Book Reviews, diverse books, LGBTQIA+, YA

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee Review

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I enjoyed the story for sure. I had a hard time not questioning the logistics of the world but questions aside it is really interesting. A solar flare gave a lot of people powers. Meta Humans galore. They are classed at different levels with the higher level becoming superheroes. It is really interesting but felt like I needed more detail still.

I love the representation in the story. I don’t read many books with bisexual main characters in this kind of genre. Jess is also an Asian protagonist. I’m all about superhero stories with QPOC characters. It was great to see how her family’s background affected their life in different ways.I also like the way the main relationship went overall. It was a cute pairing. Felt a bit too fluffy for the story at times but it was nice.

There was too hinting sometimes. I figured out a lot of things really easily. I think the first reveal that Jess has no clue about is something that yeah the reader is probably supposed to figure out. If not it was okay that I did. It was a type of dramatic irony knowing the thing that Jess didn’t.I feel like the other reveals may have had too much laid out too, though. I wanted less predictable in those later chapters.

So Jess has it pretty rough in this book after things really kick off. The twist and turns n her life are a lot to handle and she really handles it pretty well. I also felt like there was a definite hero journey for her that coincided with her deciding she wanted to be her own person. She wasn’t going to live in the shadow of her family or just do what they wanted her to do in order to get by.She is going to do things for herself.

There also is a trans character in this story named Bells. It looks like he will be the main character of the sequel. I’m excited to see the continuation of the group’s story in the following book for sure.

I really wish more had happened by the end of this one or that more have been accomplished. Even knowing that there will be another book I was a bit dissatisfied with the end. The sequel does come out this year so I hope I’m able to get it sooner rather than later. It looks like it will be focusing on Bells like I said. I am glad I read this. Jess is a great main character and I hope she and everyone else makes some major progress dealing with the situation they are all in next time.

Book Reviews, diverse books, LGBTQIA+, YA

History is All You Left Me Review

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History is All You Left Me by Adam Silver is the second book chosen for The Rainbow Library.A landslide in the voting. A lot of members were excited about the book release.I’m really glad it was chosen as well. I was a big fan of More Happy Than Not and had the History Is All You Left Me book pre-ordered. I was going to wait a bit longer to dive into but I’m glad this group gave me the push to do it now.Apologizing now if this review gets too scattered. I took lots of notes.

This story intrigued me right away with the setup. You jump into the story and realize that the chapters will alternate between the present and the past.History and Today. We have a main character that is flawed in some ways too. I’m  talking about the way he handles a lot of the relationships in his life. I could see that it wasn’t the best right away. Especially after seeing how great Griffin’s relationship with Wade and Theo is in the first few history chapters. It’s so interesting trying to connect the history Griff gives us to his present. I was always looking for the clues to see how things came to be this way. Trying to figure out who is at fault for things before history could catch up with the present more.

I have to say I was surprised by how much I loved the history chapters. They start the day that Theo and Griffin admit their feelings for each other,  goes through their relationship and ends on the day that Theo dies. There were so many beautiful moments in their relationship and it really was bittersweet to read knowing that they eventually break up and that Theo dies. The first few history chapters really drew me in and I was excited that I was going to really enjoy those flashbacks.

Early on I wondered how reliable Griffin was as a narrator for not only the history sections. It was a small moment during the funeral of Theo that made me think it. It was just a perspective thing. The way he saw Jackson and how I could tell he blamed Jackson for Theo’s death to some extent. It made him think that other people might see Jackson similarly when that wasn’t the case. It was the first point where I realized there would definitely be some bias with anything revolving Jackson in the history or today part.

One really interesting thing about Griffin as a narrator is that he’s talking to Theo. The whole story is Griffin going over his history with Theo and also telling Theo the things he didn’t know. The things he wanted to but didn’t get a chance to. The “you” he references in the today sections is Theo.He models his actions toward Jackson based on what Theo would want him to do. If Theo would be disappointed in him. I saw it as another way for him to process Theo’s death. Believing that somehow Theo might be out there listening to him. A little odd considering that it’s pointed out that Griffin isn’t religious like Jackson.

