Review: You Brought Me the Ocean by Alex Sandchez and Jul Maroh

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Jake Hyde doesn’t swim—not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe.
There’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future—not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.
But Jake is full of secrets, including the strange blue markings on his skin that glow when in contact with water. What power will he find when he searches for his identity, and will he turn his back to the current or dive headfirst into the waves? 

I’m here with my first ever DC graphic novel and I am so happy about it. My boyfriend Mark bought me this and Shadow of the Batgirl for me for Christmas and I was so excited to pick this up. Once I did, I couldn’t put this down and I sped through this in an evening. It is a stunning book with an absolutely beautiful muted, blue colour pallette that showcases Jake’s ability perfectly.

This book was so emotional, diverse and centers around a friendship. I really enjoyed that the friendship took such a big role in the story, as we don’t often see male/female protagonists as best friends. Jake is struggling with a lot of things in his life – being gay, wanting to apply to a different university to his best friend, and the strange blue markings on his skin. I really loved how this story begins completely normally, with Jake and his friend Maria on a hike in the desert where they live. We are introduced to Jake’s ability alongside him, in a cautious and uncertain manner, and I really enjoyed how it was weaved subtly throughout the story.

This is very much a coming-out story, and I really enjoyed reading about Jake and Kenny’s romance. The only slight disappointment for me was that this relationship felt a little insta-love, which I think is partly due to this being a graphic novel and therefore not giving quite as much space for the characters to get to know each other. However, I really liked the side-characters, and I loved how it included Jake’s relationships with his friend Maria’s parents. I related to some of the conversations he had with them so much, specifically because Maria’s dad said the same line as my friends dad said to me at an emotional time in my life, and therefore reading that scene made me cry!

Alex Sanchez on Crafting Aqualad's Coming Out Story in You Brought Me the  Ocean
Copyright DC Comics 2020

The diversity in this book is absolutely brilliant, with Jake being Black, Maria being Latin, Kenny being Asian and the teacher, Mrs Archer, being Native American. There was a section at the end of the graphic novel about the characters, and it included a paragraph about Mrs Archer and how important the authors felt it was to include a Native American character. On top of the diversity, You Brought Me the Ocean explores some very heavy themes, such as homophobia, bullying, physical assault, friendship issues and loss of parents.

Overall, this felt like a perfect graphic novel to introduce me to reading DC as the superhero factor takes a backseat and is definitely subtler than you may expect. This was a quick but emotional read and I really loved it!

★★★★
4.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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Review: Bizarre Romance by Audrey Niffenegger and Eddie Campbell

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Goodreads | Waterstones

Internationally bestselling author of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger, and graphic artist Eddie Campbell, of such seminal works as From Hell by Alan Moore, collaborate on a wonderfully bizarre collection that celebrates and satirizes love of all kinds. With 16 different stories told through illustrated prose or comic panels, the couple explores the idiosyncratic nature of relationships in a variety of genres from fractured fairy tales to historical fiction to paper dolls. With Niffenegger’s sharp, imaginative prose and Campbell’s diverse comic styles, Bizarre Romance is the debut collection by two of the most important storytellers of our time.

This book was without a doubt the weirdest, wackiest, most bizarre I’ve ever read. And I loved it. It turned out to be nothing like I expected, and instead of being about the authors’ relationship like I thought, it ended up being about love of art, of animals, of people, of magic and mystical beings. I really liked finding where love came into each story, whether it was a comic with fantasy elements or literary fiction.

As with any collection of short stories, I preferred some over others. I found the art style jarring at times, but I still really liked some of the comics. I ended up having two joint favourites, Thursday’s, Six to Eight p.m. and The Church of the Funnies. Thursday’s, Six to Eight p.m. was the first story in this book, and was in comic format. This story was pretty standard fiction, and I really liked it being about a bibliophile. It was very unexpected with twists and turns and I was hooked for the whole story! The Church of the Funnies was the penultimate story in this collection, and was a love letter to art (at least, in my mind). It left me with a smile on my face. The vast majority of these stories were published before for different reasons, and this one was actually a sermon written by Niffenegger and was delivered at Manchester Cathedral as part of Manchester Literary Festival in 2014.

I also ended up really liking some of the stories with fantasy elements, like the unexpected ghost story Secret Life with Cats, and the darker ones such as Digging Up the Cat. Every story had something I liked, and I related to each of them on one level or another. It appealed to the deepest, darkest and weirdest parts of me, and when I embraced it, I really enjoyed it.

I’m going to do a quick list with summaries of each story and my ratings of each!

Thursday’s, Six to Eight p.m.★★★

Comic. As I mentioned, my joint favourite story in this series. A couple get married, but he wants to have two hours on a Thursday night to himself, and doesn’t explain why. After a while, she gets suspicious and tries to find out why he wants the time alone….

The Composite Boyfriend – ★★★

Prose. This one was a lovely introduction to the prose in this book. A short story about a history of boyfriends, all of them being not ‘the one’.

RoseRedSnowRidingBeautyShoesHoodSleepingWhite – ★★★

Comic. A very odd fantasy story about siblings looking for Halloween costumes, but ended up being mystical, magical and poignant.

Secret Life, With Cats – ★★★

Prose. Another one of my favourites and I really enjoyed it. A surreal ghost story with love being a central theme (and a lot of cats).

The Ruin of Grant Lowery – ★★★

Comic. A very odd story about a man who meets a group of faeries in a bar, with an ending that made me laugh.

Girl on a Roof★★★

Prose. A short story about a girl called Nan who has not seen her girlfriend Sylvie since the floods began in New Orleans. A beautiful love story that had such a heavy, poignant feeling.

Jakob Wywialowski and the Angels – ★★★

Comic. Another wacky comic about a man with angels in his roof, that he gets the pest control in to deal with. Again, this one had a surprising, emotional ending that I really liked.

At the Movies★★★

Prose. Another one I quite enjoyed, about a couple making a movie. A simple but heartfelt story I resonated with.

Motion Studies: Getting out of Bed – ★★★

Comic. An odd story about a woman who posed for life drawing classes and was now part of what was seemingly a photography project. I really enjoyed how the thoughts and feelings of the woman were intertwined with the drawings.

The Wrong Fairy – ★★★

Prose. Another poignant story about an elderly man who had been committed to a mental asylum. Again, we had fantasy elements which were wacky but really enjoyable.

Digging up the Cat – ★★★

Prose. As previously mentioned, another one of my favourites and I really liked this one. A dark story about a family who were digging up their pet cat who had been buried for 7 years, and wanted to add another recently deceased pet to be buried with it.

The Church of the Funnies – ★★★

Prose. A joint favourite for me alongside Tuesday’s, Six to Eight p.m.. A love letter to art that I really liked and left me quietly chuckling to myself.

Backwards in Seville – ★★★

Comic. An emotional story about a middle aged woman had joined her aging father on a cruise. This ended up being very sweet and I quite liked the art style.

There is nothing that explains this book as well as this quote from the introduction of the book itself, and I couldn’t sum it up better myself: “sometimes romantic, sometimes star-crossed, or merely discombobulated, but all are at least a tiny bit bizarre.”

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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