This debut novel by Dutch author Jaap Robben is absolutely beautiful. Robben is a poet and children’s book author and you can see the influence of both of those writing styles in the books, His writing is poetic yet sparse. You Have Me to Love tells the story of a young boy, Mikael, as he grows up on a remote island. Robben really explores what it would be like to go through puberty in a void, away from other teens and with his mother as the only female in his life. I feel completely in love with Mikael and only wanted the best for him. The entire time I was reading it, I just kept telling everyone at work, “You have to read this. It’s amazing.” A tough but definitely worthwhile read that will have you thinking about it for a long time after you finish reading it.
I wanted to like this book so much. In fact, my co-worker, when I told her I didn’t like it said, “What? But it seemed right up your alley!” Monstrous Devices is a cool concept but the book is a bit of a mess. There is too much going on and none of it gets fully realized. The grandfather in the book is constantly doing things that set a bad example for children. He says “Don’t do what I do” but the characters only survive because of what he does. A lot of things are brought up but never resolved. Is the grandfather immortal? He is a greater being? Is the bad guy Alex’s father? Is the little girl his sister? I didn’t believe it for a moment when he said that he didn’t care to know by the end of the book. It felt like Love didn’t feel like making a decision one way or the other. And then religion come in out of nowhere. The characters need to know the true name of god to gain unlimited powers that come in the form of a golem. It’s way too much stuff for such a short children’s book. I am so disappointed that I didn’t like this one.
This intense graphic novel reads like an indie movie. The focus of the novel is on the dialogue rather than the art, which is unlike any graphic novel I have read before. Drnaso explores grief as well as the toxicity of the internet and fear-mongering. I felt so deeply for each of the characters. This is not an easy read but it is definitely worth it. The deep, heart-breaking story is in contract with simple line drawings. It is clear why this book was the first graphic novel long-listed for the Man Booker Prize. Drnaso has perfectly captured how scary and depressing the world can be while still showing the importance of friendships and interpersonal human interactions.