5 - The Curse of the Mummy's Tomb

Gabe and Sari are the luckiest twelve year olds alive when their Uncle Ben decides to take them into an Egyptian pyramid dig. However, the archaeology project is plagued with problems that may be related to an ancient curse placed on the burial site. While Uncle Ben is trying to figure out exactly what is going on, Gabe gets separated from his uncle and Sari, and stumbles into a mummy making chamber that has been in use more recently than 4000 years ago. As it turns out, one of the men working the dig is actually a member of an ancient group of people who promised to protect this tomb, and this man tries to mummify Gabe and his family in punishment for disturbing the sanctity of the priestess’ chambers. However, Gabe just so happens to have a mummy hand that can summon mummies, and he calls upon its power so that he and his family can escape in the nick of time!

One thing I really have to commend this book for was the fact that it seems as if all the protagonists are racialised (Gabe and his family are originally from Egypt, and his uncle has a Middle Eastern name). Normally, I would have been incredibly uncomfortable to read about a bunch of white, American researchers getting threatened by traditionalist Arabic people, but in this case it was the slightly less problematic combination of “modern” Arabic people from the US being bothered by traditionalists from the old country. Still an issue, but not nearly as terrible as it could have been, and it is certainly pretty awesome to see that within the first five books of the series, R.L. Stine was diversifying his characters.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t actually make all that much sense. Gabe saves the day with a magical artefact that he bought at an American garage sale, and no one, including Uncle Ben the scientist, seems to have a problem with this. This was a text book deux ex machina ending, and readers didn’t even get a twist to end the story with!


Title: Goosebumps #6: Let’s Get Invisible

Rating: * *

GB 6 - Let's Get Invisible

In Let’s Get Invisible, Max and his friends discover a creepy, magic mirror that can turn you invisible. However, the longer you stay invisible, the colder you feel, and the farther away from reality you seem to get. When Max suggests they stop after realising that playing with the mirror might actually get them all hurt, his friends protest and refuse. After a couple of particularly long periods of invisibility, some of them come back different. Max can’t quite put his finger on it, but his friends are no longer really his friends. This becomes blatantly apparent when they force him to go invisible and make him stay that way for as long as possible. Soon he finds himself transported into the mirror where his mirror double attempts to switch places with him forever!

Like Say Cheese and Die, Let’s Get Invisible is scary in the sense that the mirror represents this strange, evil, malevolent force, but the characters themselves aren’t particularly bright. While kids often respond to risk differently from adults, it feels as if this particular group of kids have a risk threshold that could earn them a Darwin award. As cool as invisibility is, I don’t think I would risk the strange, chilling, sleepy effects of the mirror. On the other hand, I am an adult, and have always been pretty risk adverse, even as a child. So despite the fact that these kids were acting rather silly, the mirror is a very frightening antagonist.

Review – The Elite by Kiera Cass

Title: The Elite

Authors: Kiera Cass

Star Rating: * *

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Dystopia

Cover - The Elite

 

Synopsis

In The Selection, America Singer was chosen as one of 35 young women all competing to win the heart of Prince Maxon. However, her heart was still yearning for Aspen, the boy she thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with. Instead, America finds herself immersed in political controversies and catty women, all for a prize that she doesn’t even want. The Elite picks up when there are only six women left, and Maxon is pressuring America to finally decide whether she is ready to commit to him. Can she let go of Aspen and accept the responsibility of becoming a queen? Or are the savage realities of being a royal just too much for America to handle?

Continue reading

RRRs 3 – YA Dystopias

My “what I’ve read” versus “what I’ve written about” piles are completely out of balance again, so it’s time for another RRR (rapid response review)! Today’s theme comes from one of my current literary obsessions: YA dystopias.

1.       The Eleventh Plague – Jeff Hirsch

Cover - The Eleventh Plague

Star Rating: * *

The Eleventh Plague is about a world destroyed, not surprisingly, by plague, and the remaining people are scavengers just trying to survive. At the start of the novel, Stephen must suddenly fend for himself after his grandfather dies and his father is badly injured during an accident. He joins up with group of strangers who take him to a hidden town that has managed to maintain some semblance of order and safety. However, this isolated village is not as perfect as it seems, and Stephen begins to wonder if he’d be safer on his own.

