Orange: The Complete Collection Vol. 1 & 2 Manga Review

orange1Title: Orange: The Complete Collection 1
Author/Illustrator: Ichigo Takano
Publisher: Seven Seas
Publication Date: January 26, 2016
Genre: Manga – Teen – Sci-fi, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: Purchased Paperback

A Plea From the Future

On the day that Naho begins 11th grade, she recieves a letter from herself ten years in the future. At first, she writes it off as a prank, but as the letter’s predictions come true one by one Naho realizes that the letter might be the real deal. Her future self tells Naho that a new transfer student, a boy named Kakeru, will soon join her class. The letter begs Naho to watch over him, saying that only Naho can save Kakeru from a terrible future. Who is this mystery boy, and can Naho save him from his destiny?

When my best friend suggested this manga series to me, I knew I would love it. She knew I would love it. And frankly: I did love it. It was heartwarming, very touching, and it reached all of the places inside of me that I try to not touch – and I needed every minute of it.

There are trigger warnings for depression and suicide and there are spoilers below.

From the characters to the story to the art, I found that each part was expanded upon and really thought over carefully as the story grew and we got to learn more about these characters and just why it is they have to save Kakeru.

Naho, our leading lady, was kind of like your typical shoujo heroine who’s very modest, easily embarrassed, but has a big heart. She cares very deeply for her friends and doesn’t want anyone to get hurt – emotionally or otherwise. I thought that she was very cute and that she did her best to help her friend (who she obviously developed feelings for). I wish she had been more brave at times and had acted as the letters suggested, but I also know that it’s not in her nature to be as brave as she was sometimes.

Kakeru, the main focus of the story, deals with a lot of depression and suicidal thoughts after his mother commits suicide on the day of the entrance exams when he doesn’t return home right after school. He blames himself and, as a result, he holds in his feelings, not sharing with his friends. In the future world (10 years in the future), he is no longer there with them, and they all reflect back on him not being there and what they could have done to save him. In the past life, his friends are changing the future, and as a result he ends up enjoying life a lot more, but he’s still very depressed and puts on a smile so his friends don’t worry. But when they do push and ask him very serious questions, he does eventually break down and tell them some of what’s bothering him and I think those were some of the most important parts.

Suwa, Hagita, Azu, and Takako, the other friends in the group, all try to cheer up Kakeru even though they don’t fully know why they’re doing it just yet. I love that they all try their best to be supportive in whatever way they can and that they don’t back down and let Kakeru drown in a spiral of darkness.

The plot of the story was one that had me reeling from so many emotions. I laughed, I cried (more like sobbed), I was angry, joyful… So many emotions were packed into this first large volume that I felt like this was a story written for me. I loved seeing the progression from the past and the future, to see where they were ten years in the future, how they were living their lives, why they came together, and how they wanted to fix it. And then their past selves, though doubtful at first, really took the letters’ advice to heart and implemented as many changes as possible. It was so inspiring and beautiful.

There was, of course, romance as this is a shoujo manga (girl’s manga, aka, here there be romance and cuteness), and though it was subtle, it was still there and so darn cute. The feelings grew slowly and steadily, and just like any school crush, it was difficult for either party to really speak their feelings. I feel that, if they had, it would have made it just a little bit easier overall.

Overall, my favorite aspect of this book was the friendship because it is such an important element in this story. Not giving up on your friends or taking sides or anything like that. It was all about trying to make one friend happy, yes, but they were all doing it because of how much they care for Kakeru.

This first volume is definitely 5/5 stars and I extremely, highly recommend it.

orange2Title: Orange: The Complete Collection 2 Publication Date: May 31, 2016 Pages: 384 Format: Purchased Paperback

Everyone has regrets in life. So who wouldn’t take the chance to change the past if given the opportunity? When sixteen-year-old Takamiya Naho receives a mysterious letter, claiming to be from her twenty-seven-year-old self, her life is suddenly thrown into flux. The letter informs her that a new transfer student by the name of Naruse Kakeru will be joining her class, and to keep her eye on him. What is Naho to make of the letter’s contents and its cryptic warning?

Orange: The Complete Collection 2 also includes a bonus story, Haruiro Astronaut. This five chapter story is about a pair of twins who discover that they can’t share everything in life – or at least not an alien that suddenly becomes a part of it.

