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Adult Books 4 Teens
Inside Adult Books 4 Teens

The Real Horror Lies Within

from graphic novel blogger Francisca Goldsmith:

The appeal to many teen readers of horror as a genre is sometimes ascribed to many finding it relevant to the physical changes they undergo: increasing size and morphing body shapes taken to the extreme, new powers run amok.  This week’s reviewed graphic novels go far in pointing up a very different—and at least as appealing—aspect of horror teens might be locating: the real horror that happens in the maturing brain and sense of individual identity, and with these, the dawning of ethics and the realization that a sense of guilt, rather than one of shame, can become a familiar.

Horror at the movies, in this age of sophisticated special effects, may be flattened to the visually disturbing or shocking, and comes announced by music we all recognize as the harbinger of bad events.  Bradbury through Wimberley’s images and scripting, and Sala’s descendent of Frankenstein have some visually scary scenes, but none that shocks.  The horror in these tales instead is that the reader recognizes him- or herself as being just as capable of making wrong decisions that lead to bad ends for others as do the characters.  Both books lead the reader to that precipice in which the wrong decision will be made and the decider will regret, not because he loses money or status, but because his decision will lead to another—perhaps many others—physical and emotional pain.

And that realization, grim as it may be, is as part and parcel of maturing as are newly sized body parts and hormonal blasts.

SALA, Richard. The Hidden. illus. by author. 134p. Fantagraphics. 2011. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-1-60699-386-6. LC number unavailable.  The Hidden

Adult/High School–Sala creates stories in which brightly colored, cartoony art and characters who speak in casual idiom tell of events that aren’t so much humorous or casual as provocative and scary. In this outing, he combines motifs of a postapocalyptic landscape, wanderers, some vampiric businessmen, and, ultimately, Dr. Frankenstein. The stew works perfectly: readers have no chance to engage in incredulity as Tom and Colleen, returning to a destroyed and barren place after a camping trip, stumble across an amnesiac man and slowly tell his story. Characters are introduced at a steady but manageable pace, and it is only at story’s end that the opening pages become horrifyingly clear. Sala works with a full palette of beautiful, gemlike hues held in generous panels. Even the monsters have individuated faces, which only ramps up the horror. Blood, violent clashes, and moments of nicely ironic bad behavior are depicted, but everyone’s clothes remain on and, in the final horror, even Colleen can’t keep up her tough-girl banter.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA

WIMBERLY, Ron, adapt. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes. illus. by adapt. 130p. Hill & Wang. 2011. pap. $15.95. ISBN 978-0-8090-8044-1. LC 2011005177.  Something Wicked This Way Comes

Adult/High School–Science-fiction novelist, short-story writer, and film-script author, Bradbury has assisted in the rebirth of several of his most famous tales into graphic-novel form. In expressive black and white, Wimberly’s interpretation of the death of innocence by means of a nightmarish encounter with a traveling circus is among the most successful. Bradbury’s pacing and subtle but accessible emotional portraits of two boys discovering their limits of honor and goodness are maintained while the images offer horror-inducing perspectives as well as the necessary counter of mundane small-town life. Fine use of panel arrangements expands upon the properties of story telling by showing simultaneous events to be exactly such, while the facelessness of crowds points up the poignant individuality of Will, Jim, Will’s father, and the villainous Illustrated Man. Whether teens have read the original or not, this version stands them in good stead as the platform from which to gaze into their own selves with the questions Will sadly learns to answer: Can one truly do the right things always, or are we bound to fail others by nature of our humanity and ability to see our faults critically?–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA

Angela Carstensen About Angela Carstensen

Angela Carstensen is Head Librarian and an Upper School Librarian at Convent of the Sacred Heart in New York City. Angela served on the Alex Awards committee for four years, chairing the 2008 committee, and chaired the first YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adult committee in 2009. Recently, she edited Outstanding Books for the College Bound: Titles and Programs for a New Generation (ALA Editions, 2011). Contact her via Twitter @AngeReads.