The main problem with The Eleventh Plague is that it is boring. Books don’t need constant action to be interesting, but they must have some believable tension. Hirsch was trying to portray a very insular community where freedoms were restricted in order to ensure social cohesion, but the stakes never seemed that high. The expectations were pretty low (contribute and don’t be disruptive), and readers were only given one example of a family being banished.  Additionally, an adopted Chinese teenager named Julie lived in the town, and she faced mistrust and racism from the community, but not nearly as much as I would have expected given the fact that China unleased the plague. Julie refused to participate in community functioning, and caused a lot of havoc and disharmony by fighting. However, the town let her skip school and do her own thing most of the time. She faced little punishment for her indiscretions, and this is surprising as I would assume that fear and distrust could cause people to react violently to a person that they see as an enemy. Many authors have used isolated villages to really explore the horror of human emotions under pressure, but The Eleventh Plague only brushed the surface of human depravity. For a dystopia, it was pretty lightweight, and there are a lot of better books that deal with the subject in a more nuanced and in-depth manner.

2.       The Fifth Wave – Rick Yancey

Cover - The Fifth Wave

Star Rating: * * *

The Fifth Wave has received a lot of hype this past year, and while it is certainly not one of the best novels that I have ever read, I thought it was quite enjoyable. The story is about an alien species trying to kill off the human race through waves of different attacks. First came the destruction of our technology, then a series of tsunamis that wiped out the coastal regions, followed by a devastating plague, and finally the revelation that some of the aliens had been living among us all along and were quite happy to start killing the remaining humans. Now only a scattered few people remain, clinging to the hope that the government can protect them as they wait for the start of an unknown fifth wave…

My one major complaint about this book was that I really didn’t like the perspective changes. For a good hundred pages, readers follow Cassie, a teenage girl who has managed to survive the first several waves. Then the narrative shifts to Zombie, a teenage boy’s perspective, without any warning. Not only was this transition too abrupt, I wanted more Cassie! Subjectively, I found her more interesting than Zombie and his crew, despite the fact that his plot was essential for the book as a whole. Those who like Ender’s Game, on the other hand, will probably love Zombie’s segments of the book.

Overall, The Fifth Wave was an entertaining read with lots of action sequences and good characters. The plot is a bit stereotypical, but the author manages to keep things interesting regardless.

3.       All Our Yesterdays – Christin Terrill

Cover - All Our Yesterdays

Star Rating: * *

All Our Yesterdays is an overly-promoted YA dystopia that left me disappointed. It is a very exciting and fast-paced book, but it also doesn’t make any sense. The narrative is told from the perspective of one character during two different periods of her life. Em is a young woman kept captive and tortured by an evil scientist, and she and her lover must travel back in time to ensure that this terrible future never occurs. Marina, on the other hand, is a normal teenage girl who has fallen in love with her childhood friend and just wants a happy ending. Marina’s crush is a brilliant young man who graduated early and is already conducting experimental research at a top university. He is, of course, the evil scientist from the future who has invented time travel and remade the world into a terrible place because of the pain that he has suffered after his family died.

The plot of this story is not particularly unique, and the world-building does little to set this novel apart from other dystopias. Readers know that the future is bad, but the author doesn’t give very many details as to what this terrible new world looks like. The characters aren’t particularly compelling, and I often found myself frustrated with them. For example, Em knows that she absolutely must kill James, but despite having several opportunities to do so, she keeps avoiding taking this final step. While I do accept that killing people is something that most people are going to struggle with, this is a person that Em knows will torture her and her loved ones in the future. Her hesitancy is questionable if the future is as bad as she claims that it is. Furthermore, her younger self, Marina, is a terribly valid and insipid character. Her life is centered around her crush on James, and this informs basically every action that she takes. She has few positive characteristics to endear her to readers, and generally acts like a silly, flighty, often mean-spirited brat. She is certainly not the worst character in terms of attitude, but I didn’t find her very interesting or enjoyable to follow. Being that I liked neither her nor Em, it was hard to really get into the story, and the plot inconsistencies involving time travel made my heart hurt. This is definitely not a book on my recommend pile.

4.       Fallen World Series: The Way We Fall and The Lives We Lost – Megan Crewe

Cover - The Way We Fall Cover - The Lives We Lost

Star Rating: * * * / * *

The Way We Fall is a plague-based dystopia set in Canada. Since I am Canadian and I really like medical-based thrillers, this book won a lot of points from me just for existing. The story involves a teenage girl, Kaelyn, who lives on an island that is beset by a strange flu that causes people to slowly lose their inhibitions and eventually die while suffering terrible hallucinations. The island gets cut off from the mainland, and society begins to crumble as more and more people become ill. Kaelyn’s father is a research doctor and he is working frantically to figure out what is going on, but with food becoming scarce and families being torn apart by disease, someone needs to set up and try to maintain order in the town. Kaelyn and several other teens take on this task, praying that the mainland will come to save them soon.

