Those of you who found Valentine’s Day discouraging, like to call it singles awareness day, and/or want an empowering shojo story will find a lot to relate with in the series Skip Beat. Skip Beat is a manga (Japanese comic) series focuses on finding yourself, following your dreams, and being self-reliant. The long running series focuses on Kyoko Mogami as she seeks out fame and fortunate for the sake of revenge against her ex-boyfriend who is a prominent idol. It’s tons to read about her work as an assistant to stars and idols, hoping that her work will lead the way up to her own premier as a star. Skip Beat’s story is filled with passion, trails, and the rejection of traditional romance. This is one the longest running and most famous shojo series, and clearly lives up to it’s reputation as a classic.
What makes this series work so well is that it embraces the comic elements of the cast, while adding a degree of drama. Rather than being a passive character, Kyoko becomes a character that goes all in and is serious about her dreams. She’s stubborn, competitive, gutsy, genuine and not afraid to come off scary or fight back, which is unusual for a shojo lead. It is great to see how her odd and driven personality fits right into the oddness of the talent agency where she works, and how it makes her stand out from the typical passive shojo readers stand. While most shojo series focus on romance, Skip Beat seem much more like a comedic competition, as Kyoko fights to earn stardom and learns what it takes from the tough and silent top male idol Ren. Skip Beat breaks the traditional mold of shojo tropes, creating a hilarious and exciting stories about fighting for a dream even if that dream is revenge against an ex and traditional love.
Being a vampire is often tough in fiction, and the book The Immortal Rules makes that very clear. Taking place in post-apocalyptic environment run by vampires and ravaged by disease, Alison Sekemoto is forced to confront becoming what she fears. This book doesn’t pull punches when it describes the struggles she faces trying to maintain her humanity and deciding what to do with her life now that she is a vampire. It candidly explores a bleak world, setting up for a thrilling tale of self-discovery and survival. The book also explores Alison’s quest to find her place in the world, even though it often means being as a monster.
What stands out the most for this series is the grittiness that it applies. Alison’s narration makes it very clear how dangerous her world is, and the danger she herself poses to herself and others. Alison has to come to terms with becoming a vampire, something loathed and feared as a human. As a vampire she is often driven by a monstrous addictive urges for blood that she struggles to control. Throughout the book she at times loses control and has to live with regret after giving in to her urges. She also tries her best to maintain her humanity and blend in with human groups, but as a result often gets into trouble when her secret is revealed. On top of that the world in The Immortal rules is often portrayed as violent, cruel and unforgiving. This brings a real sense of danger to the text, and creates the very real possibility that characters can die. This realism creates a convincing and suspenseful environment, and an exciting sense of inner struggle for Alison to face.
Special Poetry Review:
Poetry is an important and often overlooked medium of text. Unlike in most genre of work such as fiction and non-fiction within poetry emotion takes priority over meaning. Please Excuse This Poem: 100 New Poets for the Next Generation is an excellent collection of poetry for older teen readers and those looking for poetry that is more recent. This collection contains many styles, and touches upon a variety of themes that are very relevant in teen’s lives. The poems in this collection are often raw and give an unfiltered view of the writer’s feelings. This collection is also a great way for teens to get to know poetry as a medium in a way that grabs their attention, and for them to find a new means of expressing complex emotions.
What stands out to me about the poetry of Please Excuse This Poem is the complex issues it tackles. Issues such as romance, family, depression, sexuality, identity, loss, and oppression are all covered through the voices of young adult poets in unique ways. Reading this book was often like peering into the author’s soul, with each poem reflecting the writer’s perspective and voice. Its variety is also helpful for a reader seeking to find their own poetic voice and the styles of poetry that best fit that voice. While this series of poetry is challenging due to its subject matter and the nature of some of the poet’s styles, for older reader there is a lot to get out of this collection with many of poems that speak to relevant subjects and feelings teens have.