All Aboard the ARC: Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Author) and Lisa Sterle (Illustrator)

Squad by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (Author) and Lisa Sterle (Illustrator)

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley and Greenwillow Books in exchange for an honest review. I have not received compensation for the inclusion of any links found in this review or on any other page of The Voracious Bibliophile which mentions Squad, its creators, or its publisher.***

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Short Blurb: Maggie Tokuda-Hall takes everything you think you know about werewolves and their lore and gives it a feminist (and sapphic) bent. The result is a graphic novel that’s just a lot of fun to read (and talk about with your squad—no incels allowed, unless of course they’re on the menu).

Review

Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s Squad is a perfect blend of horror, suspense, and believe it or not, romance. It’s sort of like if Mean Girls had a baby with Teen Wolf that grew up to be super freaking gay and not a little sarcastic. Combine that with Lisa Sterle’s vibrant art style reminiscent of the best of the Archie Comics and what you have is a delightful romp just ripe for adaptation. Does anyone have Netflix’s number?

It’s [Squad] sort of like if Mean Girls had a baby with Teen Wolf that grew up to be super freaking gay and not a little sarcastic.

It all starts when Becca moves with her mom from LA to Piedmont in her junior year of high school. Becca has always wanted to fit in, so when a clique of popular girls takes her in, she feels like she has a place for the first time in her life. It turns out though that Becca’s new squad is less of a clique and more of a pack. Of werewolves, that is, with bites far worse than their barks. These werewolves don’t hunt the innocent, though. Their prey are the predators. Sleazy boys oozing generational wealth and privilege who take advantage of girls at parties. Boys who know history and the law is on their side telling them they’ll get away with it because most of the time they do.

Their prey are the predators.

Becca discovers her friends’ secret at a party outside underneath a full moon. A skinny incel named Bart O’Kavanaugh (Tokuda-Hall’s character naming is very tongue in cheek) gets Becca away from the larger group and tries to assault her. Their exchange really is rape culture in a nutshell:

Bart: You’re hella pretty.

Becca: Okay.

Bart moves in to kiss her and Becca squirms away from him.

Bart: Don’t make it weird.

Becca: Don’t make it rapey.

Bart: Why’d you even come with me then?

Becca: Boredom? I don’t know why I even believed you when you said you were gonna show me something cool.

Bart: Yeah, my dick!

Becca tries to turn away from him.

Becca: Let’s go back to the party.

Bart puts his hand on Becca’s shoulder.

Bart: I can tell you want it.

Becca turns again, trying to dislodge his hand off her shoulder, and Bart violently grabs her by the arm while she tries to free herself. She smacks him in the face, tearing up.

Becca: Let me go, dude!

Bart grabs Becca once again and tears are streaming down her face.

Bart: Jesus, don’t be such a bitch!

There’s a rustling nearby. Suddenly Arianna, Marley, and Mandy step into view.

Marley: You know, you gotta be careful around bitches.

The three girls start transforming into wolves, growing fangs, claws, and fur, tongues lolling in anticipation.

Marley: We roll in packs.

You know, you gotta be careful around bitches. We roll in packs.

If that scene isn’t the most patriarchy-toppling in any piece of media ever, I don’t know what is. There’s something extremely satisfying about seeing boys with names like O’Kavanaugh and Weinstein get eaten by girls-turned-werewolves. After they rescue her from Bart, Becca joins the girls’ pack and has to learn to cope with this new aspect of her identity and all it encompasses. Along with being a newly-turned werewolf, Becca also has another secret to keep that’s gurgling just beneath the surface. When you’re young, or any age, really, having to hide part of yourself to stay safe does damage that takes a long time to heal. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s true for gay people, women, and werewolves.

When you’re young, or any age, really, having to hide part of yourself to stay safe does damage that takes a long time to heal. Sometimes it doesn’t. That’s true for gay people, women, and werewolves.

Fear not, though, dear readers—Squad doesn’t disappoint and isn’t a tragedy by any stretch of the imagination. In this hybrid horror-romance story, the girls get mad, the boys get eaten, and love triumphs over all. And if only for a moment, everyone who’s ever had to say #MeToo feels just a little bit better.

