Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Annabel Greene is alone. She’s been ostracized by her former best friend and the rest of the school has followed. Her family has some major issues that no one seems to want to address. Then Annabel meets Owen Armstrong, when they are both relegated to the fringes of the school lunch area. Owen isn’t perfect either, he’s got an anger management problem. But Owen’s unfailing honesty helps Annabel admit that she’s been lying to everyone, including herself about how to deal with the realities of her life. Although Annabel is the protagonist, I found some of the other characters to be more interesting. Annabel’s sister, Whitney, who is struggling with an eating disorder, felt more real to me. Also, despite his anger management trouble, Owen was always the voice of reason. This book deals with some important issues well and others not so well. It was worth the time spent reading it but could have been better.
Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley
In this standalone graphic novel by the author of the Scott Pilgrim series, the protagonist, Katie, discovers that she can correct past mistakes by eating magic mushrooms. Katie feels that, at 29 years old, her life is uninteresting and unaccomplished. Using the mushrooms, she repeatedly tries to perfect it, but, the harder she tries, the more things begin to go wrong. The novel explores themes of growing up, finding yourself and embracing your flaws. It hits many major aspects of life—love, work, friendship and regret. There are also some compelling supernatural elements that add another facet to the complex storyline. However, the story wasn’t all deep profound character growth; it still had humor and wit. I especially enjoyed the parts where Katie looked straight at the reader and argued with the narrator. Mr. O’Malley’s art style is slightly more cartoony than other graphic novels I’ve read and it lends itself well to his storytelling. Overall, I’d recommend this entertaining, aesthetically pleasing novel.