Books

Book Review: Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

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Rating: 7 out of 10 stars

Intro

In my book reviews, I consider the literary merit of the book by examining aspects such as character development, world-building, illustrations, and storytelling.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if it sounds like it’s the book for you.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to describe your point of view in the comments.

Background

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel is based on the novel Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Andrew Donkin created the illustrations for the graphic novel. It was published in 2007, six years after Colfer published the first Artemis Fowl novel.

The titular character, Artemis Fowl, is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind. Artemis Fowl wants to expand his family fortune by getting his hands on fairy gold.

To do so, he seeks out and finds a book of fairy secrets that he uses to exploit the People (a name for fairykind). He kidnaps a fairy officer named Holly Short to use as leverage.

Along with his bodyguard Butler and Butler’s sister Juliet, Artemis attempts to pull off the amazing feat of separating fairies from their gold, which few have managed to achieve before.

Pros

  • Mostly faithful to book despite being shorter
  • Strong storytelling
  • Color themes matched mood and tension

Cons

  • Ugly artwork
  • Unnecessary changes to character appearance
  • Inconsistency in fairy culture

Review

Any fan of the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer will notice upon reading this graphic novel that it is faithful to its source. There are even sentences that are word-for-word copies of sentences in the original novel.

The storyline likewise remains unaltered. There are no nasty surprise changes in plot like in some novel adaptations. That’s a relief.

As a result, even in this truncated version of the original, the storytelling is vibrant and engaging. I was hooked from the first page and read the whole graphic novel within an hour.

To provide a sense of mood, Donkin created color themes for different scene that reflected the atmosphere. This was unrealistic, but I recognized that it was an artistic choice that added rather than subtracted from the narrative.

Some of Donkin’s other artistic choices were poor ones. The artwork was ugly. It just was. I get that he has artistic license with how he can portray the characters and scenes, but this was too much.

For example, look at Foaly.

Foaly | Artemis Fowl | Fandom
Foaly from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

He’s blue and looks elderly. He’s not wearing his customary tin hat. Nothing is right about this picture except that he is still a centaur.

If you read the original novel, is this how you pictured Foaly? It’s not how I did. He came off to me as young and geeky, and somewhat comical. Not geriatric.

Butler is even worse. He looks like a disproportional mountain of flesh. In the original series, he was described as a “man mountain,” so I understand where Donkin was coming from. But he looks horrible, and I imagined him as a large muscular man with some style, not just sheer immensity.

Artemis Fowl | Epic Heroism for the 21st Century: a Multimedia Web ...
Butler and Artemis from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel)

Also, can I just say that Artemis’s eyes are supposed to be blue? Not brown. Blue.

10 Best Artimus Fowl images | Fowl, Artemis fowl, Artemis
Holly Short from Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel

Also, Holly is supposed to have “nut-brown” skin. Instead her skin is this sallow shade of white. Why? That was an entirely unnecessary change. There was not a single person of color in this novel, to its detriment. There was no need to whitewash the novel.

Also, I will explain why I think the fairy culture in the graphic novel is inconsistent. In Haven City, the billboards were all written in English rather than Gnommish even though fairies look down on humans. The fairies would never have adopted English for their advertisements and daily life. It’s a silly little mistake, but worth noting.

Conclusion

Based mostly on the story and on some (very few) good artistic choices, I rated this graphic novel a 7 out of 10. Artistic choices including character appearance were its biggest downfall, but I was able to stomach that because of the rich storytelling.

Books

Book Review: “New Kid” by Jerry Craft

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

Intro

Let me start by saying this is my first book review. Excluding any reviews or essays I wrote for school, I mean. I hope that this will be helpful to you!

In my book reviews, I would like to highlight the storytelling abilities of the author, consider the impact of the art style if any, and evaluate how well the book does what it sets out to do.

I will do this for books written for a variety of audiences and ages.

Just as a precaution before you delve in – in the end, my opinion and preferences have an impact on the rating. When it comes to judging literature, it is impossible not to let personal biases interfere.

I will, however, honestly evaluate the aspects of the book to the best of my ability so my review can help you determine if reading the book is worthwhile or if it sounds like its the book for you. For example, if it’s a well-written horror book, I will give it a good rating even though I personally dislike the horror genre.

