Thursday, July 28, 2011


Punk 101

Punk is a catchall title that covers subgenres widely ranging from Ramonescore to Grindcore to Queercore, and is hotly debated by its listeners, whether or not they live one "punk" lifestyle or another - and again, there are many. With punk being so hard to pin down, it should come as no surprise that while these two teen books both caught my eye for their otensible punk theme, they are wildly different.

So Punk Rock
by Micol Ostow

ISBN: 9780738714714

Ari is a serious music lover, and also in dire need of some cool points, especially since his best friend Jonas is one of those effortlessly charismatic types who overshadows him at every turn. In pursuit of rock stardom, they drag in a few other classmates along the way, act like jerks to each other at times, and of course, learn a few valuable lessons by the end - but not too much of the lesson stuff.

Ari also attends a Jewish day school with his friends, and references to their shared culture abound, from co-opting the term "kosher" to mean cool to mentions of bar mitzvahs, bagels, bubelehs, and the like. It's great fun, and makes the character come to life even as he pokes fun at his own stereotypical family and school settings.

The short graphic interludes and notebook drawings add another dimension to the novel and the character, and introduce David Ostow's art, as well. A great pick for a reluctant reader or a teen who wants some funny in a light, music-themed read.

Mosh Pit
by Kristyn Dunnion
Red Deer Press
ISBN: 9780889952928

Simone, a young lesbian punk is at the centre of this rough, raw story of living on the edge. She has a lingering loyalty to Cherry, her self-destructive, addicted best friend who she is in love with, despite her manipulation and recent alliance with a nasty, violent dealer. She is at the same time falling for Carol, a streetsmart tranny with a heart of gold, who also happens to be wise enough to know that Simone has a long way to go to be ready for a real relationship with her.

Simone does has a circle of tight friends like Hardcore Hank, Velvetine, and Diesel, who all help her at the worst times, including after she is badly beaten by a cop, and want the best for her. In the end, they save her and help her find a way back to okay after a horrific run-in with Cherry and her psycho boyfriend that nearly has her and her friend's little niece killed in a park. Seriously.

This is most emphatically not a book for the faint of heart, but a reader looking for a gritty read about offbeat characters that you can root for will find plenty of friendship and violence in equal measure here.

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Friday, July 22, 2011


Emily the Strange: Stranger and Stranger

by Rob Reger and Buzz Parker

I've always kind of loved Emily the Strange... but until not that long ago, she was mostly a vague character to me. The new series of half-graph novels/diaries are delving further into the world and mind of Emily, and giving me a whole new appreciation. Being based on an already-successful character, these didn't have to be great to sell - but they are pretty darn good, to be honest. Way better than they have to be, which is a real treat to find!

This second installment is not quite as great as the first (my review of The Lost Days here), but still interesting and as amusingly twisted as you could hope for. This time, Emily successfully duplicates herself, only to find her mother initially unreceptive to this new twin, and soon enough, she isn't feeling so keen on the idea anymore either, as she discovers that this twin is more EvilMe than Emily, and has not only stolen her dark side, but her skating skills! She seeks help from her neighbour, a former spy trainer, and eventually hatches a plan to get rid of the twin and regain what she's lost...

As with The Lost Days, the book is funny, and Emily has unexpected cool little quirks that make her even more awesome. Definitely a worthwhile read, even for those who are not hardcore fans of the Strange!

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