Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

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“For almost the past year I’ve been in love with a girl named Laura Dean.”

Freddy Riley is a 17-year-old lesbian Asian-American who is seeking the advice of an online romance dating column, because her girlfriend keeps breaking up with her over and over. And each time Laura Dean comes back into Freddy’s life, Freddy feels more and more shattered when she leaves, and she is unable to see what she can do to change the situation.

“What is it like to love this person who keeps breaking up with you and then presumably coming back to you? What does your love with this person offer you? Does it make you happy? Does it give you what you need to be a better person?”

This graphic-novel has so many layers, but this is truly a story about an abusive relationship, and how sometimes it can be so hard to see even when the lows feel so low, because the highs are so high. Laura gaslights, manipulates, and emotionally abuses Freddy in so many different ways, while also fetishizing having an Asian girlfriend.

This is also a story about friendship and how sometimes those can be hard to maintain, especially when you are going through a lot in your own life. And sometimes, especially when you are young and discovering who you are and want to be, it’s extra easy to lose yourself while only thinking about being someone’s favorite. Yet, it is never too late to try to be a good friend. And life is truly full of phases, and all friendships are different.

The prose is lyrical and oh so beautiful. I feel like I could have highlighted more quotes in this story than any other graphic novel to date. And the art? The most beautiful black, white, grey, and pink pallet, with details that are insane. This combination truly is a tier above and feels like something of magic.

This is a very diverse graphic-novel. Again, Freddy is an Asian-American lesbian, but the rest of the cast are also queer and/or poc, with a lot of body diversity too. And this story never shames these teens for getting into hard situations. It’s also incredibly realistic, and even when the discussions are difficult, they always feel hopeful to the reader. There is also a good mention of how different seventeen and eighteen are when it comes to where you are at in life and dating, especially when one is in high school and one is in college. (Give me Vi’s spinoff, I am begging!) And polyamory is even briefly discussed and the difference between consenting healthy dynamics compared to dynamics of polyamory uneven power where people are being taken advantage of.

“Love is hard. Breaking up is hard. Love is dramatic. Breaking up is dramatic.”

Overall, I really loved this, and I think it is such an important graphic-novel that truly can change people’s lives, especially queer poc in high-school feeling like they are doing something wrong in their abusive relationships. Relationships can be so hard and so messy, and breakups can be even harder and messier. I truly so wish that I had a graphic-novel about a queer biracial Asian girl when I was in high school, living through toxic breakups, but I’ll still keep Freddy Riley in my heart forever and recommend Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me constantly. (And I really loved… the part with the mom!)

Oh, and lastly, Lea gifted me this for my birthday and I thought it would be cute to read it and review it on her birthday! I am very thankful for her and this story that I really will cherish forever and always. 💕

Content and Trigger Warnings: underage drinking, abusive relationship, emotional abuse, cheating, manipulation, gaslighting, microaggressions, racism, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, and a relationship with a minor (17 + not sure how old but over 18).

4
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Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera | Drumsofautumn ARC Review

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

“Reading will make you brilliant but writing will make you infinite.”

Juliet Takes a Breath is a graphic novel adaptation of the novel with the same title and unpacks so many different themes, from white feminism and intersectionality to finding your place in queer spaces, heartbreak and coming out.

At the center of this story is Juliet, who moves from the Bronx to Portland, Oregon, to start an internship with a feminist author called Harlowe Brisbane. During this internship she gets introduced to a super diverse group of queer people and finds a queer space to belong for the first time.

As time goes on, Juliet becomes more comfortable within queer spaces but also learns that Harlowe Brisbane is not everything that she had hoped she would be and represent for her.

“They didn’t even know me and it was like they loved me. I almost couldn’t accept it. Like the ache of Lainie had me numb way deep in my spirit too.”

There is truly so much to say about Juliet Takes a Breath because it unpacked so many different themes but I thought it was all done incredibly well. I haven’t read the original novel but this graphic novel had me so hooked and so in love, that it made me want to read it, even though I now obviously know the basic storyline.

But it just made me so intriguied to see how the novel unpacks all of these issues because if the graphic novel already did it so well in such a small amount of pages, then surely the novel will be doing an ever greater job at it!

I also just adored all the characters in this novel so much and I would want to read more about them. This novel features an incredibly diverse cast of characters! Most of them are queer and/or genderqueer, we have Black characters, Latinx characters and a biracial (White & Korean) love interest.
Juliet herself is Puerto Rican, fat and a lesbian. She also has asthma and is shown using her inhaler on page.

“And you get to decide what you believe and how you worship yourself.”

