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review 2018-04-19 18:11
I Am Here! (manga, vol. 2) by Ema Toyama, translated by Joshua Weeks
I Am Here! Omnibus Vol. 02 - 遠山 えま,Ema Tōyama

The first omnibus volume introduced Hikage, Hinata, and Teru. Hikage starts off practically invisible to everyone around her except Hinata and Teru. In the first volume, we learned that Hinata has a crush on Hikage. Hinata's jealous fans - one girl in particular - start bullying Hikage for spending too much time with him. In the end she's able to stand up to them.

Whereas the first omnibus volume was focused more on Hikage and her efforts to make friends, this omnibus volume was focused more on Hinata and Teru and the mystery of Black Rabbit's identity. Hikage is convinced that Hinata is Black Rabbit, a possibility that's initially appealing but then fills her with horror and embarrassment. Black Rabbit is her kindest and most supportive online friend. If Hinata is Black Rabbit, that could mean that her "friend" was really laughing about her behind her back as he was encouraging her to talk to him more. Hinata keeps denying that he's Black Rabbit, but he's clearly hiding something.

Things become even more difficult for Hikage when Teru realizes that he has a crush on Hikage too and the two best friends, Hinata and Teru, ask her to choose between them. While Hikage tries to figure out what to do, the wedge between Hinata and Teru starts to tear their entire class in two.

I felt so-so about the first omnibus volume, but since this series is so short I felt like I should finish it anyway. This final omnibus had some parts I liked and some I loathed.

I liked the closer look at Hinata and Teru's friendship. Now that I know Black Rabbit's secret (which I didn't clue into while reading the first volume but figured out a few pages into this one), I have a different perspective on what was going on between Hinata and Teru in the first half of the series. The first half of this volume, when Hinata and Teru were still actively trying to make sure that whatever each of them might be feeling for Hikage didn't hurt their friendship, was fine. Unfortunately, it fell apart when the love triangle reared its ugly head.

I hated the love triangle. Once Teru realized that he was in love with Hikage, his and Hinata's relationship devolved into a competition over Hikage. Teru was a liar, too - he'd say that he didn't want to make things difficult for Hikage, but then he'd explicitly ask her to choose between him and Hinata. Since Hinata and Teru's friendship turned out to be the glue that held the entire class together, asking Hinata to choose meant she'd also be responsible for the class group breaking in half, a fact that her fellow classmates picked up on right away (and almost piled on her for). Hikage found herself at risk of not only losing her budding romantic relationship and all her friendships and budding friendships, all because of this stupid love triangle.

The love triangle resolved itself less painfully for the characters than I expected, but that was mostly because Toyama allowed the tension between Hinata and Teru to just sort of magically evaporate. Some aspects of the love triangle never quite went away, despite Hikage making her choice, which left me wondering whether the issue had really been resolved. I suppose it could morph into an inside joke shared by all three of the characters...

In addition to the love triangle, I also hated that the bullying storyline came back, with the exact same bully. Even though her previous plans resulted in her own public humiliation, Aya decided to jump back into the fray with new plans...that could easily be traced back to her and used to humiliate her a second time. Because this is supposed to be fluffy shojo starring a super-sweet heroine, instead of humiliation Aya got an apology, a smile, and an encouraging speech.

Meanwhile, I'm the horrible person who thinks that there was nothing for Hikage to apologize for. Aya was in the wrong for thinking that Hinata was supposed to be some kind of untouchable idol and trying to keep others away from him. She was also in the wrong for bullying Hikage for getting close to him. She made it worse by impersonating several people in the love triangle to further screw up everyone's relationships, all so she could win over a guy who'd already made it clear he wasn't interested in her.

On the plus side, I was glad that Hikage's online relationships didn't quite work out the way I originally thought they were going to. It wasn't as neat and tidy as "Black Rabbit is this person from Hikage's offline life and Mega Pig is that person," and I liked the recognition that the way people interact with others online might not always match how they interact with them in person. So there's that. (And yes, characters could use their flip phones to post comments on Hikage's blog. They do it on-page in this volume, answering the question I had back while I was reading the first volume.)

I didn't hate this series, but this half of it was definitely weaker than the first half, and the first half was mediocre. Parts of the series were stronger than I expected, but the bullying storyline and the love triangle were both annoying. If ever there was a series that I wish had completely ditched its romance aspect and just focused on friendship, it's this one. I was more than a bit horrified when Hikage examined her feelings for Hinata and Teru and began to lean towards the "romantic relationships are more important than friendships" answer. The series didn't quite work out that way, but I still wasn't a fan of how Toyama handled things.