Griffin has OCD. I really can’t comment much on the way it’s written besides that it feels accurate. I have a family member that has OCD and I grew up watching them deal with their compulsions. Compulsions that are very different from what Griffin’s are, though.His compulsions dealt with counting and even numbers. He always had to walk on one side of people or he became anxious. I liked the way it was shown throughout the story.I liked the way the people in his life reacted differently to it as well.

This story had what I call the January problem now. It’s where you only see a character through flashback and don’t always get the info you want. January from Last Seen Leaving was a character I had this kind of issue with. Theo can’t tell his story. Griffin has to tell it for him. Jackson and others can share stories of him but they can’t tell us what Theo was thinking. I really just wished I could get in his head. I got to the point in the history chapters where I had some questions. Theo, what are you doing? Do you really think you can stay friends with Griffin and be with Jackson? Do you not see how messy this situation is? Why are you a mess? Plus so many more questions as I realize things that Theo did or said. It’s not a problem that takes anything away from the story for me. I just will have those questions forever.

The last sixty or eighty pages I would read a page. Then stop to process because I needed to before reading another page.It was a long process. Sometimes I would lean against a wall or pace. Adam Silvera takes you on these really emotional roller coasters in his work. The situation between this group of guys was so messy and that was before Theo died. It really just gets worse. There were definitely some cringe moments because I didn’t want to think about how I’d handle the situations they were going through.  Pg 225 I for sure wasn’t ready for. I could not. I still cannot.I didn’t even know how I kept going toward the end right after that.

I really can’t knock this story rating down for anything that happens. There are things that were frustrating but it wasn’t frustrations that would affect the rating I’d give the book.If the situation was different these things would. I’m never a fan of people doing things to emotionally hurt people. Griff definitely does that at points in this story and I feel like Jackson does as well.Griff makes some bad decisions in his History with Theo that might make him unlikeable for people. Theo might be unlikeable for you.However, this was a story about people grieving over the death of someone they loved. It’s completely true that there were moments where I definitely have a problem with things done. Especially by the main character Griffin but all his emotions and actions were valid.This form of grieving was valid. Not right necessarily but it was valid. He’s in a rough spot and you see that throughout the entire book. I went along on this journey with Griffin knowing that he was going to possibly make some bad decisions.

There were chapters early on where I wished we could see more of Wade. I think it’s because I loved Wade in the chapters in the past. He was a great friend and added something to those scenes before Theo and Griffin start pushing him out a little unintentionally.I also wondered why he became more distant. What did Theo do or say to push his best friend away? Another question I had. Later in the story, we do finally get to see what’s going on with Wade. I have to say that there are things about Wade that I related to in a this is hurting my soul kind of way. I really wish we could have seen more of his character. Jackson and Griffin get to m0urn together for a big portion of this story. Wade mourns his friend alone and that is really rough.

I have to applaud Silvera on somehow throwing in a subtle twist that was just as jarring as the twist in More Happy Than Not even if on a smaller scale. More Happy Than Not had a sci-fi element.The thing that shocked me there was a big deal. History is All You left Me is just all real and still had these emotionally jarring moments that are so brilliant and unexpected. Adam Silvera is really becoming one of my favorite authors really quickly.I’m excited for his next book They Both Die At The End.I know I will likely be a complete emotional wreck after that one but I don’t mind that when it’s an Adam Silvera book. This story comes out to a 5-star read for me.

Book Reviews, diverse books, LGBTQIA+, The Rainbow Library, YA

None of The Above by I.W. Gregorio

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None of The Above was the first book chosen for The Rainbow Library. On the Rainbow Library, you can see member reviews of the book the entire week starting January 23rd. We chose the novel because it focuses on a part of the LGBTQIA = community that we don’t often read about or see people talking about.