Even though Juliet has known for a long time that she is gay and feels quite comfortable and confident in that identity, and even has been in a relationship for a year, she hasn’t really been part of any queer community and she really finds a wonderful support system with these people.

The story actually starts with Juliet coming out as a lesbian to her family and while a lot of the members of her family are dismissive at first, most of them are accepting. But Juliet’s mother does not accept her sexuality and calls it “just a phase” and thinks that Juliet just needs to find the right guy. It was a storyline that obviously many queer people can relate to and that I thought was well done overall.

I really loved Juliet’s relationship with her brother, even though we only got to read about it briefly and later on in the novel we meet Juliet’s cousin and aunt who live in Miami, who were also such wonderful characters to read about and had a big impact on Juliet’s journey too.

“Juliet Milagro Palante. I love you like the seas love the moon. Whatever you are, whoever you love, I’m here.”

One of the biggest themes of this graphic novel was white feminism and the saviour complex that white people have. This is definitely a story that is not always a fun and happy read, it can be quite uncomfortable at times. But it shows a reality of our world and I really appreciated that the author was so blunt about it.

This graphic novel talks about casual racism, it talks about how reverse racism doesn’t exist, it’s about how white people will so often overstep and speak over people of colour when they are trying to help. And it’s also about holding people accountable.
All those aspects, while brief, due to the nature of this format, were so well done and surely very eye-opening for many people.

On top of all that, Juliet Takes a Breath also has themes of different kinds of romantic relationships and how self-love plays an important role in that. We see that the relationship that Juliet is in in the beginning of the story does not seem very healthy and it shows just how important communication is in a relationship.

But within the course of this novel, Juliet starts dating someone else and it is a really beautiful development. There is also a great f/f sex scene with a big emphasis on consent and masturbation is also explored in this graphcic novel. Neither of thoses scenes are explicit but make it very clear what’s happening.

“Kira felt like home. Like a million street bikes zipping down the bronx river parkway and popping endos under the elevated trains. Dinosaur-sized butterflies fluttered in my stomach.”

And of course there is the beautiful art style, that I truly loved and that only added so much love for this graphic novel for me. I loved the line art and how much very clear body diversity there was with these characters. It also has a very warm and pleasant colour palette, that just made it a very pleasing reading experience.

“Gender is a trip. Limitless like the universe.”

Overall, as you might be able to tell from this review, I truly loved this graphic novel and cannot wait to dive into the novel soon because I am just that in love with the characters and themes in this story!

Trigger and Content Warnings for homophobia, racism, fatshaming, sexual harassment, smoking (weed), use of d-slur (in a reclaiming nature).

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✨ Lea posts a review on Meltotheany every Friday! Read more of her reviews HERE! ✨

Fence, Vol. 4: Rivals by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad

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1.) Vol. 1 ★★★★★
2.) Vol. 2 ★★★★
3.) Vol. 3 ★★★★★

“I just want you to know Seiji already has a rival, and it’s me.”

This volume really felt like a new start to this series! Tryouts are officially over, and we get to finally see Kings Row Boys School Fencing Team try to be a team! Up until this point, we have seen all of these players dueling one on one with each other, but in this installment we get to see them finally trying to work together, during their first practice match!

And…. Fence is still the slowest burn romance(s) of all time. So many ships are so close, yet so far away, from sailing. From Nicholas and Seiji, to Harvard and Aiden, to (be still, my heart) Bobby and Dante! They are all precious, and I’m rooting for them all so very hard, but oh my gosh is the wait going to kill us all! But I trust it will so worth it. And meanwhile, we get all the great content whilst we wait.

I always do a breakdown on my thoughts and feeling of each individual issue for Fence. So, the next portion of this review will have SPOILERS! Please use caution if you haven’t read this installment yet, because I will be talking about some of the themes and events that each issue had inside.

➽ CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Truly a new start for this story, especially when this first chapter starts out with Jesse Coste coming to the school for Seiji. This whole bind-up is the “I want Seiji to be my rival” bind-up and I respect it. And Nicholas is truly having none of it. We also get to see the coach working a lot with Nicholas, and I’m rooting for him to truly be the best fencer to ever fence! Also, the Nicholas and Seiji heart to heart before bed, please, my heart. Oh! And they finally got uniforms and they have the most precious reactions to them!

➽ CHAPTER FOURTEEN
Kings Row is officially going to understand that team fencing is different from individual fencing, because they are having their first practice match against MLC! This issue actually helped me learn a lot about Fencing and scoring and I was really impressed! Bobby is the most precious, and I’m rooting for my short baby always. Aiden ditches the match to go on a date, so Eugene is officially in!

