Review: Shirley and Jamila’s Big Fall (Shirley and Jamila #2)

Title: Shirley and Jamila’s Big Fall (Shirley and Jamila #2)
Author: Gillian Goerz
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel
Publisher: Dial Books
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: December 14, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

For fans of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson, this middle grade graphic novel series tells the story of Shirley and Jamila, two girl detectives on a mission to stop their school’s biggest bully once and for all

As Jamila settles into the rhythms of classes and after-school basketball practice, Shirley has a new mystery on her mind. Her old enemy Chuck is up to his usual tricks: He’s been blackmailing kids all over school, and Shirley knows that she and Jamila can put a stop to it.

They hatch a plan: They’ll break into his house late one night and recover all the notes Chuck’s been using to blackmail innocent kids.

But while Shirley and Jamila are at the house, another intruder arrives–an intruder who can help them put a stop to Chuck’s crimes once and for all.

Review:

Shirley and Jamila are middle school detectives. In this story, they’ve just started the school year. Jamila is new at the school and eager to join the basketball team. Shirley is ready for their next case. She plans to take down her enemy Chuck, who has been blackmailing students, threatening to expose their most dangerous secrets. Meanwhile, Jamila makes a new friend at her community centre who makes her question if her friendship with Shirley is real.

Shirley and Jamila are like a modern day Sherlock and Watson. Shirley is methodical in her investigations, willing to wear disguises to catch the culprit. Jamila is quieter and thoughtful, questioning her relationship with Shirley. This mystery was based on the story “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.” I haven’t read that one but I’m curious about it after reading this graphic novel.

This story had important lessons about friendship. Though Jamila didn’t have any obvious interests in common with Shirley, they had fun together and that’s what’s important in a friendship.

Shirley and Jamila’s Big Fall is a great middle grade mystery!

Thank you Dial Books for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Other books in the series:

Have you read Shirley and Jamila’s Big Fall? What did you think of it?

Review: Geis II: A Game Without Rules

Title: Geis II: A Game Without Rules
Author: Alexis Deacon
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Publisher: Nobrow Press
Source: Publisher
Format: Hardcover
Release Date: December 12, 2017
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The second volume of Geis picks up right where the first graphic novel concluded: with the contenders divided against their will and thrown deeper into the mysterious game. Can the alliances of power be relied upon when so many rewards lay upon the line?

Deacons’ stunning illustrations carry forward the compelling and critically acclaimed narrative as the trilogy reaches its midpoint.

Review:

The competition continues in this second book in the Geis series. Everyone in the kingdom is competing to become the leader. However, only a couple of people know that they will fight to the death. Anyone who doesn’t win the competition will be killed. In this story, everyone is divided into two teams, either black or white. Alliances are broken as the stakes keep getting higher.

This is a fast paced and action packed story. There was more tension in this story because the stakes of the competition were raised. The fact that only some of the characters know that the competitors are destined to be killed also increased the tension.

I love how each character has a distinct appearance and style. Sometimes when a graphic novel has an extensive cast, it can be difficult to differentiate between the characters. It’s easy to tell these characters apart in this graphic novel.

Geis II is a great graphic novel! I hope the story will continue because it ended on a cliffhanger.

Thank you Nobrow for providing a copy of this book.

How to Survive in the North by Luke Healy

Other books in the series:

Have you read Geis II:A Game Without Rules? What did you think of it?

Review: Lifetime Passes

Title: Lifetime Passes
Author: Terry Blas, Claudia Aguirre (illustrator)
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Contemporary
Publisher: Abrams
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: November 23, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In this darkly comedic YA graphic novel, a group of teens starts a program to bring senior citizens to a local theme park to take advantage of the unofficial park policy: If someone dies on the property, the rest of their party is given lifetime passes!

Sixteen-year-old Jackie Chavez loves her local amusement park, Kingdom Adventure, maybe more than anything else in the world. The park is all she and her friends Nikki, Daniel, and Berke—although they aren’t always the greatest friends—talk about. Kingdom Adventure is where all Jackie’s best memories are, and it’s where she feels safe and happy. This carries even more weight now that Jackie’s parents have been deported and forced to go back to Mexico, leaving Jackie in the United States with her Tía Gina, who she works with at the Valley Care Living seniors’ home. When Gina tells Jackie that they can’t afford a season pass for next summer, Jackie is crushed. But on her next trip to Kingdom Adventure, she discovers a strictly protected secret: If a member of their party dies at the park, the rest of their group gets free lifetime passes.

