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AMERICUS

Writer- MK Reed
Artist- Jonathan Hill
First Second
SC 216 pgs BW $14.99

Neil Barton is a bookworm in the small town of Americus. If starting high school without his only friend isnít hard enough, local activists are trying to ban the one book series that makes his life bearable, The Adventures of Apathea Ravenchilde. For the first time in his life, Neil may have to stand up and be heard.

Americus is a young adult graphic novel with a plot ripped from, well not the news headlines, but at least from page five. The idea of fundamentalist groups trying to ban fantasy books from public or school libraries is not merely a cautionary tale. These challenges happen at an alarming rate in this country. Even when both sides believe in free speech, issues get clouded and emotions strained when we start talking about protecting the children!

Just turning fourteen year old Neil Barton is the central character of Americus. He is a rather sullen outcast who just wants to be left alone with his books. He lives in a very fundamentalist town and attends a religious school. The one adult he truly connects with is the town librarian. When Neil'sí best friendsí mother starts a protest aimed at banning his favorite book series Neil is not only drawn into the controversy, he is drawn into participating in his own life for the first time.

While Americus does present a central story about book banning it is really so much more. MK Reed builds the story from small events and interactions, using Neil as an observer to adult situations that make little sense to him. We feel his sense of powerlessness and disconnection. When some of the adult characters call on him to be more positive and active the changes we see in him are subtle and slowly revealed. When the main showdown scene is dramatic the true drama in the story is watching Neil as he starts to grow up in a variety of little ways.
The artwork by Jonathan Hill is simple and straightforward cartooning that manages to give each character their own voice. His art style changes for the pages illustrating scenes from the Apathea books. These interludes cleverly illuminate the drama going on in the characters lives and how these books inspire courage and perseverance in real life situations.

Americus is an excellent young adult graphic novel that has much food for thought for older readers as well. The characters are entertaining but oh so real. The drama could have been easily overplayed but the writer and artist give a slice of life, and lifeís problems, that is uplifting.

Bill Love / Novel Ideas Columnist
Bill spent ten years in television production then ten years teaching production and journalism at the high school level. He has over a decade of comics retailing experience and has written, edited and done interviews for Sketch Magazine and other Blue Line Art publications. Bill has also contributed podcast interviews with comics creators for Comic Related.




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