Girl Haven by Lilah Sturges
Illustrated by Meaghan Carter, letters by Joamette Gill
Ash and his new friends from the Pride Club stumble upon a spell that transports them to the world of Koretris. What Ash believed to be a novel written by his absent mother turned out to be an entire world filled with magical creatures. Koretris is a haven for girls, so how did Ash get here? It turns out that Koretris is in trouble - threatened by The Scourge - and the citizens hope that Ash has the same magical gifts as his mother. The friends must save the queen and Koretris, and Ash must embrace his true self if he is to save everyone.
At its core, this is a story about gender, but there’s a lot going on here. There are some unpleasant stereotypes employed between Eleanor embodying the "Angry Black lesbian" trope, and that boys are primitive, violent, messy, and smelly. Junebug, a high-energy nonbinary sweetheart, is sprinkled into scenes like seasoning instead of really having any substantive contributions to further the plot, which is a shame because they are one of my favorite characters in this story. Ash and Chloe have some really wonderful conversations about identity and accepting oneself that then carry over to Ash and a few other characters, and this is where the majority of character development is spent. The amount of time and care spent on Ash is wonderful, so I would really have been satisfied with a little bit more time invested in everyone else.
The illustrations and colors are very soothing and soft. There are a lot of pastels, but Carter also doesn’t shy away from bold colors, especially since Ash is almost always in red. The magical creatures are really interesting and reflect the journey to maturity that Ash's mother was on while creating this world, starting with delicious-looking candy creatures. There are also some really complex magical creatures, namely the tough-as-nails bunny warriors, who are mostly drawn very sternly and often have a take-no-prisoners demeanor on their faces and in their body language.
Oni rates this as middle grade. Given the delicate nature in which Ash travels the road of self discovery, this is one of the nicest approaches to some difficult topics that can begin around this age group.
Sara's Rating: 7/10
Suitability Level: Grades 6-8
This review was made possible with an advanced reader copy from the publisher.
Publisher: Oni Press
Publication Date: February 16, 2021
ISBN: 9781620108659 (Paperback)
Tags: Rating: 7/10, Suitability: Middle School, Graphic Fiction, LGBTQ+, Fantasy, Magic, CSLA 2021, Oni Press
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I've been reading manga and comicbooks for years. Now, I write reviews and other helpful things for School Librarians, teachers, parents, and students.
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