Stack Overflow

Stack Overflow: Short Stack

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I’ve got a short stack for you today, as I’m still in the middle of reading Redemptor, but I did read a couple of comics in between.

InvestiGATORS: Ants in Our P.A.N.T.S.

InvestiGATORS: Ants in Our P.A.N.T.S. by John Green

This is the fourth book in the InvestiGATORS series and is due out the end of this month. My 8-year-old is extremely into these books, which feature lots of puns and visual gags, as well as just a lot of silliness. In this latest title, Brash is still in a coma, so RoboBrash is filling in for him—but there seem to be gaps in his memory, perhaps due to things that Brash had blocked out in his own mind before his memories were copied over into the robot. There are also, of course, some giant ants, an astronaut musician villain, and another clothing-based acronym.

Although there’s a lot of silliness in these stories, there are some serious lessons as well. This story involves some characters struggling to find forgiveness—for themselves and for others—and there’s also a surprising outcome for something that I had been expecting because of the previous book. But, no spoilers for now! If you like secret agents and groan-worthy puns, this will be right up your alley … gator.

Delicates

Delicates by Brenna Thummler

I picked up a copy of Sheets a few years back after Mariana reviewed it. It’s about Marjorie, a young girl who’s pretty much running the family laundromat after her mother’s death, combined with middle school drama and the creepy guy who wants to buy the property to turn it into a spa. Oh, and there are ghosts, too, living in their own ghost town and abiding by their own sets of rules and rituals—and eventually these two worlds collide.

Delicates is a sequel. The laundromat is doing pretty well, though Marjorie has still kept the ghosts a secret, especially after hearing the kids she hangs out with mock the idea of ghosts. Eliza Duncan, on the other hand, is totally into ghosts and has been trying to capture them on film. She’s socially awkward and the other kids are pretty mean to her; Marjorie feels bad, but she’s finally been accepted by a group of kids and is afraid to rock the boat. There are definitely some weighty subjects here, including bullying and suicidal thoughts, but they’re treated with sensitivity and care. Ultimately it’s about the ways that both girls figure out how to be themselves.

The book has a slower pace: there are pages with no dialogue that help to create a particular mood or to dwell on a particular moment. The book doesn’t use any black lines, but has a dark blue instead, giving the whole thing a sort of muted, toned-down feel that fits the story. Although there are definitely moments of conflict, overall it’s more contemplative than action-packed, which helps it gradually build up layers of the feelings that the kids are experiencing. It’s an excellent read, geared more toward middle school and up.

Bubble

Bubble by Jordan Morris, Sarah Morgan, Tony Cliff, and Natalie Riess

This comic is based on the scripted fiction podcast of the same name, though I hadn’t heard of it before I read the book, and so I don’t know how closely the book follows the podcast. Morgan lives in Fairhaven, a city inside a walled bubble where hipsters go about their daily gig-economy chores as if the world outside isn’t a bizarre alien wasteland filled with dangerous creatures. Morgan grew up outside the bubble, and she’s very good at killing imps (the generic term for all of the critters), a side hustle that helps supplement her daytime desk job. But then her employer launches Huntr, an app for imp-hunters, and now Morgan has to deal with ratings and taking selfies with her customers.

It’s a hilarious send-up of our modern society, where first-world problems are side-by-side with life-and-death scenarios. Tony Cliff is also the creator of the Delilah Dirk series, and he’s great at drawing action sequences with a good dose of humor, so it’s a great fit for this story. And, of course, what dystopian story would be complete without some corporate overreach and shenanigans? Bubble is clever and sharp, and—just like the characters in the book—you’ll have something to laugh at while the world falls apart around you.

Blood Like Magic

Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury

This one’s a young adult novel—it’s about witches and magic, but it’s also set in Toronto in the distant future, where gene-modification has become commonplace (for those wealthy enough to afford it, at least) and internet-enabled tech is embedded in everything—including “hijacker chips” that let people control a lot of things with their brain. (Granny still insists on Googling things on her phone, of course.) The story focuses on Voya Thomas, a young Black witch who has just received her Calling, a trial of sorts given by an ancestor that she must pass in order to gain magical powers and her particular gift. She’s been waiting for this moment for years, hoping that her gift will give her a sense of direction for her future, but her Calling doesn’t follow the typical rules of making a choice: instead, the ancestor that appears tells her she must find and destroy her first love—and the stakes are higher than just her own magic, too.

Voya has about a month to complete her task, which is made all the harder by the fact that she doesn’t even have a “first love,” though she’s been genetically matched to the incredibly annoying Luc, whom she met briefly at a NuGene internship info session. Can she fall in love with him, and then kill him? And is that what her task even means?

The book is pretty fascinating, both in the world that Sambury has created for her magical families—there are, of course, lots of rules and traditions and rituals involved. Aside from the in-depth look at Voya’s own family, we also see glimpses of how some of the other magical families operate. The book is both about the magical community and the Black community, which overlap and intersect in different ways. Voya loves to cook, and throughout the book we also get descriptions of various dishes that she’s making, whether for her family or for a competition she enters. It’s a book about huge, important decisions given to a girl who is prone to analysis paralysis, and it’s about family, both past and present. I really enjoyed spending some time in this world that is so different from my own, and the story went in some directions I wasn’t expecting.

Disclosure: I received review copies of these books. Affiliate links to Bookshop.org help support my writing and independent bookstores.

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