In this second volume, we pick up the story right where it was left off and we find out that all of the friends received letters from their past selves. They all work hard and come together to try to make Kakeru’s life as happy as possible. Of course, sometimes they couldn’t rely on the letters because the events happening in their timeline was different from their future selves’ timeline. Sometimes it would make things worse, but other times it would make things better, and sometimes events would align and they could follow the letters’ suggestions.

Naho really tries to make an effort to express her feelings to Kakeru in this novel, and it does make him happy, until a slip up that causes his thoughts to spiral and he doesn’t want to hurt her anymore and, therefore, turns away from her. This causes a downward spiral that they were hoping they could control, but it ends up happening anyway.

These times were the toughest to read because, as someone who has had similar experiences, once we dove into Kakeru’s point of view and saw his thought process, it was very similar to ones I have had before. When we relived the past Kakeru’s life, it was very saddening, but it also showed just how much the group of friends had come to that point to really make their Kakeru happier and change the outcome to the best of their abilities. I thought that this was a very powerful move and one that was well handled.

The ending, of course, made me burst with happiness. It was so beautiful and heartwarming and it shows just how strong friendship can be; how strong love can be. I absolutely loved this series and thought that it was really well done and showed accurate representations of depression. It’s easy to put on a smile for the world when really you feel like you’re dying on the inside. For Kakeru, this was all too true, and I’m so glad that the friends were able to help him in one timeline even if they couldn’t help him in another.

Beautiful. Simply beautiful. 5/5 stars.

Also, there was a a bonus five chapter story with different characters called Haruiro Astronaut.

This short story followed twin girls, Chiki and Mami, and how Mami always has the boys falling in love with her, and Chiki’s never really had a crush on anyone before. It’s a cute, hilarious story about the girls’ falling for guys, but it mostly focuses on Chiki and I loved it!

I felt that Chiki and Mami were very different personalitywise even if they were very similar in looks. Chiki was more like the mother hen, always looking out for others – especially Mami – whereas Mami is much more like a child and needing to rely on others.

When Mami introduces Chiki to a hot, smart basketball player, Yui, Chiki finds out that Yui likes her sister. So when those two start going out, we’re introduced to two other characters: Tastuki – Yui’s best friend from childhood – and Taskuoki – a kid from Chiki’s class who claims to like Mami, but really…

Let’s just say: hilarity ensues, there was a lot of laughter (A LOT), and it was adorable and really helped to lighten the mood after reading Orange. It was very cute and heartwarming, and I need a whole series just about these characters, please and thank you. This short story is a definite must read and I rated it 5/5 stars, too!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda Book Review

simonvs

Title: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray – An imprint of HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Genres: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 303
Format: Purchased Hardcover

“Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda” by Becky Albertalli is about sixteen year old Simon and how he is not openly gay. With anyone. He’s been keeping this secret to himself for a while now and hasn’t found the courage (or the point) to tell anyone. But one day when a classmate winds up with screenshots of private emails Simon has with a secret guy code named Blue, things start to get a little more difficult.

Now he has to find a way to not jeopardize his friendships, compromise himself, or ruin a shot at happiness with a guy who’s confusing, but oh so adorable.

Why are these diverse books so freaking adorable? Like, seriously. I can’t take it. (Actually, I can and I want to.)

When I first heard of this book I knew I had to get it because it had some great reviews from people I trust who had gotten the ARC copy and loved it.

Well, now that I read it I can see why they loved it.

I will admit it did take me about fifty or so pages to get used to the writing style, but once I was in it, I was hooked. This book was a great telling of a kid struggling with his sexual orientation – or rather, how to come out about it. It was a much more positive story than a lot of the negative ones that we hear all the time when teens come out to their parents, and I loved that. I loved reading a positive story because I think kids need that; they need positive reinforcement if they are struggling through something as monumental (and let’s be real, it is monumental) thing such as coming out to your family and friends, let alone the world.

So let me talk about Simon. He’s a sixteen-going-on-seventeen year old junior in high school. He’s in the school’s fall play and is leading a total normal teenage life: friends, parties, chilling, hanging, family life. One big thing about him, though, is he’s gay. And he has this sort of relationship developing with this guy, Blue (code name), since August of that summer. He swears a lot and is kind of sarcastic at times, but I believe he’s an overall good kid. He makes mistakes (plenty of them), but he’s one of those characters you can’t help but love because of all of those flaws and all of his thoughts and how he acts and stuff.

