Seal of Approval – THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin

Seal of Approval – THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin


Written by Grant Goodman, 1/7/2015

A few weeks ago I was awestruck by Paul Pope’s BATTLING BOY graphic novel. I was searching for the sequel, which I thought I had found when I came across THE RISE OF AURORA WEST. But something was different about it. Unlike the original comic, this one was the size of a manga. And the art was all black and white. And it turned out to be a prequel.

That said, AURORA is another great graphic novel work seeking out. It builds upon the world that Pope set up in BATTLING BOY and gives far more time for us to learn about the daughter of hero Haggard West.

Needless to say, Aurora is shaping up to be a character with depth. We learn about her family history, an invisible friend, and her insanely busy education and physical training schedule.

The honest criticism: this is not as good as BATTLING BOY. The art seems slap-dash at times and the story has a weird moment in which Aurora turns to one of her classmates out of nowhere and says something along the lines of, “Hey, can I trust you and tell you everything?” Then she brings him along on all of her investigations.

That said, it’s still a fun read. Plus, I really wanted to know way more about the worlds and the people Pope will be working with as he expands his main story and this provided some very cool insights (and plot twists!)

5 More Amazing Sentences from YA Novels

In case you missed the first installment, check it out HERE.

1. “This is the first kiss that makes me want another.”

–Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

2. “Too late, I found you can’t wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.”

Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

3. “We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.”

–Peter Beagle, The Last Unicorn

4. “…there’s something about a girl and a night and a beach.”

–Cory Doctorow, Little Brother

5. “Autumn has a hungry heart.”

–Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making


Seal of Approval: BATTLING BOY by Paul Pope

Written by Grant Goodman, 12/24/2014

This is the first graphic novel I’ve reviewed for the site and, wow, this one is awesome.

Acropolis is under siege by monsters. Their only hero is Haggard West, who has used scientific research to design a way to fly AND (of course) to build himself a pretty sick gun that causes targets to burst into flame. Unfortunately, the Ghoul Gang (a cross between ninjas, mummies, and cobra commander) has a plan for Haggard West.

On a different plane of existence, Battling Boy is rounded up by his brute-force, monster-slaying god of a father and sent to Acropolis to battle its monsters and gangs. It is a coming of age process that all 12 year-olds go through.

I love the creativity at work here. There are spiders who weave armor. Cthulu can be found hanging out in the villains’ bar. The mayor has a PR team to manage Battling Boy’s image.

The artwork is explosive and brilliant. Pope’s linework is manic, his monsters are Ralph Steadman versions of nightmare kaiju. Battling Boy’s super-macho father is a hilarious spectacle of muscle and violence. The color symbolism is clear: the Ghoul Gang is dressed in dark clothes, Battling Boy wears all white.

There’s also the matter of Aurora West, daughter of Haggard. She doesn’t get much panel-time in this volume, but all of it is fascinating. The second volume of the story is titled THE RISE OF AURORA WEST and I suspect it will shine much more light on her and her life. I can’t wait to read it!

Seal of Approval: EVERY DAY by David Levithan

Seal of Approval: EVERY DAY by David Levithan

“A” wakes up in a different body every day. He takes over some teen’s consciousness, spends a day, and then moves on to the next one. The process is, as far as A can tell, random. Sometimes A wakes up in a guy’s body, sometimes in a girl’s. It’s a life that’s not really a life at all, because A never gets to live out a full story. New day, new story.

The concept is brilliant. A has lived through a lot: dead end relationships, drug addicts, depressed teens. A doesn’t fully understand human connection, because he (or she or whatever) never stays in one place for long. His life changes when he meets Rhiannon and finally finds a real connection with someone.

EVERY DAY is a new spin on teen romance. A’s constant reincarnation is chaotic and his pursuit of Rhiannon is a seemingly impossible task. How can he manage to reach her when he’s someone new every single time?


Seal of Approval: THE 5th WAVE by Rick Yancey

Seal of Approval: THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey

Written by Grant Goodman, 10/6/2014

Oh man. This book.

This book is AWESOME.

THE 5th WAVE has everything going for it: it’s a post-alien-apocalypse novel. It has guns. It has romance. It has valiance. It has strength. You should get a copy as soon as you can.

Everything begins with Cassie. She is alone and frazzled and living on the run. There’s no one left for her to trust, unless you count her gun as a person. Which, all things considered, isn’t such a crazy thought. That gun is a lot of things for her: the means for hunting, a reminder of her family, the equivalent of a security blanket.

Cassie is one of the last humans. She survived the first wave of the alien offensive and the ones that followed, watching as humanity dwindled and their extra-terrestrial observers remained untouchable in the skies. She carries her past like a boulder and the future isn’t looking all that rosy.

Yancey’s novel is a corner-to-corner winner, never ceasing to intrigue and always full of new surprises. You’ll find nail-biting moments buffered by incredibly tender scenes. Because when your world is falling apart, every moment is a big one, and you take solace when you can find it.

Seal of Approval: STEELHEART by Brandon Sanderson

Seal of Approval – STEELHEART by Brandon Sanderson

Written by Grant Goodman, 9/28/2014

When a small percentage of humanity developed superpowers, there was hope that the people would use them for good. Instead, they chose to abuse their powers and crush humanity beneath them. David is one of the normal humans, living in Newcago, under the rule of Steelheart. And while Steelheart has proven to be absolutely invincible, has defeated every challenger without injury, David has witnessed something no one else has: he has seen Steelheart bleed.

David’s goal is to join up with the Reckoners, a band of humans dedicated to assassinating the overlords and freeing those who live in terror. He wants to make Steelheart bleed once more.

Full disclosure: reading Brandon Sanderson’s work will change you. The man is an amazing writer and, despite the self-deprecation on the Writing Excuses podcast, he is one of the top writers in ANY field, not just YA. (Seriously, read Mistborn.) Side note: if you are a writer, those podcasts are golden for gaining insight into the craft.

This book, his first foray into YA, is a heart-pounding, action-packed romp through a devastated future version of Chicago. David has seen his father die at the hands of Steelheart, he has watched as Steelheart’s right-hand men walk around like kings and treat others like slaves.

When David crosses paths with the Reckoners, it’s a messy introduction, and it has the chance to ruin their shot at assassinating an important figure in the city. But he has goals and he isn’t going to let anything get in his way.

I read this book in two days and I am sure that when the sequel drops in January, I’ll be doing something similar.

Seal of Approval – THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner

Seal of Approval – THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner

Written by Grant Goodman, 9/23/2014

A boy wakes up in an elevator, he can’t remember his full name, and he has no idea where he is. When the elevator grinds to a halt, he’s pulled out by a group of boys and he finds himself in the center of a deadly maze.

It has your attention, doesn’t it?

THE MAZE RUNNER is a pressure-cooker of a story that is built on the unknown. Thomas has no idea who he is (literally and figuratively), no one knows how the maze works, and no one knows if there’s any way out. What they do know? Someone keeps sending them food, someone keeps sending them new recruits, and no one has seen a girl in years.

The village at the center of the maze is a creepy mess, full of hidden corners and missing names. There’s an overwhelming sense of shadow and danger that lingers on every page.

Plus, there’s a movie version in theatres right now.

Trust me, once you start reading, you won’t stop. This is the kind of book that will destroy your sleep schedule, and it’s completely worth it. (Especially because you have THE SCORCH TRIALS and THE DEATH CURE to read, too.)