Extras:

The volume includes several author sidebars featuring a not-particularly-interesting comic series starring Mega Pig (the actual cartoon animal) and Mahi (the sunflower character), character profiles for Hikage, Hinata, and Teru, a short comic starring fourth-grade Hinata and Teru, a few pages of humorous short comics, and a few pages of translator's notes. There's also a bonus comic starring Mega Pig (his offline self), which was kind of cute and tied up a few loose ends from the main series.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-03-25 05:56
Honestly, Ben (Openly Straight #2) (Audiobook)
Honestly Ben - Bill Konigsberg

I liked so much about this book. I liked Ben in the first book and was happy to get his POV and get to know him more intimately. He's an introvert, and has a lot of hang ups because of his fun sucker dad who is king of repression. This book really focuses on why Ben feels the need to please everyone and why he's got so many issues speaking up and taking a stand for what he believes in - or even just figuring out what those beliefs are. So all of that was good, and while some things were left open ended, it didn't feel like a cliffhanger.

 

What I didn't like as much was Ben going GFY for Rafe. I can't even really say that this improves on the GFY trope since there is extensive talk about bisexuality, but Ben is very adamant about not being bi, which would be fine if that was all that was going on here. People are free to pick their own labels. But Rafe makes jokes several times about bi just being a transition phase to gay. Even though he says at one point that he doesn't really believe that, he still mentions it again several times, and Ben's understanding of bisexuality is rather lacking as well since it doesn't address those who would fall under the twos or fives under the Kinsey scale. So yeah, still not good bi representation, and Rafe came across as kind of a jerk when he couldn't give Ben the space and time he needed to figure things out on his own.

 

I can't speak one way or another if Toby being gender fluid was handled well or not. It's not a concept I understand much at all, and I can't say that this helped educate me in any way. I guess I don't see how wearing makeup and skirts can make a male character female. Because I never wear makeup or skirts, but I'm still a woman. I don't do anything particularly feminine at all but that doesn't make me not female. So gender fluidity doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, sorry. I understand wanting to buck gender *roles* but I don't think that's quite what gender fluidity is about, but perhaps I'm wrong. I admit complete ignorance about this concept, but I'm more than open to learning or trying to learn. I did try looking for reviews on GR, hoping to find some written by gender fluid reviewers talking about that aspect, but I didn't find much of anything.

 

Oh, and there's a throwaway line by someone else saying they think Albie is ace. That's not ace representation, sorry. Zero points for that.

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review 2018-03-15 00:55
I wanted to love this
Buffy: The High School Years--Freaks & Geeks - Joss Whedon,Faith Erin Hicks,Yishan Li

I'd heard great things about the author, and I went into this knowing I'd hate the art, because I'd seen this in paper.   But it was on sale for one dollar, and I figured why not?  

 

Unfortunately the art killed a lot of this for me.  It's not the manga style, even with characters I know.   Manga art can be amazing.   This particular art just didn't do it for me, and was quite frankly not the best, even with understanding how manga art differs from Western art. 

 

This would play better if it didn't feel a little like some episodes; the question of whether or not teen outsiders, and those who had been done wrong, have been dealt with in the series, in a more nuanced way in my opinion.   The friends flipping on each other felt like that episode where Buffy's once-upon-a-time bestie male friend came from out of town, too.   

 

So, yeah, not as impressed as I thought I'd be.  I was hoping for more, but glad to finally read this series and get a sense of what it was.

 

 

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review 2018-03-13 02:13
Ever After High: Next Top Villain (A School Story) - Suzanne Selfors

 

For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

I put off starting this series for so long, because I was nervous how it would stack up against Shannon Hale's book series (which I loved). I finally broke down and got a copy from the library.

I was not disappointed.

This is a very well-written book. A unique struggle, characters true to the show, and all of the hexellent puns. Very well done.

I really liked that this was a new storyline that was not specifically seen in the show, but still fit into the overall Ever After High universe. The book itself is beautiful and I enjoyed learning more about the characters of Ever After High.

I just ordered the first boxed set of the series. Can't wait to continue reading Selfors' take on the students and their happily ever afters.

 

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review 2018-03-08 03:54
Boy Meets Boy (Audiobook)
Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan

Why would anyone eat a lentil burger? What is wrong with you people? That is taking vegetarianism way too far!

 

 

But that disturbing moment aside, this was a fun listen. I liked the full cast production, they went into audio play territory, with sound effects, songs and all that jazz. The cast was great, though I was confused at times when Noah or Paul were talking. Not sure why they'd pick two guys who sound so much alike for those roles.

 

This was pretty much Teen Melodrama and Teen Angst, but peppered with enough humor to make the melodrama and angst more palatable (unlike lentils). I have a feeling that if I'd read this instead of listened to it, though, I wouldn't have liked it near as much.

 

It was a little too much "ultra liberal paradise" to be believable but I just started thinking of it as a fantasy/AU after awhile. (Cheerleading squad that rides choppers? Who's paying for that?) I also wanted to smack Paul on several occasions, especially when he's complaining about having no one to talk about his problems. I mean, I know he's a teen but dude, your parents??? That's kind of what they're there for.

 

I liked Noah and Paul and Tony and even Kevin after awhile. I wanted to like Joanie more but her character does this thing and since the story just sort of ends without resolving said things, I'm kind of left waffling on her. Infinite Darlene was a hoot, a real scene stealer.

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