This book follows a teenager named Kristen who finds out that she is intersex during a trip to the hospital. Kristen has to deal with what that means for herself personally. She has a lot of fear and confusion about her diagnosis.She confides in her friends and family. However, things really blow up when her secret is leaked to the entire school.

I enjoy the story. I just have some problems getting into it. I think the novel explains what intersex is and what it means to be intersex really well.You also learn about AIS and DSD.If you are looking for a book to get you more familiar with what intersex is I definitely recommend this. The novel has me interested in reading more books with intersex characters as well.

The book contains resources where you can get more information. I always have to point out when a book does a great job at doing that. You never know who will be needing those resources and it’s great that the book contains several. There are some fiction and non-fiction book recommendations that include and intersex characters and talk about what intersex is in the back of the book as well.

One of the main reasons this book didn’t hook me is because Kristen can be really annoying in this story at times. So can her friends and boyfriend. This is before she even finds out that she is intersex.The story is first person perspective from her perspective. She’s 18 I believe. There may have been just the age gap thing. The way she thinks about things or talks about things was a bit much sometimes. I thought she was much younger than 18 at points in the novel.

I didn’t feel bad when things go sour in the novel with the boyfriend because I really did not like him from the beginning. The way he said certain things rubbed me the wrong way. Again before Kristen even finds out she’s intersex.It really only gets worse from there. So I found it hard to think it was the end of the world like Kristen seemed to feel over the breakup.

You get more and more angry as the book goes on because of how much Kristen goes through. I felt like the book picks up through the middle for me. Kristen experience so much hate and bigotry and I think the way she handled it was realistic considering the fact that she’s never experienced anything like this before.

One really great thing is the relationships with some people in her corner. She has a solid support system there even when things are falling apart around her. Even if she doesn’t see how much they are there for her at times. Favorite parent of the year award so far goes to her father figure in this. I’m only 8 books into this year but that’s still pretty good.

The romance was kind of meh. It was pretty obvious where things were going. Plus Kristen being way too hung up on her first boyfriend and annoyingly never being sure of what she wants.She makes some decisions for the wrong reasons in this story. She doesn’t think about herself when she should be making decisions for herself. I felt like the end of the story was abrupt but the last part did make me smile.

 

diverse books, LGBTQIA+

Juliet Takes A Breath Review

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Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?

With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.

This is a really good novel.I think a lot of that is because of Juliet’s voice. She’s beautifully insightful in some moments of the book. She’s nerdy and quite funny at times too.Juliet is just a great character and it’s great to see how much she develops over the course of this novel in various areas of her life.

Juliet goes on a journey throughout the four parts of this book and I didn’t really get into the story until further along her journey but all of it is wonderful. Juliet takes this internship and doesn’t really know what she wants to get out of the experience. In the end, she got a lot more than she really thought she could. She has a place to move forward from.

This book starts out with Juliet in a stressful and relatable time. She’s coming out to her family. Juliet decides to do it at a family dinner. I like how much this book dealt with family. Even with Juliet away from them for a majority of the book you could see how important family was. Just from conversations with her mom or cousin Ava over the phone. Sometimes just from Juliet contemplating the way they reacted to things or might react to something. She thinks about her family often and I liked the focus on the family bonds.

Juliet meets some amazing women of color in this book. I felt like I was learning from Maxine and Zaira through Juliet’s encounters with them in the novel. This is a novel about feminism but more importantly intersectional feminism. Juliet is able to start figuring out where she stands in the feminism she sees on tv or reads in one of her favorite books. I absolutely loved the conversations Juliet has around this.

Sometimes as Juliet struggled I just wanted to jump in the book and answer things when she had questions she wasn’t asking anyone out loud yet.It takes her a while to feel the confidence needed to do more than just contemplate the tings she didn’t understand about queer terms or why Zaira made spaces specifically for women of color. I liked seeing Juliet learn and make mistakes while learning.Her exploration into all things queer and feminism. It was really well done.

