A Web of Air by Philip Reeve

web of air
It’s been two years since Fever Crumb fled post-apocalyptic London and the Order of Engineers after finding out she had some dubious memories rolling around in her head that weren’t hers. But don’t let’s spoil that story, which starts here. In this second volume of the Fever Crumb series, Fever has taken a job with Persimmon’s Electric Lyceum, a mobile theater that desperately needs her lighting expertise and has provided a safe haven for Ruan and Fern, the two orphan children that she took under her rational wing. When the Lyceum stops over in the temperate vacation city of Mayda-at-the-World’s-End to stage a performance, Fever discovers quite by accident a mad young inventor named Arlo Thursday who claims to have rediscovered the ancient secret of heavier-than-air travel. But in world where big cities like London are becoming mobile military fortresses, with the only possible threats coming from above, such ideas are dangerous. Nevertheless, Fever’s engineering brain can’t help but fall in love with Arlo’s brilliant plans, and maybe even a little bit with Arlo. But when she uncovers a London-based plot to suppress air travel at all costs, Fever must decide whether to listen to her logical head or her traitorous heart when it comes to deciding Arlo’s fate. Upon finishing this book in one breathless evening, I have to ask: How do you do it, Philip Reeve? How do you write such inspired, edge of your seat adventure stories with exceptional world building that just seems to happen in throw away descriptions (Mayda is a city of funiculars, houses built on the side of cliffs that move up and down on rails using water ballasts–LOVE) and original characters that I’m deeply concerned for by page 10 that are less than 300 pages long? HOW? Start with Fever Crumb, get your paws on A Web of Air , and then be just as miserable as me as we all wait for word on Fever’s next big adventure.

Habibi by Craig Thompson

One of my favorite books of all time is Craig Thompson’s transcendent adolescent love story Blankets. I feel as though I have preached the gospel of that gorgeous graphic novel to thousands of friends, colleagues and students–probably until they were sick of hearing about it! Thompson’s latest opus is also about love, a fervent love between a girl and a boy that morphs several times during their lifetimes. When Dodola and Zam first meet in a slave market as children in a fantastical Middle Eastern world that includes both oil pipelines and medieval camel caravans, they are lost and afraid. After escaping the slavers and fleeing to the desert, they lead a charmed but lonely existence on a boat that has been mysteriously beached on miles of sand, where Dodola entertains Zam with stories of queens, heroes and warriors from the Quran and the Bible. At first Dodola acts as a mother to toddler Zam, though she is little more than a child herself. But as Zam grows, their relationship becomes more like that of squabbling siblings. Until the day that Zam witnesses the terrible thing that Dodola must trade away in exchange for their food from the brutish men in the caravans. He cannot forget what he has seen, and soon his feelings for Dodola begin to change into something lustful and wild that he doesn’t understand. So he runs away to the bustling city, searching for a way to relieve his forbidden thoughts, while Dodola is left frantically searching for him before she is stolen away by bandits and forced to become a member of the Sultan’s harem. Through their mutual trials and struggles, they never forget their life on the little boat and never stop looking for each other in the faces of strangers that pass by. It is many years before they meet again, and they each have been drastically changed by their circumstances. Will their hearts recognize each other? Is there a possibility that their love can survive under the harsh laws of a judgmental society that condemns them both? This lushly illustrated and deeply felt graphic novel is both hard to read and hard to stop reading. Thompson is clearly in love with Arabic script and design, which dance sinuously through the panels, and his interweaving of Christian and Arabic mythology, showing their ultimate similarities instead of their often harped upon differences is masterful. The story and art took Thompson six years to complete, and it shows on every dazzlingly detailed page. But while it is a beautifully rendered story of love, faith and perseverance, it is also a sad story of sexual abuse, dominance, misogyny and guilt that is probably best for older teens and the adults in their lives. Extraordinary.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Future Project Runway contestant Lola Nolan has a pretty sweet life. She lives in a mint green Victorian house with two dads who adore her in the swank Castro district of San Francisco. She has her sewing machine, a lovable dog named Heavens to Betsy and an older rock star boyfriend named Max who makes her heart go pitter pat. But when her childhood nemesis and hot shot figure skater Calliope Bell moves back next door, Lola’s sweet life turns sour. Calliope and her nasty attitude are bad enough, but it’s her fraternal twin Cricket who really breaks Lola’s heart. Back in the day, Lola and Cricket almost hooked up. But something terrible happened, something Lola still doesn’t completely understand, and now she can’t even look at Cricket without feeling her stomach sink. Unfortunately, Cricket doesn’t seem to be getting the memo that Lola is so over him, because he keeps chatting her up through their parallel bedroom windows just like old times. Soon Lola has to face the fact that the reason Cricket isn’t getting the message is because she may be sending him mixed signals. To make matters worse, Max starts making jealous noises over Cricket just as Lola’s birth mom, a homeless fortune teller, shows up one day at the front door demanding help. What’s a budding fashionista to do? Lola tries to ignore her troubles by burying herself in her latest creation, a Marie Antoinette-like dress, complete with bird cage wig and old fashioned stays. But her latent feelings for Cricket can’t be denied, and before she knows it, Lola is knee-deep in all kinds of drama-rama. Stephanie Perkins’ trademark effervescent dialogue carries her second novel along on waves of witty banter that a good friend of mine compared to a John Hughes movie. I couldn’t agree more, and look forward to more from this too cool, blue-hued, former librarian author.