➽ CHAPTER FIFTEEN
We quickly learn that MLC is very smart, and Kings Row is very predictable! Harvard is the best boy in the world though, and after some advice from Aiden on his date, he subs Nicholas in for himself and MLC truly didn’t expect it!

➽ CHAPTER SIXTEEN
Nicholas does amazing, and we get to see his practicing with the coach really playing off. But we also get to see the amazing results from just unconditionally supporting one another and being there for one another. And the boys start fencing like they are on a team! The end of this installment truly made me want to scream in the best way possible, but also cry because I have no idea when I’m going to get another installment in this story! But Seiji helping Nicholas was a lot, and Aiden and Harvard are always a lot a lot. Again, all the slowest burns to ever burn.

“Go Aiden’s teammate!”

Fence is truly just one of my favorite graphic series of all time. I am so in love, and I will read this slow burn until the end of my days, if CS Pacat allows me the honor. I am also very curious about the novelization that is coming out soon too, Fence: Striking Distance by Sarah Rees Brennan! I just want everything from this world, this school, this team, and these characters! But truly, if you’re looking for something funny, sweet, hopefully, and very angsty, I truly recommend you giving this series a try!

4
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Fence, Vol. 3 by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad

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1.) Vol. 1 ★★★★★
2.) Vol. 2 ★★★★

I truly feel like this graphic novel series just gets better and better each installment. I feel like after I finished the last page of this volume, I felt like the story (and real angst) is just now going to be starting and I truly cannot wait. This truly has been such a purely joyous serotonin ride getting to this point, and I already can’t wait to see what happens next. And I also predict the next issues will have a much different tone, as well.

But if you don’t know what Fence is all about, it basically follows some kids trying to join their boarding school’s fencing team! And some of the kids need to make the team in order to be able to stay at the school! And some kids are really just trying to live out their dreams of becoming famous fencers. In this installment in particular, we get to see so many of the kid’s families! And we also get to see some really pivotal matches that will dictate the future for some of these fencers!

The stars of this graphic novel are for sure Nicholas and Seiji, who are currently maybe having the slowest burn romance of all romance! But Bobby and Eugene must be protected forever and I vow to make it my new life mission. And Harvard is my favorite character, and not only would I give my life for his, I also want to remind this fictional character that he deserves the world and to never settle for the best. [rest]

I always do a breakdown on my thoughts and feeling of each individual issue for Fence. So, the next portion of this review will have SPOILERS! Nothing too pivotal, but I will talk about some of the themes and events that each issue had inside.

➽ CHAPTER NINE
Aiden lost to Harvard! Nicholas has a chance at making the team, he only has to win against Kally! Seiji is still very much still thinking about Jesse, and him and Nicholas get in quite the confrontation speaking about him.

➽ CHAPTER TEN
Bobby has my whole entire heart. I love the seeing all the diverse families of color and their relationships! Yet, both Nicholas and Seiji do not have families there.

➽ CHAPTER ELEVEN
Jay vs. Aiden (and maybe they hooked up before this match). I love Eugene and his family a lot. Truly like so much pure friendship going on this issue, please hold my bursting heart. And when coach says “I’m proud of you” I still can’t stop crying. I’m too attached to these kids.

➽ CHAPTER TWELVE
Seiji and Nicholas and their dorm situation. Two reserves = friendship. “Welcome to the fencing team!” and the pure serotonin this issue gave me. And then Jesse shows up and makes me question everything and where this next part of the story is going to go.

Overall, this is really just a top tier graphic novel series if you’re looking for a diverse cast of sports gays! I really recommend it with my whole heart, and it is truly one of my favorites of all time! And again, I really can’t wait to see what happens in Vol. 4, because I truly suspect that the entire story has just now started to begin!

5

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The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Tea Dragon, #3) by Katie O’Neill | ARC Review

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ARC provided by Netgalley
Publication: September 1st, 2020 by Oni Press

1.) The Tea Dragon Society ★★★★★
2.) The Tea Dragon Festival ★★★★★
*.) Aquicorn Cove ★★★★

”You feel like you’ve lost your path. It’s natural to be sad… it’s alright to let those feelings wash over you, and give them time to soak into the earth. That’s when things start to grow again.”

This entire series is just so special to me, and this newest installment is probably my favorite thing by Katie O’Neill to date. The Tea Dragon Tapestry truly feels like a love letter to remember loving yourself through all your phases.