Kaelyn’s story is told through journal entries that she is writing to a friend that she has had a falling out with. I found this to be an excellent frame for the plot since it allowed Kaelyn time to reflect on what was happening before she told her story, and the format mirrors the desire that many people have to “communicate” with someone even when they are no longer part of one’s life.

The Lives We Lost begins with the island re-establishing contact with the mainland. The characters find out that the plague made it to the rest of the world, causing mass devastation. Now Kaelyn and her friends must take the vaccine that her father prepared to a group of scientists in Ontario.

Unfortunately, this second book of the Fallen World series was a lot weaker than the first. While I do appreciate it when YA protagonists are allowed to act like young adults, I found that most of the characters were irritatingly obtuse. For example, when Kaelyn finds the vaccine, she decides that she must deliver it to other scientists as soon as possible because the vaccine must be kept at a particular temperature and she is worried that the generators on the island will fail. Being that I have to take a temperature-controlled medication myself, I know how nerve-wracking it can be to have to protect your meds in less-than-perfect situations. However, the last thing in the world that I would do with my medication is to take it on a long hike in a Canadian winter because, at least in Ontario where Kaelyn ends up, the temperatures can easily dip below -30C. There is no way in hell that a vaccine would survive a trip like the one she took, and this was only one of the flaws that I found in the mechanics of the plot. I will be reading the third book in the series because now I feel invested in seeing what happens to the world, and I am really hoping that this final installment improves.

5.       Life as We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer

Cover - Life as We Knew It

Star Rating: * * * *

Life as We Knew It remains one of the most affecting YA dystopias that I’ve read all year. It’s about a world where the moon has shifted orbit due to an asteroid crashing into it, resulting in the climate changing dramatically, and humanity is now struggling to survive. The book is told through the eyes of Miranda, a high school age teenager living in a small town with her family. Her mother is smart enough to recognise the first signs of trouble, and she makes sure that her family has enough supplies to support themselves while the world crumbles around them. Canned goods, however, don’t last forever, and illness and injury are things that your average North American family can’t always handle on their own. The group starts to struggle as it becomes more and more apparent that there isn’t a government left to save them and hard choices must be made.

The only thing that really bothered me in Life as We Knew It was the fact that Miranda’s family was so worried about ensuring that her youngest brother would survive. It is true that many people try to protect the most vulnerable around them, but the explanation given by the family was that Jon was the most likely to survive the apocalypse, so all the family resources should be focused on him. Jon, however, was 12. Miranda was 15-16 years old, and Matt was around 19 years old. These older teens were more likely to be able to take care of themselves and survive than the kid who still needed a babysitter before the world ended. This “feed Jon at all costs and let everyone else die” wasn’t a story-breaking issue, but it did irk me that the rest of the characters were so ready to sacrifice themselves so stupidly.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that I really enjoyed this book, the rest of the series is not something that I want to read. The perspective changes multiple times, and the characters develop into people that I don’t particularly like. So for those going forward with Pfeffer’s novels, you might have to check out a few plot synopses first.

Review – After Dead by Charlaine Harris

Title: After Dead: What Came Next in the World of Sookie Stackhouse

Author: Charlaine Harris

Star Rating: * *

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Cover - After Dead

After Dead was a very strange and unfulfilling follow up to the Sookie Stackhouse universe. Harris writes short (often only a sentence or two long) notes on what happened to the different characters after book 13. However, many of the included characters are minor, forgettable people that readers probably don’t really care about, and several of the more popular characters suffered through very unfortunate lives. Not to suggest that events like heart attacks or divorces don’t happen, but for readers, it is really unpleasant to have your last look at a series be tainted by unhappy events that did not have the benefit of build-up or denouement.

I finished After Dead without feeling as if it had added positively to my experience of the series. If Harris was going to write something like this, I would have preferred to see longer stories about the main characters with more than just tiny hints about significant events in their lives.

I also expect that Harris may be teasing readers with future possible stories (involving Barry, Quinn, other people listed as having adventures that were unspecified), and this was annoying. After all, if we never get these stories, then some of the more interesting characters were left unexplored.

In any case, this is a book for only the most diehard of fans. It’s very short, takes under a half hour to read, and is oddly melancholy.