Sidenote.There is a really odd character who is only in the story for a short time and never appears again and I didn’t understand the point of his words toward Juliet and couldn’t stop thinking what was the point there or if it was needed.Juliet never really thinks of him again after that section so it didn’t feel like it mattered.

The most relatable moment in this book for me was a feeling. The feeling that Juliet has when she is in an all QPOC space for the first time. She’s freer than she has been able to in a long time.No one is going to judge her or say the wrong thing. She won’t have to deal with microaggressions or blatant racism there. She is able to make decisions about how she perceives herself.

For me, that was an impromptu caucus for queer people of color at TheMidwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference. It was a room filled with QPOC and a space for us to talk about issues we face separate from all the other events of the conference.I didn’t even know there was that many of us in the conference. It was a major moment for me. I was dealing with not being able to embrace all aspects of my identity depending on the situation I was in. I had some rough school years and I feel like that was one of the moments that got me through. It changed things for me.It gave me perspective, I really needed.You see how much Juliet’s experience changes her on the final sections of the book.She’s able to take on the world after having run away from her problems before that. It’s great storytelling.

ARC's, LGBTQIA+, Uncategorized, YA

Of Fire and Stars Review

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Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine—called Mare—the sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two become closer, Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. And soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

I read it all in one night. This story gets to the action really fast which surprised me.Denna is sent off to a Kingdom to meet the man she’s been arranged to marry since she was born. This new kingdom is currently in a struggle with people who have magic. It’s preparing to persecute magic users. Denna has magic herself and must hide it from her future husband and his family. Then there is a magical murder Denna wants to solve along with the sister of the prince she is supposed to marry.

I have to say I loved Mare and Denna’s friendship and how it developed into real feelings. Denna and Mare are electric together on the page.

The mystery of who the killer is is and what is really going on with the magic is great too. Loved Denna’s slow acceptance of herself as a person with magic. It was beautifully written. It’s something that makes up who she is. Something she doesn’t want to reject but has to. So many parallels there for so many things.

There is a death in this book that surprisingly affected me. I was still thinking about it well after I finished the book.Still am right now. There is a type of side character I see killed off too often recently so that may be why. Won’t say much more because it would be a spoiler but it was a bit of a brutal way to die.

The magic in this book really jumps up toward the end. That makes sense because Denna really has to hide what she can do throughout. I just wish there was a bit more magic than we got actually. I love magic in books.

As a person who loves some of Tamora Pierce’s fantasy worlds I really gotta say this reminded me of them but way more queer. I was very happy with this book. Highly recommended. Excited to see where it goes from here and definitely hope the next book has more magic in it.

Book Reviews, Comics

El Deafo by Cece Bell

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I really enjoyed this book. Read it all in one go. It’s a cool middle-grade graphic novel that talks about the experience of one little girl that becomes deaf before they start school. It’s also based on the experiences of the authors. So it’s semi-autobiographical. I didn’t know that going into the book but it was really good.

Cece becomes deaf after having meningitis. This story is about Cece moving to a new place, going to a new school, and trying to make new friends. Cece has many challenges over the book as she gets used to the Phonic Ear she uses to help her hear in classes. Cece has many struggles while trying to make friends.I felt like Cece’s interactions with different kids around her age throughout the book were some of the most interesting moments for sure.

I absolutely loved that this is a story from a kid’s perspective. Cece seeing herself as a superhero was really great. Applying all the real life situations to her superhero self.It helps us learn about Cece and helps Cece try to figure out the people around her. It was really nice. I definitely recommend this book.

