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: Basho’s Haiku Journeys by Freeman Ng (Author) and Cassandra Rockwood Ghanem (Illustrator)

Basho’s Haiku Journeys by Freeman Ng (Author) and Cassandra Rockwood Ghanem (Illustrator)

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

I must admit, before reading Basho’s Haiku Journeys I knew next to nothing about Matsuo Basho, the Japanese poet who lived in the seventeenth century and is credited with inventing the haiku. For those of you unfamiliar with the form, a haiku is a short-form poem most often containing seventeen syllables in three lines, with five in the first line, seven in the second line, and five in the third and last line. Most haiku are about nature and haiku purists insist that only haiku about nature can be considered true haiku, but the form has evolved to include other topics.

For most of his life, Basho lived a comfortable and cosmopolitan life in Edo, which was then the capital city of Japan. He made his living teaching and writing, but there was an unfulfilled longing inside him—to see more, to experience the vibrancy of life more fully. He lived in a hut outside Edo that his students had built for him, and one night it caught fire and burned to the ground.

Most people would feel devastated at the loss of all their earthly possessions, but Basho felt liberated. He wandered into the woods, basking in the elation he felt at his change in fortune. It was then he decided to adopt an itinerant lifestyle, beginning the first of what would become five long journeys. From 1684-1689, Basho would traverse the length of his country and write about the beauty of the natural world in books that would later become classics of Japanese literature.

This book is a must-purchase for children’s librarians, language arts teachers, and parents and guardians who want their children to be curious and creative citizens of the world.

Ng honors Basho by telling his story in haiku form and the result is nothing short of breathtaking. One of the hallmarks of a good book is that it leaves you wanting more and in that regard Ng has more than succeeded. Cassandra Rockwood Ghanem’s gorgeous hand-painted illustrations add depth and clarity to Basho’s story. This book is a must-purchase for children’s librarians, language arts teachers, and parents and guardians who want their children to be curious and creative citizens of the world.

Portrait of Matsuo Basho (18th-19th century) by Hokusai. Public domain.

Basho’s Haiku Journeys is due to be released on October 19th, 2021 by Stone Bridge Press 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 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 and Instagram @voraciousbiblog. Keep reading the world, one page (or pixel) at a time.