Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
Girl in the Blue Coat
Defy the Stars

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Upon first receiving my books, I was immediately struck by how different they seemed to be (as seems to be the theme amongst these pairings). I worried about the challenges that this may have provided in choosing a winner, knowing how partial I can be to particular styles & genres. However, the challenge ended up being much less than I anticipated - I was able to settle on a clear winner right away.

The first, Shine by Lauren Myracle is a dramatic coming-of-age tale, set in a sleepy Southern town, wrought with all the token ailments one would expect of it - bigotry, misogyny & drastic socio-economic gaps among them. The central conflict is sparked by a violent hate crime victimizing a gay teenager in the town, providing Myracle with a valuable platform to explore an important humanitarian issue. Aside from occasional, varying glimpses into the reactions of the townspeople, however, she eschews the political for the more sensational & creates an almost noir-esque pulp detective novel, wrought with mysterious alibis & red herrings. Cat, the damaged protagonist, leaves no stone unturned as she searches for justice, discovers her true self, & of course, falls in love with a handsome, green-eyed co-ed from the nearby college. I found Shine to be far more emotional & predictable than enlightening. It is much more about the narrative than the circumstances. Perhaps treating the social aspects so flipantly was more intentional on her part than I picked up on, but nonetheless, it fell a bit short for me. It was an easy & relatively compelling read – something I would certainly recommend picking up casually, but perhaps not one I would recommend investing considerable amounts of time, energy or money into.

In contrast, Manga Man, a joint literary/artistic effort by Barry Lyga & Colleen Doran focuses on sociological politics under a completely different light. Although I had a difficult time with the artistic busy-ness at first (the panels are jam-packed, occasionally overwhelmingly so), the concept is charming & original. As a result of a supernatural rip in his universe, anime character Ryoko is dropped, unaware & unprepared, into an alternate, American-style comic book universe. As Ryoko navigates his new surroundings, shocks classmates with his animated idiosyncrasies (his eyes turning into hearts at the sight of a pretty girl, rain clouds spoiling surrounding fabric when he’s upset, speed lines crashing to the ground when he runs… the list goes on…) & falls in love with the beautiful, blond, adventurous Marissa, Lyga & Doran playfully explore the conventions of the comic genre. Although far from a manga fan, I was delighted by the spirited references & entertained by the clever use of artwork. Additionally, there were tonnes of little details could potentially open themselves up for some great discussion! 

With all of that said (phew!) I feel confident in recommending Manga Man to continue on to the next round. Enjoy!


  1. Sounds like Shine would be a beach read. I look forward to spending some time with Manga Man at some point and exploring the images! Arlene

  2. There was a lot of hoopla about Shine after it inadvertently was named the National Book Award winner when it was meant to be "Chime" and not "Shine" and I liked the ground it was to cover...I think I'm still in to read it but I love Lyga too.

  3. I've read it now and completely agree with you. It was my Mother Daughter book club pick and it is exactly what you said it was. Easy, sensational rather than thoughtful. It could have been both and I wish it had been.