Solanin is a young adult manga written by Inio Asano. First written in 2006, it has been reprinted last year with an additional epilogue. Solanin is a critically acclaimed manga that depicts the lives of twenty-something millennials living in Japan. The characters in the book have recently graduated from college and are attempting to find themselves and their place within Japanese society. The prescient ennui of fretting by the characters for their futures within Japanese society permeates this manga. The characters battle between what is expected of them by society and what they feel they should be doing with their lives. At first the protagonists feel the choice is binary; either they should grow up and get jobs or drop out and fulfill their passion for music. By the end of the manga we have observed the character’s growth through personal loss and see them triumph over the need to feel alive because they have recognized that their daily actions do have meaning. (Submitted by Shane)
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I have loved the humour in Nanaimo based Susan Juby’s other young adult and adult novels, so I eagerly looked forward to reading her newest title, The Fashion Committee. The book did not disappoint. On the surface the plot line might sound like it’s a light or superficial story, as two teens are competing in the same fashion competition, to get a spot in a coveted art school. However, there is a depth to the writing and the characters that draws you into the many challenges each individual faces. This is excellent realistic fiction for teens or adults. References to local spots in BC are fun too. (Submitted by Kristen)
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Hasan Namir’s novel, God in Pink, is a deeply powerful psychological and philosophical narrative. It’s a plea for justice, the use of critical thinking, and empathy.
Ramy is a young, gay man living and studying in Baghdad. His country, society, and religion view homosexuality as a sin; therefore, Ramy’s life is filled with loneliness, secrets, violence, injustice, and downright misery. After constantly living in fear and anxiety for many years, the protagonist of the story turns to God and his tumultuous heart and mind seek counsel from a local sheikh. However, help is not easy to find when people see the world in black and white colours only. Even more challenging is to make people think for themselves rather than follow scriptures which presumably state exactly what’s right and what’s wrong. One of Ramy’s greatest struggles is to understand why religion states that God loves us all equally, yet that same religion outlaws homosexuals, leaving them taunted and penalized for being the way they are.
This book offers plenty of thoughts for discussion and contemplation, and will serve as a perfect opportunity to touch base with your own values and beliefs. (Submitted by Surinder)
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This Young Adult novel sucked me in from the first line. A Master Cheesemaker who lives underground in a City called Caverna has discovered something eating his cheeses, but he can’t seem to trap it, until one day he spots its footprints in the remnants of a soft cheese – those of a 5 year old child. Once he discovers the child, he takes her under his wing and names her after one of his cheeses, Neverfell. Neverfell is an intriguing child who asks many questions, and grows up under his cheese tutelage. But he makes her wear a black mask whenever there is a chance that anyone could see her. When children are born in the caverns of Caverna, they are unable to learn facial expressions from their parents or nurses. Their faces are blank until they are taught a series of Faces by those watching them. Those who are poor learn very few expressions, those that are rich have more opportunities. Neverfell feels trapped but knows nothing different until a Master Facesmith visits their cave and things start unravelling. With a Master Kleptomancer stealing treasures from those in power and a Steward ruling the city who could be insane, how will Neverfell survive? (Submitted by Sharleen)
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This Dark Endeavour is a prequel to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I am always a bit skeptic about prequels that are written a century or more after the initial novel. Yet, this book is a pleasant surprise: it is believable (as if indeed it is the real pre-story to Frankenstein). This Dark Endeavour is like a triple-flavoured ice-cream. The novel literally has lots of layers: history, science, magic, love, integrity – just to name a few. All of these subjects are covered deeply enough to create a sense of realism, but not too deep to instill a sense of boredom. Kenneth Oppel does a marvelous job depicting 18th century Europe: I submerged into it head and toes! There is never a dull moment; the novel is always moving forward. There are three main characters: Victor and Konrad Frankenstein (twin brothers) and their cousin Elizabeth. The three of them grew up together and were happy playmates until they reached their adolescent years. Very soon, they learn too many things at once: love and friendship don’t always go together, jealousy knows no boundaries, passion and duty are often on the opposite ends of the spectrum, and there is never a good or smart way to outwit death… (Submitted by Mariya)
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