Squad was released by Greenwillow Books on October 5th, 2021 and is available to purchase wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please like, comment, follow, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at fred.slusher@thevoraciousbibliophile.com or catch me on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and Pinterest @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

Garlic and the Vampire is in my opinion one of the best graphic novels written for younger readers to come out in the past decade. It tells the story of Garlic, who lives in a community of anthropomorphic vegetables created and cared for by Witch Agnes, a benevolent sorceress who teaches her vegetables the value of hard work and giving back to one’s community.

When we first meet Garlic, she is shy, passive, and timid. When a vampire is discovered to be living in the castle near their community, Garlic is decided to be the only one who can safely determine whether or not he is a threat to the humans who live in the village. She reluctantly decides to go despite her fears, knowing it’s the right thing to do.

Along the way she becomes braver, learning to rely on her own inner strength. When she finally confronts the count she learns that just because someone is different doesn’t always mean they’re to be feared, and that the best way to find out about someone else is to talk to them.

Garlic and the Vampire is due to be released on September 28th of this year and is now available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.

All Aboard the ARC: Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula by Koren Shadmi

***Note: I received a free digital review copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.***

There’s the likeness and the icon itself. The myth and the man behind it. We owe our modern conception of Dracula to Bela Lugosi, who donned the cape of the infamous bloodthirsty count in Tod Browning’s production of Dracula, which premiered in 1931, before the pearl-clutchers would focus their prudish crosshairs on the film industry in the form of the Hays Code, which forced studios to either veil or completely eliminate references to anything the aforementioned pearl-clutchers would consider morally reprehensible. Horror films were a natural target of the Code, so it is to the benefit of the culture at-large and the horror industry in particular that Dracula was released in the pre-Code era.

Horror films were a natural target of the Code, so it is to the benefit of the culture at-large and the horror industry in particular that Dracula was released in the pre-Code era.

Bela Lugosi was a Hungarian émigré who first cut his teeth on the stage in the National Theatre of Hungary. After facing political persecution, he made his move to the promising shores of America. First starring in (as well as producing and directing) shoestring-budget theater productions with other Hungarian émigrés, young Bela soon found himself disheartened, feeling as if he was destined to die a penniless pauper.

His first big break came when he met Henry Barton, a theatrical manager who had been impressed with Lugosi’s performance in one of his Hungarian-language productions. The American impresario hadn’t understood a word of the dialogue, but had been captivated by Lugosi’s command of the stage. He told him he would be perfect in a new play he was producing called The Red Poppy if only his English were better. Never one to give up, Lugosi told Barton he was a quick learner and would be willing to have an English tutor hired with the tutor’s wages deducted from his own.

The Red Poppy’s run was short-lived, a commercial failure. Lugosi, however, was praised for his performance and afterwards he had consistent work in small-budget English-language theater and silent film productions. Once he secured the role of the titular character in Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston’s Broadway production of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, his fate was sealed. The rest, as they say, is history.

Koren Shadmi does an excellent job bringing Bela Lugosi to life. Penning a pictorial biography of one of the world’s most iconic actors is a daunting task, certainly not for the faint of heart, but Shadmi deftly illuminates the man behind the myth, waking him from his coffin for a whole new generation.

Penning a pictorial biography of one of the world’s most iconic actors is a daunting task, certainly not for the faint of heart, but Shadmi deftly illuminates the man behind the myth, waking him from his coffin for a whole new generation.

Shadmi’s book is just as perfect for the longtime Lugosi acolyte as it is for those who only know him through his image as Dracula. It is evocative and daring and sobering. I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.

Shadmi’s book is just as perfect for the longtime Lugosi acolyte as it is for those who only know him through his image as Dracula.

Lugosi: The Rise and Fall of Hollywood’s Dracula by Koren Shadmi is due out on September 28th, 2021 and is available to preorder wherever books are sold.

Thanks as always for being a faithful reader of The Voracious Bibliophile. If you like what you see, please follow, like, comment, and subscribe to my email list to get notified of new posts as soon as they drop. You can also email me at thevoraciousbibliophile@yahoo.com or catch me on Twitter @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.