When he has a tough decision to make in terms of blackmail, I can understand the want to ignore it, but also the want to do something about it. I think Simon makes good decisions throughout the novel and he grows as a character. He goes from being so confused and conflicted, to dealing with a lot of crappy, to being pretty damn happy with himself.

And his friends and family are no exception.

I’m so happy to read of a family that supports Simon when he comes out to them. I thought that those parts of the book were kind of glazed over and really super fast, but the support was there. Often times it’s not. But everyone took it in stride (maybe some part of them knew?).

Now Blue is kind of mysterious. He’s extremely shy and doesn’t want to give his identity away at all, no matter what. And he doesn’t want to meet Simon, necessarily, because he’s scared. I get that. A couple of times I was frustrated like, “Just meet the guy! Gosh!” But I understood he wanted privacy for now. He was afraid that once Simon found out who he was that Simon would push him away. But the two would flirt constantly and you could start to really see their flirtations grow and even their love for each other grow.

And then when they do meet. COMMENCE THE SQUEAL SESSION. I literally squealed throughout the entire last fourth of the book, and let me tell you, SO. MUCH. CUTE.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest.

The plot of the book was one that I believe we see many times in contemporary books, but the way the author writes it and spins it is what makes it unique and defining. Obviously the most defining quality of this book is a not-so-openly gay teen. But I think the way that Albertalli wrote about the blackmail and just how everything kind of happened and exploded online and everything was a unique way of doing it. It was like a conscious stream of thought from Simon’s head, so the sentences were often short and straight to the point.

Also, I thought it interesting that I had NO CLUE what Simon looked like until the last half of the book where we finally got some descriptions of him. And I think that stuck out to me so much because it hit me that it was so obvious that what he looked like hadn’t been mentioned earlier in the book because it wasn’t relevant – it was Simon’s point of view, so why would he just talk about his appearance for no reason?

I loved the mystery surrounding Blue and who he was. I was surprised to find out who it was in the end, and was actually really happy for one major reason (which I won’t state here because it’s an obvious giveaway).

I definitely think this was a great read. Not only a successful coming out story, but one with redemption and forgiveness on multiple characters’ parts, as well as friendship and just finding yourself in who you are. I highly recommend this to anyone, really.

I rate this book 5/5 stars.

Accompanying video: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda Book Review

We Need Diverse Books

We Need Diverse Books is a campaign to bring more diverse books to children’s and young adult’s shelves. More often than not books in these sections don’t deal with issues such as LGBQTAI+, gender identity, people of color, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

So much of a child/teen’s life is revolved around these issues, and many may not realize it. More and more we’re hearing stories about how a teen commits suicide because of feeling alone or intense bullying because of who they are/identify as. It’s sad and so preventable.

I think one of the things that can possibly help these individuals is introducing more and more books of all age levels about dealing with these issues.

If I had read books about gay/lesbian/bisexual/etc teens when I was growing up, maybe I would have understood more about my own struggles. Maybe I wouldn’t have struggled at all.

Maybe it could have saved someone’s life.

Books have such power in them. They can get people thinking and open their minds to so many possibilities out there if only they were willing to see them.

For kids under the teen years it can teach them about race and cultures and how to be accepting and loving toward all of them, not just their own. It can teach them to be compassionate toward those who struggle under certain conditions. It can teach them about themselves and if they’re feeling the same way, then they can relate to it.

Only recently have I picked up a few diverse books, at least what I consider to be diverse books, and I have already finished one (None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio) and it’s opened my eyes to the world of intersex individuals, people who are physically one gender on the outside, but have the other gender’s parts on the inside. It’s amazing and eye opening and really got me thinking on how little of the world I know.

Is it important to incorporate more of these stories into children’s/young adult literature? Yes. Most definitely.

Do I think people should be reading them, no matter their background, personal beliefs, bias, etc? Hell yes.

I support We Need Diverse Books and I hope that more and more books will be published in the upcoming years of these diversities. We need them now more than ever.

Top Ten Tuesday: Revisiting Books from Child/Teen Years

Welcome to another Top 10 Tuesday! Today’s T10T topic is: books from your childhood (or teen years) that you’d like to revisit. This sounds like a fun one, going down memory lane, so here are my top ten picks!

1. “Breaking Dawn” by Stephenie Meyer. This is the only book in the saga that I haven’t reread, and frankly I can’t remember everything that happened, so I’d like to revisit this book and try to refresh my memory (because I really feel like the movie didn’t match up to the book…).

