Paper Girls, Volumes 1-6

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Genres: Graphic Novel, Sci-fi
Pub. Date: Apr. 2016 (read Mar. 2022)

I don’t usually write reviews for comics, but I read the entire 6 volume series over 3 days, so I wanted to say a little something about the series as a whole. Paper Girls isn’t new, it’s been around long enough that the series was finished before I ever started reading it. It seems like a lot of people have read it because of Saga’s fame, but it doesn’t have as good reviews as Saga, so I was sitting on reading it for a long time. Ultimately, I decided to give it a go because I found the entire series at my local library and I’ve always thought the artwork for the series looked gorgeous!

I heard it was a bit confusing to read, but I didn’t find it that bad. Saga’s always been a bit confusing and jumped around from character to character, so while I didn’t know exactly what was happening in Paper Girls, it wasn’t as difficult to follow as I thought. Plus it was made easier by the fact that I really liked the 4 main characters. 

Paper Girls is about 4 girls from the 1980’s who accidentally get catapulted into a different year when time travellers infiltrate their town on Halloween. They’re sent to the future and spend the next 6 volumes hopping around through time trying to get back to their reality. They meet people from other worlds and even get to meet future versions of themselves. The only thing I didn’t quite grasp was how the whole time travel thing gets initiated in the first place, but it was a fun romp through space and time, so I was able to overlook it.
 
The characters are all around 12 years old I believe, which I thought was a bit young, but it has really strong stranger things vibes and I really liked the artwork and time period. I didn’t like the homophobic slurs that are written into the text, I know the authors were trying to make it indicative of the time period, but I don’t think it was necessary, nor did I really think if fit the character of the paper girls. 

My favourite volume was Volume 3 because I really liked Wari. There are a lot of other side characters that come and go throughout the series, but I wish there had been more consistency between some of these characters. For example, I liked that Wari returned and that we got several versions of Erin and Tiffany, I thought they were really strong. But then some of the other characters seem to only be there briefly and I’m not sure they added a lot to the text. I’m struggling to remember all their names now, but thinking of the old woman (Charlotte?), the Prioress, and the other character on the front of Volume 5 (is it implied that this character is a future version of Mac? because that was never clear to me, but would make her inclusion more important). Otherwise I didn’t think any of these characters really added much.

Anyways, it’s a weird series of course, but I did like it. It’s not a long read and worth it is you want something fun!

The Nowhere Girls

Rating: 
Author: Amy Reed
Genres: Young Adult, Fiction
Pub Date: Oct. 2017 (read Apr. 2018 as audiobook)

Why aren’t more people talking about this book?!! This was so fantastic and such a great example of how much impact a YA novel can have!

I am on fire with reading audiobooks lately. I get one audiobook a month on audible and I had a huge backlog because I hadn’t used it at all since November, but this was my 4th audiobook in the last month and I’ve finally run out of credits and will have to go back to the library’s crappy audiobook selection now. I may have to buy a hard copy of this book too because the writing was just too good and sometimes I miss things on audiobook, so I’d really love to give this another read. (the audiobook narrator is still great though!)

The Nowhere Girls tells the story of 3 girls in high school: Grace, Rosina, and Erin. Grace is a self-identified, christian, fat girl who just moved to Oregon from the South because her mother, who is a pastor, was too progressive for their mega-church. Rosina is a gay, mexican girl who constantly fights with her mother over the excessive amount of responsibility she feels is placed on her and wonders if she’ll ever have a loving girlfriend. Erin has Asperger’s and struggles to make friends and relate with people. Her family moved to Prescott 2 years ago after an incident that happened to Erin and now her father is never home and her mother is overly obsessed with Erin’s health.

Erin and Rosina are each other’s only friends and they welcome Grace into their group when she starts at school. When Grace finds upsetting messages written on the walls of her bedroom, she discovers that her new home used to belong to a girl named Amy who claimed to have been gang raped at a party the year before. No one believed her and she was essentially forced out of town. Grace is upset by the cries for help etched into her wall and asks Erin and Rosina for more information on how this could possibly have happened and whether there’s anything they can do about it. They are apathetic at first, but eventually, the Nowhere Girls are born, a group for girls who want to talk about the unfairness of the world and the expectations that are placed on them as women, and do something to change it.

I’ve seen some comparisons of this book to Moxie, which I also read last year. Both books were published last year and a focus on combating rape culture and empowering girls. Moxie seems to have gotten most of the buzz, which is a shame because, while I liked Moxie, I thought this was a much stronger book. This is an exploration of rape culture, identity, diversity, and inclusion. Moxie was a great book too, but is a more white-feminist exploration of sexism and rape culture, this felt way more gritty and intersectional. There were some actions that the nowhere girls took that I kind of questioned (the sex strike), but Reed has her characters question those actions too and I liked the journey her characters took in trying to navigate the complicated world of gender politics. She did briefly feature one black girl who felt the Nowhere Girls was a group for white girls, and I wish she’d explored this angle a little bit more, but still a fantastic and thought provoking novel overall.

Amy Reed explored a lot of aspects of rape culture in this novel from a lot of different perspectives. I liked that she didn’t just focus on Grace, Rosina, and Erin, but that she also linked in a lot of side characters with little snippets from their perspectives. But I still thought all 3 of the main perspectives were very strong. I really appreciated that Reed included a christian perspective outside of the context of a christian novel. I can’t actually think of many examples of religious exploration in YA novels outside of specific christian fiction, which is often preachy and not that relatable. I liked that Grace and her family were down to earth and that they were able to find a way in which their faith and liberal mindsets didn’t have to be mutually exclusive. I liked that Reed acknowledged that it’s both okay to want to wait until marriage to have sex and to have no desire to wait. That saying yes is just as important as saying no.

I thought Erin’s character was really well done as well, although I’d be interested to hear from someone with Asperger’s if this was an accurate portrayal. I liked Rosina a lot too, but I struggled to understand her mom. This is the 3rd book I’ve read lately about a Mexican family and they all had similar themes of familiar conflict, but I thought Rosina’s mother had almost no humanity. I know she was frustrated with Rosina, but come on, Rosina is a teenager, she’s obviously going to act out and it didn’t really seem like her mom really cared about her all.

But these are small complains because I really did love this book. It represented so many different experiences, while also being really well written. I read The Authentics earlier this month and complained that it was just too feel good and the conflict lacked depth. The Nowhere Girls is the complete opposite of that and the reason I think YA books shouldn’t be afraid to really go there. Teenagers are complex and emotional people and authors shouldn’t be afraid to challenge their thinking. I would recommend this book to any teenager and any adult because it has some great discussions about rape culture and it will make you mad!