 

 

Book Reviews

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

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Rock star, crowdfunding pioneer, and TED speaker Amanda Palmer knows all about asking. Performing as a living statue in a wedding dress, she wordlessly asked thousands of passersby for their dollars. When she became a singer, songwriter, and musician, she was not afraid to ask her audience to support her as she surfed the crowd (and slept on their couches while touring). And when she left her record label to strike out on her own, she asked her fans to support her in making an album, leading to the world’s most successful music Kickstarter.

Even while Amanda is both celebrated and attacked for her fearlessness in asking for help, she finds that there are important things she cannot ask for-as a musician, as a friend, and as a wife. She learns that she isn’t alone in this, that so many people are afraid to ask for help, and it paralyzes their lives and relationships. In this groundbreaking book, she explores these barriers in her own life and in the lives of those around her, and discovers the emotional, philosophical, and practical aspects of THE ART OF ASKING.

Part manifesto, part revelation, this is the story of an artist struggling with the new rules of exchange in the twenty-first century, both on and off the Internet. THE ART OF ASKING will inspire readers to rethink their own ideas about asking, giving, art, and love.

I did not expect this book to make me cry. It did. it happened more than once. I really felt like Amanda Palmer let us into her life with this book. I cried. I laughed.Amanda Palmer has always had a great relationship with her fans and I feel like this book continued that.Amanda treats her fans like they are her friends and this felt like she was having an intimate conversation with all her friends about her life. About the choices she’s made and how she got where she is now. The stories she tells in this are so interesting to me. I was so pulled into every single one.

The stories she tells in this are so interesting to me.The writing was wonderful as well. I was so pulled into every single one. The entire message about asking for things that we need. Being able to take help when it’s offered. It was really beautiful and necessary for a lot of people. Including me. If you haven’t seen Amanda’s TED Talk then you should go watch it. Then pick up this book.

I feel like I’ve been lucky to find amazing memoirs like this in the last year. I wasn’t a memoir fan before then at all. This was utterly amazing. I highly recommend it.

ARC's, Book Reviews, LGBTQIA+

Looking For Group by Alexis Hall

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A guy falls for a girl while playing an online MMO. The girl turns out to be a guy. The guy is mostly okay with that. After having a mini sexuality crisis moment. The guy starts the new relationship. He messes up a lot in the new relationship.He might tick you off. Eventually, things get fixed and it’s all cute and stuff, though. Yay!

That’s a simple reaction to this. Let’s go into a little more detail. There are things I loved about this and problems I can’t really get over too. At the same time, I still recommend this to people.

I loved how geeky this story was. The main character Drew is going to school for video game design. His conversations with his friends about gaming and so many other geeky things were fantastic for me. I was geeking out.

The relationship development was pretty good in my opinion. I thought the two were great together before they met at least. Drew starts to love the game again because of Kit and I liked seeing that happen. I liked how they interacted in the game and how I could see the parallel when they were together IRL. they were just really cute together. Top ten couples of the year material.

I like the in game portions of this a lot. I liked seeing them go on raids in the game. The description of the combat and the lore in the game. The issues with the world building in the game. I liked that the author thought to bring these elements into the storyIt was all pretty great.

Drew’s friends are great and annoying. His best friends comments throughout the book just annoyed me. It really made me wonder how they became friends of stay friends. Sanee just kept getting worse as the book went on. Not knowing how to react when he met Drew’s boyfriend was one of those moments.

Luckily we had Tinuviel, Drew’s pansexual poly friend in the mix too. I loved her. She actually reminded me a little of a friend from college. When Sanee said things he shouldn’t either Sanee’s girlfriend of Tin would shut it down if they were around. Tin also helped guide Drew in his crisis moment.

I said I wondered why Sanee and Drew were friends. Then I realized Drew could be just as much of a dick as Sanee. He was such a jerk for a portion of the book. I was sitting there like you are so in the wrong right now and you don’t even understand why. Eventually, he does realize the error of his ways but it bothered me a bit too much.