I think something we just don’t really talk about enough as readers and reviewers is that sometimes we truly read a book at the most perfect moment in our lives, almost like it was destiny for us to choose this particular story at this particular moment, and that was very much me with The Tea Dragon Tapestry.I honestly don’t think I can put into words how much this story means to me at this time in my life, but I suppose I should give it a try still.

”The sadness, the loss, the hurt, as well as the joy, the love, the friendship – it is all part of you tapestry.”

This is a series about a small little village, where some of the community members have tea dragons! Tea dragons are little dragons that sprout little tealeaves when they are being well taken care of. And even though tea dragons are very rare, we get to fall a little bit more and more in love with their caretakers each installment!

This is also one of the most inclusionary graphic novels, which has some of the most beautiful diversity. This story has sapphic characters, gay characters, characters of all different skin colors, disability representation, nonbinary/genderfluid representation, and one of the most beautiful found families of all time.

Like always with my graphic novel reviews, I’m going to try to do little breakdowns of each chapter so I can come back and recap when needed! I’m going to try to keep this relatively spoiler free because this beautiful volume isn’t out yet but use caution still if you’d like to go into this one not knowing anything!

➽ Chapter One:
Brick is the cutest little coal sprite in the whole wide world. My heart’s quadrants still belong to Ginseng & Greta and Chamomile and Minette! Hesekiel and Erik and their tea dragons and little tea house mean everything to me too. And in this chapter, we get to see how tea dragons have an extremely strong bond with their caregivers!

➽ Chapter Two:
Minette starts to have magical dreams (that are drawn… so breathtakingly beautifully, oh my word, I’m still rendered absolutely speechless) and Greta is going to try for a blacksmithing apprenticeship!

➽ Chapter Three:
A lot happens in this chapter, but this is where the graphic novel starts to talk about our life’s purpose, and how sometimes our lives do not go the way we thought they would (even if extremely planned and laid out for us), but that is okay. We all experience phases where we question things, even ourselves, but we are never alone with that experience. Also, being nostalgic is very human (and dragon) things, that we all love to feel, but we shouldn’t compare the happiness of the past to the sadness we could be possibly experience in the present.

”It sounds strange, but I feel homesick for the person I used to be…”

➽ Chapter Four:
We get to see Rinn and Aedhan from The Tea Dragon Festival again and my heart felt like it had wings of it’s own! And how sometimes all our senses work together to remind us of happy or sad things and times.

”Taste has a strong association with memory”

➽ Chapter Five:
This was my favorite chapter, and I kind of just wept while reading it. Life can be so hard, and so sad, and so unexpected, and so all of these things at the very same time, but you just have to remember that it will get better, it can get better, and that this is only part of where you are at in life right now. One of the most beautiful things about life is that it is a full journey, where we will change, and people will change, and that’s okay, an that can be beautiful, but we have to keep changing and keep growing and keep living.

”…Little one, you are the person you are meant to be”

➽ Chapter Six:
And even if your journey might be a little unexpected, be happy that it is your journey. I truly know I sound like a bit of a self-help reviewer right now, but this chapter is just so beautiful, and hopefully, and left me so very excited to see where the rest of my journey will take me, no matter how many sad days are left and coming, because there will always be even more happy ones along the way, too.

”…Remember, that you are already whole.”

➽ Epilogue:
This epilogue was so good because it shows you the history on tea dragons! And Hesekiel is too kind to us to show us these secrets and stories of the tea dragons. And to remind us that all our stories are so very important and worthy to be told. And it’s also important to go on your own path and make many more new stories to keep on telling your loved ones who make you feel safe.

”Everything that happens is part of your wholeness”

The Tea Dragon Series is just a gift to the whole world. It feels like a comforting hug from my very own family and friends who are too far away to give me one. Again, this series just means a lot to me, and if you’re looking for a little light in a world that feels easy to be dark, then I really just recommend this installment with my whole heart and soul. Words and stories really have healing power, and this one truly made me feel so much lighter. And I promise, you are right where you are supposed to be too, friends.

5

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Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤

Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries

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OwlCrate’s May 2020 Box – REBELS WITH A CAUSE 🔥
My Rep Code: MEL10 ❤️

This was such a pleasant surprise! Witchy is a graphic novel story that centers on a witch kingdom called Hyalin! In this magical kingdom, the witch’s powers are dependent on how long their hair is, and they take a lot of pride in that. But if your hair is too long, and you are too powerful, the witch government can burn you to death. Also, the government tests the magical abilities of the young adults, and they can get conscripted into the military guard to protect the lands, which is also viewed as a great honor!

