Grab your snack of choice and slather it in a conglomeration of sauces because it’s time for the first double-dip review of 2016! Today I have a YA, not-your-average-murder-mystery and a manga-style graphic novel for the younger middle grade set. I received both of today’s titles from their respective publishers via Netgalley. Let’s get dipping!
First up, we have Moth Girls by Annie Cassidy. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Helplessly drawn like moths to the light, two girls go missing in an evocative and gripping tale . . .
They called them the Moth Girls because they were attracted to the house. They were drawn to it. Or at least that is what is written in the newspapers that Mandy reads on the anniversary of when her two best friends went missing. Five years have passed since Petra and Tina were determined to explore the dilapidated house on Princess Street. But what started off as a dare ended with the two girls vanishing. As Mandy’s memories of the disappearance of her two friends are ignited once again, disturbing details will resurface in her mind.
…an in-depth examination of teen friendships, loyalty and the impact of disappearances on those left behind. Needless to say, there are some twists in this book and I’m not going to say much about them lest I spoil the reading experience for others. The story is told in a number of parts, some focused on the present and some on the time of the girls’ disappearance. As more details are revealed, it is clear that the friendship between Mandy, Petra and Tina was rocky at times and there are other factors at play that contributed to the mystery surrounding the big house. This is certainly one pitched at the upper end of the YA market for its complex interweaving of different storylines.
Don’t dip if…
…you find mopey teens annoying. Mandy is, admittedly, a bit of a pill and despite being the main character is the least interesting of the three girls. Thankfully, the other voices and shifting timeframes generally compensate for this. Also, if you don’t like a circuitous story, this is definitely not for you. There are plenty of loose ends that are gradually tied up (although some are left hanging!), and the jumping between points of view requires some good memory on the part of the reader.
Overall Dip Factor
This turned out to be a solid, well-realised mystery story that ended with a twist that was simultaneously unexpected and completely logical. I would definitely recommend this to those looking for a read focusing on younger characters, but featuring some pretty heavy issues, without any sense of “This is YA fiction” about it.
Next up we have Crystal Cadets by Anne Toole, Katie O’Neill and Paulina Ganucheau. Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:
Tantalizing and lively – Booklist Cadets Go! Join this team of darkness-fighting, world-saving, power-packed teen girls from all over the world on their first adventure! Zoe has always felt out of place; her foster parents are great and all, but she’s long felt like something was missing. That is, of course, until she discovers a mysterious gem left to her by her birth mother and her whole universe gets flipped around! When the crystal grants Zoe mysterious powers of light she becomes the Diamond Cadet, and she’s not the only one; suddenly she’s meeting new friends who shoot flames and glowing green arrows. It’s all fun at first, but when The Darkness possesses Zoe’s foster parents her only choice is to join this wild group of action-hero girls, traveling the globe to defeat The Darkness and find a cure!”
…an action-packed tale of girl power that will remind you of lazy hours spent watching Saturday morning cartoons. The art is manga-style and will appeal, I suspect, to those who do like a cartoonish style and the characters are a diverse bunch of young ladies from various countries, all of whom have been chosen to be guardians of the earth. The style and simple plot will appeal to the younger end of the middle grade market and the concept of all-powerful, butt-kicking young girls with the ability to summon cute flying mythical mounts in order to save the world is designed to draw in the female demographic.
Don’t Dip if…
…you’re after a graphic novel featuring an in-depth plot, or indeed, any real explanation of the workings behind the girls’ powers. The storyline is devoid of much information regarding how these girls got their powers (apart from the fact that they have been “passed down” from their mothers) and each girl seems to accept her new powers without question. There is also a bit of a corny tone to the plot with the “Darkness” feeding off bad behaviour – cheating, lying and bad manners, for example – and at times it felt a little bit too preachy for me.
Overall Dip Factor
I’m really unsure how current readers of graphic novels in the middle-grade age bracket will take this one. While the action is non-stop from start to finish, the themes of female friendship, teamwork and “being good” feel a bit overdone and didactic. This might be better engaged as a “gateway” read for non-readers of graphic novels at the lower end of the middle grade age bracket to bolster a positive perception of graphic novels amongst reluctant readers.
There we are then – two very different tomes, but hopefully something that might take you back for a second dip.
Until next time,