I loved Kit, though. I honestly found him really relatable. Since high School, I’ve had many of friends that I met online that I was closer to than people I knew day to day. I really saw where Kit was coming from.Maybe that’s why I was so ticked at Drew when he started messing things up. This book was good. Not my favorite of the year but good.

Book Reviews, LGBTQIA+

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

 

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Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she can’t trust. A boy whose intentions are as dark as the strange markings on his skin.

The only way to get her family back is to travel with Nova to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…

I love books with magic. I love books with queer characters. So I knew I’d probably at least like this book which had both. This book also has really interesting family dynamics. A magic system and culture that is much more diverse than I’ve seen in other books. They are brujas, not witches. Plus, a really awesome protagonist that I rooted for throughout the whole book.

Even when Alex was making bad decisions like one that would probably get her entire family sent to another dimension I understood what she was going through and wished the best for her.I love the journey that Alex goes on in this book. From not wanting her powers to doing whatever she needs to do to get her family back.

I never really liked Nova or Rishi much throughout the book. I was following the journey for Alex. Rishi defaults to comedy intense situations sometimes and it didn’t really work for me. It just annoyed me sometimes. Nova’s attitude just really ticked me off. Especially his attitudes toward the fauns and other creatures of Los Lagos. That may be because the creatures stories affected me. I was really feeling what they had to go through under the rule of The Devourer. Especially Madra and Agosto doing what they could for their people.

The conflict is mostly external conflict on the surface even with all the changes Alex goes through and I didn’t have a problem with that. I liked that they focused on the task they set out to accomplish on their journey. However, I felt like there wasn’t enough in some ways. Seeing Alex’s development more or her relationships. It may just be because of not really liking what we see of Nova and Rishi but I don’t think it was that necessarily. The story didn’t feel like I thought it should by the end.

Still, there was a lot of striking language and images.The way Los Lagos and the magic is described really grabbed me. Plus so many other wonderful things about the book. I heard there will be two more books. one from each of Alex’s sisters and I’m excited for that. Especially if we get more magic.

Book Reviews, Comics

Kevin Keller Collection #1 | Comic Review

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Read all about Kevin’s introduction to the world of Riverdale! Journey into the mind and heart of Riverdale’s newest resident.

You’ll see how Kevin first met Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica; how he came to love journalism, and what drives him to want to follow in the footsteps of his father, a retired Army Colonel, and serve in the military!

Experience what it was like for Kevin growing up and how he learned to deal with all kinds of issues ranging from schoolyard bullying to discovering who he is and who he wants to be.

I absolutely love how these comics introduced Kevin. The first comic in this set was really funny. Poor Veronica falls for Kevin’s good looks and no one tells her that he’s gay even though they all know. Jughead and Betty have their reasons of course.

Loved Kevin’s fast friendship with Jughead. He’s treated just like any other character in the comics really. He fits into Archie’s group really well. Easy conversation wit Betty and Veronica. Similar attitudes to the group.

For a while, he seemed too much of a Gary Stu, though. He’s an aspiring journalist.He’s really smart. He’s an army brat that wants to join the military so he’s pretty athletic. In the later comics, you start seeing him more like a regular teen. He’s awkward. He gets stage fright. He’s a bit clumsy. He doesn’t always know what he’s doing.

My favorite comics were the ones that gave us background on him. Why he started writing and why he wants to join the military. How he met his closest friends. It gave a lot of insight into the character.Also loved the running for student president arc. I liked seeing how Kevin dealt with homophobia and seeing Archie and the gang sticking up for him. Even Reggie.

In the fifth comic, there is a little cliffhanger with Jerry. I need more on what’s going on with him. Someone, please tell me if that happens in later comics. Not just the small bit about him we get in the sixth comic of this book.

I definitely had some other issues here and there. This is straight up cheesy most of the time but I really couldn’t stop smiling. I was definitely ready to see some kind of romance plot for him when I finished this set because I realized there really wasn’t any of that in the first six Kevin Keller comics I read. Hoping there is a little of that in the next collection.