Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Read Scary: Brain Camp by Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks

 So, I was at ALA last summer and I was whizzing through the exhibits hall, on my way out before they turned the lights out and I spotted purple streaked hair and some familiar looking books and OMG IT'S FAITH ERIN HICKS TOTAL FAN MOMENT. She was awesome.

Anyways, I owned practically all her books but I simply had to have something signed by her, so I bought one of the few I had yet to get my hands on, Brain Camp. Of course, our library owns a copy but this is now my personal copy, decorated with Lucas' angry face! *swoon*

Ahem. So, why you should buy this for your library. So, this is a horror comic *cue spooky music*. It's pretty obvious from the opening, which shows a couple camp kids hiking through the woods...until they suddenly start sprouting feathers and then coughing them up before they collapse.

Dum dum DUM...

We go next to our main characters, Jenna and Lucas. Both are disappointments to their families; Jenna is a comic-loving, geeky, normal girl in a family of high-powered academic achievers and Lucas is sliding into bad company, stealing cars to impress his "friends" and trying to get away from his miserable home and alcoholic mother. Both families are thrilled when they get a mysterious offer for a summer camp that promises to turn their kids around...but Jenna and Lucas are less than happy. They both quickly realize that camp is just a smaller setting for their miserable lives with bullies, horrible food, and birds. Not to mention the missing campers and sudden, odd intelligence of the zombie-like other campers. With a mixture of luck, determination, and friendship they manage to solve the horrifying mystery of what's really going on at Brain Camp and the horror is over. it?

One of the things that's cool about being a fan of Faith Erin Hicks from way back in 2007 with Zombies Calling (Joss, you and your spork will always hold a place in my heart) is that I get to watch how her art style develops with each new story. This is her third published work and the first to be in color. Her first two print comics had a rough style, lots of lines and movement, but in this novel she really refines her art. The characters are slicker and smoother but at the same time have more depth and emotion. It's not just a horror comic or a mystery - it's about real kids dealing with an unusual situation. That is what I've come to expect from the books she illustrates and collaborates on and this showcases her artistic ability as well as her feeling for the story.

Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan have written a story that is not only a perfect plot for Faith Erin Hicks' artwork (always the best part in my mind of course) but also that is spot-on for middle school readers. Not every kid is alike, but every kid will recognize how difficult it can be to live up to parental expectations, to deal with difficult situations and bullies, and just general growing up, whether there are alien monstrosities turning you into zombies or not.

Verdict: School libraries will want to be cautious on this one; it's frank and open about the facts of life - Jenna gets her period and Lucas has a dream about Jenna with a predictable result, but middle school kids wanting real stories about real kids - with a little mystery and a lot of horror thrown in - will love this. My patrons don't often check out graphic novels (as opposed to manga or cartoon strips or superhero comics), but Faith Eric Hicks is always a popular choice and this is no exception.

ISBN: 9781596433663; Published 2010 by First Second; Purchased for the library; Purchased for myself (and signed!!) at ALA 2013

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