Jackie and her friends hatch a plot to bring seniors from Valley Care Living to the park using a fake volunteer program, with the hopes that one of the residents will croak during their visit. The ruse quickly gets its first volunteer—a feisty resident named Phyllis.

What starts off as a macabre plan turns into a revelation for Jackie as Phyllis and the other seniors reveal their own complex histories and connections to Kingdom Adventure, as well as some tough-to-swallow truths about Jackie, her friends, and their future.

With artist Claudia Aguirre, Terry Blas has crafted a graphic novel that is dark and deeply moving. This book is Cocoon meets Heathers—a twisted satire about a magical land and the people who love it, even to the point of obsession. Jackie’s summer is about to turn into a wild ride filled with gallows humor, friendship, and fun—or is it?

Review:

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Chavez loved going to the local amusement park, Kingdom Adventure, but her aunt tells her that at the end of the summer, she won’t be able to afford to renew her season pass. Jessica and her friends heard a rumor that if someone dies while at the park, the rest of the party with that guest receives lifetime passes to the park. They decide to bring the elderly people who live in the facility where Jessica’s aunt works, in the hopes that they will die while at the park. Jackie ends up becoming friends with Phyllis, a woman who always wants to go to the park. Phyllis and the other seniors share their stories with these teens, and open their eyes to the similarities of their histories.

This story had a dark premise, but I can believe that teens would think this was a good idea. Many of Jessica’s friends were ignorant and rude, only wanting to get lifetime passes for themselves, but not actually caring about the elderly people they brought to the park. One of these teens ended up having an ironic ending, so they didn’t win in the end.

There was a common theme in this story about kids living without their parents or family. Jessica’s parents were deported to Mexico, so she lived with her aunt. One boy who accompanied them to the park was adopted and wanted to learn more about his Korean heritage. Phyllis was a Holocaust survivor, who left her family behind after moving to the United States. Each of these characters had different circumstances from different time periods, yet they all lost their biological family in some way.

Lifetime Passes is a dark comedic graphic novel.

Thank you Abrams for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Hotel Dare by Terry Blas, Claudia Aguirre

Ghosted in L.A., Vol. 1 by Sina Grace, Siobhan Keenan, Cathy Le

Have you read Lifetime Passes? What did you think of it?

Review: The Sleepover

Title: The Sleepover
Author: Michael Regina
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Publisher: Razorbill
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: November 9, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Perfect for fans of Stranger Things, this middle grade graphic novel follows a group of kids trying to cheer up their friend after a recent loss with a fun-filled sleepover, but their plans soon take a dark turn when they discover his new nanny may literally be a monster.

When the Russo family returns home from vacation to discover their nanny, Ruby, has unexpectedly passed away, Matthew takes the news the hardest. After weeks of reeling, his three best friends decide to cheer him up with a night of junk food, prank calls, and scary movies. But their plans for a sleepover are jeopardized when Matt’s single mother–unable to take any more time off of work–is forced to hire a new nanny on the fly to watch over Matt and his younger sister, Judy.

Miss Swan, however, is all too happy to have the boys over. And although she seems like the perfect babysitter, letting the kids eat whatever they want and mostly leaving them alone, there’s something about her that Matt doesn’t trust. He thinks she may actually be the witch from local legend–the one who torments children into the night and then eats them. Is he just having a hard time dealing with Ruby’s replacement, as his friends suspect? Has he watched one too many scary movies, as his mom fears? Or are he and his horror-buff friends in for the fright of their lives as they come face-to-face with a real monster?

Review:

Ruby was the best babysitter for Matt and Judy. When Matt and Judy return home from vacation to find that Ruby has passed away suddenly, they need to find another babysitter. Their mom hires Miss Swan for the evening while Matt has his friends over for a sleepover. However, there’s something strange about Miss Swan. Matt suspects that she is actually the rumored witch who lives in the woods behind their house and supposedly eats children. His mom thinks that Matt is just missing Ruby, and that’s why he doesn’t like the new babysitter. Matt has to try to convince everyone else that Miss Swan is actually a witch.

This graphic novel reminded me of Stranger Things. It was set in 1993, and the children loved watching horror movies. Each of the four friends had their strengths and weaknesses when it came to figuring out the truth about the witch. Judy tried to join in with the boys, but since she was the little sister, she wasn’t always included. Though it is set almost 30 years in the past, this story still had relatable characters and relationships.

