- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: First Second (Aug. 30 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1596436018
- ISBN-13: 978-1596436015
- Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 1.6 x 21.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #635,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Americus Paperback – Aug 30 2011
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“Hill's black and white illustrations, full of clean, bold lines, fill the tale with a sense of drama and action, even when the characters are reading silently. Americus is ultimately a reminder of the small miracles a good book can conjure up, in individual lives and across communities.” - Publishers Weekly
About the Author
Indie comics writer and illustrator MK Reed lives in Brooklyn. She's an old hand at the self publishing scene but Americus is her first go-round with a big publisher.
Jonathan Hill is a cartoonist & illustrator living in Portland, Oregon. Americus is his first graphic novel.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Taken at face value this may seem like a simple tale, but in reality it's quite complex. On one hand you have Neil, a teenage boy about to start high school and attempting to figure out who he is. In this book he not only sees his best friend, Danny, sent to Military School, but he starts learning about how to interact with girls, how to stand up for himself, and what type of music is out in the world that defines and echos within his soul. And then on the other hand you have the battle to save the Apathea series from being banned by Christian activists in the town, and seeing the library and the community working together to prevent this. And one of the best aspects of the battle, for me, is that they depicted members of the community--young and old--discussing what the series had come to mean for them. And the author blends these two tales together to make a solid story.
The author does a fantastic job of making Neil and most of the characters real people, someone that you could recognize off the street or someone that you might know...perhaps yourself. Where they falter a bit is the seemingly one dimensional side of Danny's mom and her friends. They mostly come across as stereotypical examples of Christian activists, without a lot of depth to them...although at times we do see flashes that there is more to Danny's mom than we think. We see that she really does care about her children, especially when she looks at pictures of them or the things that she says to her husband, and really does think she's doing what's right. And while it is a fault in the story that these characters don't have the depth of Neil or even Danny, the overall story is well told.
I do want to point out that the author does an excellent job of depicting some of the battles that real libraries go through with "controversial" books. They have to band together and work with the community to explain the value of the book. And many times they do come up against people that haven't read the book, but want to ban it just because of their own assumptions upon the work--just like in the battle for Apathea. In many ways the battle for Apathea reminds me of what went on when Harry Potter first started hitting the big time in the states, and I wonder if the author and artist have based this book on personal experience.
The artwork works well with the storyline and reminds me a lot of Bryan Lee O'Malley's work with Scott Pilgrim or the artworkof James Rugg in "The Plain Janes." The artwork has a seemingly simple style, but puts a lot of the focus into creating recognizable (and unique) characters that easily show emotion. It also makes it easier to place yourself in the story, because you can recognize something of yourself in the characters--the elation at starting a new school, fear, trepidation, or even being the obnoxious brat on campus.
Even though the main character is a young teenage boy there's something for everyone in this story. It's a solid coming of age tale as well as chance to see just how important a book and the library can be to the overall community.
While the subject matter is quite timely given that books are still banned from public and school libraries on a regular basis, my real problem with this book is the fact that the "villain" of the piece, Danny's mother, is such a one-dimensional character as to be laughable. Our culture has become so absolutely swamped with the "holier-than-thou" Christian figure that it is now nothing more than a shorthand for villainy, which is a shame as the authors really did do an excellent job in fleshing out the rest of the characters. The best the authors do expand upon her religious fervor is to slap a little child abuse on top, but never really delve into why she acts this way other than the good ol' "God told me to" defense.
The best heroes in literature have the best villains, and I'm afraid that the mere fact that the antagonist in this piece has no more character development than "God told me to" keeps this book from being an excellent look at a subject that may affect any of us at any time. (Though I would like to see an actual series of Apathea Ravenchilde books...it seems that the authors might actually have something there).
From there the story explodes into a tale about censorship and the importance of public libraries. It doesn't sound like the most interesting plot, but the creators do a great job of keeping it engaging. One way they do this is to shift between the story in the town of Americus and the story within the fantasy series that is under scrutiny.
They also show the protagonist grow over the course of the story. He is moving from middle school to high school, without the support of his best friend, and the thing he values most, reading, is being attacked. There isn't really an opportunity for him to be complacent. Also, the people around him become supports that he didn't expect to find.
The illustrations are nicely done, though I don't recall anything that blew me away. It can be a bit cartoony, but that fits with the themes and the target audience.