2. The Vampire Diaries series by L.J. Smith. I read all four books in my junior year of high school, and I remember liking them, but I can’t really remember much about them. So I’d like to revisit these books and see if I still like them as much as I did at the time.

3. “Stellaluna” by Janell Cannon. Though this is essentially a children’s picture book I remember loving the artwork and the simple story behind it that I would love to revisit this one and hope that it puts a smile on my face.

4. The Just Ask series by Chris Arvetis. I LOVED these books as a kid. I think I even had the whole set. They were science books that were easy to understand with drawings and illustrations as told from the point of view of a kid mouse. So good. Out of date, but so good.

5. The Wishbone series by a variety of authors. Do you remember Wishbone? He had his own TV show and everything where he was a DOG who loved BOOKS. Oh, I loved it. I tried getting into the books, but I never did, so I’d love to revisit them now.

6. The Fushigi Yuugi manga series by Yuu Watase. It’s my favorite manga series of all time and I always love revisiting it. Love, action, adventure, death. I mean, what’s not to love? Plus a beautiful art style. Really, anything by Yuu Watase I want to get my hands on (again or otherwise).

7. “A Certain Slant of Light” by Laura Whitcomb. I read this for last summer reading project for school in high school and I absolutely loved it. It’s about a ghost who takes over a girl’s body (not in a malicious way) and falls in love with another ghost who’s in a boy’s body. It’s a really great story.

8. “Blood and Chocolate” by Annette Curtis Klause. I remember loving this book when I read it in my teen years. There was something about the werewolves and the world in this one that just sucked me in. Though the movie version of it sucked hardcore, the book itself was spectacular. I’d love to reread it and see what I think now.

9. “The House of the Scorpion” by Nancy Farmer. I’ve praised this book several times before in various posts, but I haven’t read this book since high school. I’d love to read it again and see if I still feel the same about it after all of this time. It is a really good book, though, from what I remember as it deals with clones and the repercussions of living in a world where your only value is for your master.

10. “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis. I haven’t read the Chronicles of Narnia since middle school, and I think I’ve only ever read the first book. I remember loving it, though I think it was difficult to get through at the age I was at because Lewis writes with much more intricate prose. But I do remember loving the movies… So yes, I’d revisit this one and all of them, really.

What books from your childhood or teen years would you revisit?

The Ice Dragon Book Review

theicedragon

Title: The Ice Dragon
Author: George R.R. Martin
Illustrator: Luis Rayo
Publisher: Tor Teen
Publication Date: This edition: October 21, 2014 (originally published 1980)
Genres: Young Adult – Fantasy
Pages: 121
Format: Purchased Hardcover

This was definitely an interesting find when I opened up the Barnes & Noble website to look at new releases for teens. I saw “The Ice Dragon” by George R.R. Martin on the list and was stunned. His books are usually geared toward adults with his much more adult writing and views, considering his biggest bestseller of the moment is the “Song of Ice and Fire” series, better known as the “Game of Thrones” series.

When I first picked up the book (like literally held it in my hands) I was shocked at how small it was. It’s a story of under 120 pages about a girl named Adara who was born during the terrible winter that is also set in the “Song of Ice and Fire” series. Her mother died giving birth to her, and as she grows up she is unlike any other child because she doesn’t throw tantrums, doesn’t make a fuss when she’s hurt, and barely smiles. She is a “winter child,” as said by her father.

It tells the tale of Adara and the ice dragon, a large beast unlike the fire breathing dragons of the dragonriders that her uncle is a part of, and how the two become friends of sorts. She would ride the dragon for long periods of time, and each time the ride would last longer – as did the winter.

The story heralds a war and a sacrifice of a dragon protecting one who’s heart is frozen until dire circumstances and her family’s safety thaw her heart and she sets to fight back. Though she is only seven years old when this happens, I felt that the sacrifice she wanted to make was sweet and brave of her.

I also felt that this story missed something. I wished that she and the dragon had escaped to colder lands to be together, but at the same time I feel that the story was trying to accomplish at telling the tale of how important family is and how much love you should have for one another.

The illustrations by Luis Royo are lovely and very detailed, and the whole book is done in a blue ink, including the typography. I wasn’t expecting so much detail in what could be considered a children’s book, but it was nice nonetheless.

I’m also not sure that I would classify this as a teen book, but I wouldn’t quite place it at children’s. Maybe middle grade to teen age. It was a quick read, it held deep meaning, and I enjoyed it.

I rate the book 4/5 stars.