Fears were an important theme to this story. Ruby was scared of thunderstorms, so she always had to be close to Matt and Judy during a storm. This showed that even adults can have irrational fears that can affect their lives. A fear was the key to the ending of the novel, so it was an important part of the story.

The Sleepover is a spooky middle grade graphic novel!

Thank you Razorbill for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Hiddenseek by Nate Cernosek

Stranger Things: The Other Side by Jody Houser

Have you read The Sleepover? What did you think of it?

Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow

Title: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow
Author: Mariko Tamaki, Natacha Bustos, Eleonora Bruni
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: May 11, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Now, truly alone for the first time in her life, Willow must rely only on her instincts – and her magic – to save herself from a different kind of threat than Buffy ever prepared her to face in her first ever comic book series!

NO MORE SUNNYDALE. NO MORE SCOOBY GANG. NO MORE…WILLOW?

After everything – and everyone – she lost to the Hellmouth, Willow is leaving Sunnydale behind for a new school that promises “to help you prioritize your true self.” But Willow soon learns that all is not as it seems, and if your true self isn’t what the school thinks it should be…well, don’t worry, they’ll help you get there. By any means necessary. Now, truly alone for the first time in her life, Willow must rely only on her instincts – and her magic – to save herself from a different kind of threat than Buffy ever prepared her to face!

Award-winning writer Mariko Tamaki (She-Hulk) and superstar artist Natacha Bustos (Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur) bring Willow face to face with the truth of her past… and plant the seeds for a future no one could’ve predicted. Collects Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow #1-5.

Review:

Willow left everything behind in Sunnydale and moved to a new school in England. When the school wasn’t what she expected it to be, she got a one way bus ticket out of town. She ended up in Abhainn a mysterious witchy town. Willow has found her people, but she has to figure out the mystery of the town.

I watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer occasionally when I was a kid, but I haven’t seen the show in years. When I saw that this was a witchy graphic novel, I had to read it. Since this book was about Willow leaving Sunnydale, it could be read as a stand-alone without knowing the background of Buffy.

I loved the beautiful art in this graphic novel. The alternate covers were particularly beautiful. Some of them had realistic images of the characters, which I always love to see. This graphic novel had lots of beautiful illustrations.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow is a fun graphic novel!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel: Hellmouth by Jordie Bellaire, Jeremy Lambert

Slayer by Kiersten White

Have you read Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Willow? What did you think of it?

Blog Tour Review: The Secret Garden on 81st Street: A Modern Graphic Retelling of the Secret Garden

Title: The Secret Garden on 81st Street: A Modern Graphic Retelling of The Secret Garden
Author: Ivy Noelle Weir, Amber Padilla (illustrator)
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Contemporary
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Format: Ebook
Release Date: October 19, 2021
Rating: ★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

The Secret Garden with a twist: in this follow-up to Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, this full-color graphic novel moves Mary Lennox to a New York City brownstone, where she and her very first group of friends restore an abandoned rooftop garden…and her uncle’s heart.

Mary Lennox is a loner living in Silicon Valley. With her parents always working, video game and tech become her main source of entertainment and “friends.” When her parents pass away in a tragic accident, she moves to New York City to live with her uncle who she barely knows, and to her surprise, keeps a gadget free home. Looking for comfort in this strange, new reality, Mary discovers an abandoned rooftop garden and an even bigger secret…her cousin who suffers from anxiety. With the help of her new friends, Colin and Dickon, Mary works to restore the garden to its former glory while also learning to grieve, build real friendships, and grow.

Review:

After her parents died suddenly in a car accident, Mary Lennox moved to New York to live at her uncle’s home. Her uncle has traveled constantly for work since his husband died, so Mary is left with his housekeeper and neighbour. While she’s exploring the house, Mary discovers a hidden garden that used to be tended to by her uncle’s husband. She also finds her uncle’s son, Colin, who is kept away in his room because he suffers from anxiety and panic disorder. Along with her other new friend Dickon, Mary helps rebuild the garden and learn how to grieve.

I haven’t read The Secret Garden since I was a kid, so I don’t remember the story very well. I’m sure a lot was changed in this adaptation to make it modern. Mary came from a high tech home in Silicon Valley, and she had to get used to life in New York. One thing I didn’t understand was why she didn’t start school right away since she moved there in the winter. Her uncle mentioned her starting school in the fall, and once Mary said something about online school, but it was strange that she would have been out of school for so long.