But our main character, Nyneve, not only is forced to hide her extremely long hair, but they also are very untrusting of the ruler Jung, and the other ruling witches, because she witnessed her father getting burned because he was so powerful. But now that the conscription is going to take place at her school, she is feeling very scared and a little helpless. That is, until she does something that will change her fate forever and cuts her hair off!

This first installment is all about the conscription “tournament”, the ramifications of Nyneve’s actions, new journeys to find out the truth of this kingdom and world, and a very cute talking raven named Banana! This story is also pretty diverse with very many characters of color (I feel like they are mostly south and south east Asian), a trans side character (I feel like this entire world is very gender fluid, but this side character is confirmed), and with a vast range of different body types! I also think the color palette is very unique, and very much captivated me throughout!

Content and Trigger Warnings for loss of a parent, transphobia (challenged), medical examination difficultly, and abandonment.

But I really enjoyed this story and I can’t wait to see what comes next! I truly always love a good magical story about people choosing their own destiny, even if the path to figuring that out can be a little difficult at times! And starring Asian witches, created by an ownvoices creator? Be still, my Filipino heart. And with most of my graphic works reviews, I like to do mini break downs of each chapter/issue so it will be an easier recap for me when a new installment is created! (Also, I just really like breaking down things!) But use caution for spoilers if you do not want to know anything about this story before going in!

✨ Also, you can read for FREE HERE! ✨

Chapter One:
We get to find out mostly what happened to Neve’s father, we get to learn a little bit about this military guard the is forced to protect this witch kingdom, and we start to see that dictatorship can wear many masks!

Chapter Two:
Batu and Prill are Nyneve’s two friends, and both have my heart. Well, Prill was a little bit of an enemy, I think! But only for like a page. We learn about the conscription and find out it is in two weeks!

Chapter Three:
This chapter really makes you fall in love with Neve’s mom. We learn that she joined the guard because of a bet. And she proves that she is willing to do anything for her daughter, and sacrifice anything for her safety. We also get to see the conscription, and Jung separates the kids into different teams, where they are forced to compete. And we learn who gets recruited! (I’m sure you can see where this is going… hehe!)

Chapter Four:
Nyneve is exploring a new place, with a talking raven, and meets a whole new community that is run by Batu’s sister, Io! (Let me also say, that I, too, would have a crush on Io!) But we get to see this orphanage for kids whose parents have been burned, and we get to see that maybe they are going to grow up to be a resistance army. Oh, also, we get to see Nyneve and Banana studying in a library filled with banned books and I just really enjoyed it and it made my heart happy! We also get to meet a very mysterious tree person named Eynag! And we get to see Neve decide what she is going to do next, when everything feels so unsure.

Again, I loved this. I really have even higher hopes for the next installment! I might go on the website I linked above and read the next two chapters because I just want more and more from this world. The creator has truly blown me away and I just want to support them forever. I hope you all enjoy this one too, if you choose to pick it up!

4
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The Tea Dragon Festival (Tea Dragon #2) by Katie O’Neill

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ARC acquired at Book Expo in exchange for an honest review.

“Just because something comes easily to you, does not mean it has no value. You find it effortless because you love it, and that is why it is your gift.”

Most of you know, that I fell head over heels in love with The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill last year, so when I got my hands on an ARC of this, I knew I had no option but to read it and fall in love with it immediately. And, dear reader, that is exactly what happened. This story, this art, and these messages are gifts from above, I swear to you all, and I recommend this companion novel to you all with my whole heart and soul.

At the very start of this graphic novel, we see some familiar faces prepping for the tea dragon festival. But this story stars Rinn who, while collecting things, meets a dragon named Aedhan, and invites them to the festival! Meanwhile, Erik and Hesekiel are back and are bounty hunters who are searching for something ancient that can put people to sleep for decades.

This is an incredibly diverse work of art. Rinn in nonbinary/genderfluid, Erik and Hesekiel are in a m/m relationship, there is Sign Language being used and being taught to the entire village, and the cast is full of people of color with visible brown skin. The actual blessings.

Seeing Aedhan teach Rinn about how dragons can shift between genders was something more beautiful that words to me. Also, seeing Aedhan help Rinn see that they are worthy and have so much value, and that they should never feel lesser for getting enjoyment and pride from gathering and forging… I’m still so soft. And this story really puts an emphasis on how you can cook with love, and how preparing and sharing food can be something so intimate and so filled with unconditional love and joy.

Overall, I really just think that this is a masterpiece. The art is truly on another level as well, and it fills my heart and soul with so much happiness. I also just really appreciate the reminder that you are always needed, and you are always worthy of value and love.

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.