I appreciated the representation of anxiety and panic disorder in this book. Colin was kept away from the rest of the house because he was so anxious. The anxiety started after his father died. It was difficult for others to understand his feelings at first, because the doctors said there wasn’t anything physically wrong with him, though he felt pain in his chest when he experienced anxiety. Luckily, Mary figured out a way to help Colin manage his anxiety and live a fuller life.

The Secret Garden on 81st Street is a great, modern adaptation.

Thank you Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

What to read next:

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Rey Terciero, Bre Indigo (illustrations)

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

About the author:

LIvy Noelle Weir is a writer of comics and prose. She is the co-creator of the Dwayne McDuffie Award-winning graphic novel Archival Quality (Oni Press), the upcoming The Secret Garden on 81st Street (Little, Brown for Young Readers), and her writing has appeared in anthologies such as Princeless: Girls Rock (Action Lab Entertainment) and Dead Beats (A Wave Blue World). She lives in the greater Boston area with her husband and their two tiny, weird dogs.

Purchase links:

Tour schedule:

Have you read The Secret Garden on 81st Street? What did you think of it?

Review: Spell on Wheels, Vol. 1

Title: Spell on Wheels, Vol. 1
Author: Kate Leth, Megan Levens, Marissa Louise
Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Contemporary
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: June 30, 2017
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

A road trip story. A magical revenge fantasy. A sisters-over-misters tale of three witches out to get back what was taken fom them.

Andy, Jolene, and Claire aren’t your average twenty-somethings. They’re legacy witches making their way through a modern world. When a jealous nonmagical ex breaks into their home and steals a spell that could awaken potentials with magical powers, the witches plan their revenge. Traveling down the East Coast, they must retrieve their powerful stolen artifacts and strengthen their friendship… the big bad is even worse than they imagined. 

Collects Spell on Wheels #1–#5

Review:

Andy, Jolene, and Claire are witches in their twenties. One evening, Claire’s non-magical ex-boyfriend breaks into their house and steals a bunch of their artifacts, including a spell that will awaken powers in someone without them. The three witches have to track down everything that he stole and sold on a witch app, while also figuring out who broke into their home and why he did it.

I love witchy stories right now. This one is perfect for the spooky season. Though the characters are in their twenties, the tone of the story was like a young adult story. There wasn’t swearing or anything too mature, so it would be appropriate for a young adult reader.

This story has a witchy theme, but the illustrations had bright colours. Often magical graphic novels with a dark tone also have dark illustrations, but this one has a brighter tone with vibrant colours. The illustration style reminded me of the Archie Comics I read as a kid, so I liked this style.

Spell on Wheels is a fun, witchy graphic novel!

What to read next:

Spell on Wheels, Vol. 2: Just to Get to You by Kate Leth, Megan Levens, Marissa Louise

Heavy Vinyl, Vol. 1: Riot on the Radio by Carly Usdin, Nina Vakueva

Other books in the series:

  • Spell on Wheels, Vol. 2: Just to Get to You

Have you read Spell on Wheels, Vol. 1? What did you think of it?

Review: Witches of Brooklyn (Witches of Brooklyn #1)

Title: Witches of Brooklyn (Witches of Brooklyn #1)
Author: Sophie Escabasse
Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Contemporary
Publisher: Random House Graphic
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: September 1, 2020
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

There’s a new witch in town! Life in Brooklyn takes a strange turn when Effie discovers MAGIC runs in the family. 

A middle-grade graphic novel adventure filled with magical hjinks for fans of Phoebe and Her Unicorn and Making Friends

Effie lost her mom.

Lost her home.

And now she has to live with two strange aunts who she’s never met before.

Life in Brooklyn takes a strange twist for Effie as she learns more about her family and herself. With new friends who will do whatever they can to be there for her, a cursed pop-star, and her new magically-inclined family — Effie’s life is about to get interesting.

Review:

When Effie’s mother dies, she’s sent to live with her mom’s half sisters. None of them are happy with the situation, but they will have to learn to live with it. However, when Effie’s favourite pop star shows up at the house in desperate need of a cure for a curse, Effie learns that her aunts are witches. Then, Effie’s own magic begins to shine through. Her life takes an exciting and unexpected turn.

This story reminded me of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Effie was sent to live with her two aunts, just like Sabrina. Effie also didn’t know about her aunts’ magic or the powers she would develop, like Sabrina. Sabrina the Teenage Witch is one of my favourite characters so I loved this similarity.

Witches of Brooklyn was a fun middle grade graphic novel! I’m excited to read the next one.

What to read next:

Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?! by Sophie Escabasse

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

Other books in the series:

  • Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?!

Have you read Witches of Brooklyn? What did you think of it?

Review: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess

Title: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess
Author: Nancy Springer, Serena Blasco
Genre: Graphic Novel, Middle Grade, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Enola Holmes is on the case! A graphic novel adaptation of Nancy Springer’s bestselling mystery series about Sherlock Holmes’ resourceful younger sister!

Raised by her mother on the family’s country manor, Enola wakes on her 14th birthday to discover that her mother has disappeared, leaving only a collection of flowers and a coded message book. With Sherlock and Mycroft determined to ship her off to a boarding school, Enola escapes, displaying a cleverness that even impresses the elder Holmes. But nothing prepares her for what lies ahead. Her journey quickly leads her into the dark and sordid neighborhoods of London where she finds herself involved in the kidnapping of a young marquess. Will Enola evade her two brothers and succeed in her new independent life, even as she continues to follow her mother’s trail?

This delightfully drawn graphic novel adaptation also includes a portfolio of pages from Enola’s secret notebook.

Review:

Enola Holmes, younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, wakes up on her 14th birthday to find that her mother is missing. Her mother left without leaving a note, so Enola asks her brothers Sherlock and Mycroft to help search for her mother. However, her brothers want to send Enola off to boarding school because they think their mother has run away for good. Enola must escape the life her brothers have planned for her so that she can continue searching for her mother, and maybe solve a mystery or two along the way.

I love reading adaptations and retellings of Sherlock Holmes stories. This one was original because it was about Sherlock’s younger sister. However, it did not portray Sherlock in a positive light. Him and his brother Mycroft wanted to send Enola off to become a proper lady, when all she wanted was to find her mother.

Enola was a fun character. She was determined to find her mother, and was willing to do anything to complete her goal. She was also creative and great at problem solving. At the end of this graphic novel, there were some pages from Enola’s notebook, with her notes on the case and details about how she solved problems. This was some fun insight into her character.

The Case of the Missing Marquess was a fun mystery graphic novel!

What to read next:

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady by Nancy Springer, Serena Blasco

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

Other books in the series:

  • The Case of the Left-Handed Lady
  • The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets

Have you read The Case of the Missing Marquess? What did you think of it?

Review: The Backups: A Summer of Stardom

Title: The Backups: A Summer of Stardom
Author: Alex de Campi, Lara Kane, Dee Cunniffe, Ted Brandt
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Contemporary
Publisher: Imprint
Source: Library
Format: Ebook
Release Date: April 13, 2021
Rating: ★★★★★

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Goodreads Synopsis:

Step into the spotlight with The Backups, a graphic novel from writer Alex de Campi and artist Lara Kane about crushes, confidence, and catchy choruses!

Spending an entire summer on tour as a backup singer for pop star Nika Nitro? What?! That’s the DREAM, right? Especially for Jenni, Lauren, and Maggie, three misfit performing arts students with hopes of making it in the music world.

But being twenty feet from fame isn’t easy. Between crushes, constant rehearsals, Nika’s sky-high expectations, and their own insecurities, this dream is starting to feel more like a nightmare. And that’s before they accidentally start a beef with a rival band threatening to reveal a secret that could end Nika’s career.

Can this trio of new friends come together to save the tour, or will the Backups be kept out of the spotlight forever?

Review:

Jenni, Lauren, and Maggie are three music school students who are chosen to be backup singers for the pop star Nika Nitro. They’re going on a tour across the country for the summer. The three girls are constantly being criticized, from their appearance to their taste in music. Then, they have a fight with another band, who threaten to ruin the tour. To top it all off, Nika has a huge secret that she must keep from her fans. Her backup singers are the only ones who can save this tour.

This graphic novel touched on some important issues with performers, such as body image and peer pressure. Jenni was instructed to go on a diet to lose weight. Another singer said he was told to have plastic surgery as a teenager. Nika was pressured into performing, even though it was dangerous for her health. These are real issues that performers may face, which can destroy their own bodies if they make dangerous decisions.

Though it had some serious moments, this was a fun story. Jenni, Lauren, and Maggie got to live the dream of being back up singers to a pop star for the summer. I’d love to see a sequel to this story. It would be really fun to see where the story goes next!

The Backups is a great graphic novel!

What to read next:

Heavy Vinyl by Carly Usdin

Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young

Have you read The Backups: A Summer of Stardom? What did you think of it?