If you happen to disagree with my evaluation for any reason, feel free to describe your point of view in the comments.

Now, for the real review.

First, a little background.

The graphic novel New Kid by Jerry Craft won the 2020 Newbery Medal as well as a host of other awards, and was added to many distinguished lists. It is about the everyday life of an African American seventh grader named Jordan Banks. He starts the school year at a new prestigious school with low diversity, where he has difficulties fitting in.

Now I will list the Pros and Cons of the book before going into greater detail.

Pros

  • Achieves its original purpose
  • Strong message
  • Complex main character
  • Thoughtful title that changes meaning throughout the story
  • Creative chapter titles
  • Distinct artistic style
  • Well-established setting

Cons

  • The art style was unappealing, at least for me
  • Occasional build-up of tension, but low stakes
  • Slow pace

Review

Purpose

My overall experience with this book was very good. It does exactly what it sets out to do – depict the experience of an African American boy trying to fit in at a new school despite its low level of diversity.

From looking at what others have posted about it, it seems to somewhat accurately depict the experiences African Americans have had with microaggressions and racism. Some have said that what Jordan Banks experienced was much milder than their own experiences. Others empathized with his experiences and related similar experiences of their own. Overall, reactions to this have been mixed but generally positive.

Message

Part of the message was that anyone who makes assumptions about another person because of their color of their skin is being racist. Seems obvious, but that was only part of the message.

But Craft had the further, very important message that it is racist regardless of one’s intentions. Some of the people who were racist in this graphic novel were malicious, but most were just ignorant and thoughtless. (The instances of racism were still really cringey, and I believe ignorance is no excuse.) Furthermore, it is crucial to note that these offhand, thoughtless comments caused just as much harm to the main character as the malicious ones.

Another part of the message is that there is not enough representation of people of color and minorities in literature, at least not of the right kind. The writer actually used examples of what kind of literature is being marketed to black teens to highlight his point.

That was what I perceived as his message.

Complex Main Character

On the one hand, Jordan was deeply hurt by the microaggressions and racism he and his friends experienced. On the other, he was reluctant to retaliate, and struggled to find his own voice in opposition to racism.

He also feels torn because he feels that his friends from school and those from the neighborhood are somehow incompatible.

He is an artistic boy with profound ideas that come out in his drawings. For example, he wants to be like Batman, but not just because Batman is a hero, but because Batman lives two lives and manages to fit in perfectly with both.

Thoughtful Title

The title, “New Kid” seems to refer to both Jordan’s experience as the new kid at school and how he becomes a “new kid” as his experiences change his perspective.

Creative Chapter Titles

The chapter titles are puns based on movie titles. Hilarious!

Distinctive art style

Craft definitely has a style that is uniquely his own. It doesn’t look average, and the style is consistently applied.

Well-established setting

Unlike some books, which have trouble establishing the setting, this one had no problems because the setting was depicted visually with detail. The main settings are the school and the neighborhood. The school seems large and sprawling, and generally impressive. The neighborhood, where it seems many of the inhabitants know each other by name, is shown less but is still a big part of Jordan’s life.

Unappealing art style

The art style simply wasn’t for me. That being said, I’m sure there are others who adore it.

For one thing, the positions characters were in seemed unnatural at times. And not just where it had an obvious purpose such as emphasizing a character trait or emotion.

Tension

The tension was pretty low most of the time because Jordan is pretty laid-back about most stuff, and is unwilling to do anything that might jeopardize his ability to fit in (most of the time!)

A possible source of tension could be that he wants to go to art school but his parents are forcing him to go to a different school. This is a small source of tension, but Jordan barely argues the point.

When faced with microaggressions and racism, he typically shrugs it off or just complains about it later with his friends. I’m not saying that I think he should make a big scene – just that his responses keep the tension very low for most of the book.

The stakes are low – will he or will he not fit in? But he quickly makes good friends near the beginning of the book, so that lowers the stakes.

With low stakes and low tension, not much excitement is raised in this book. The climax is more like a bump in the road than a critical moment, even though it does signal a turning point. That being said, his story is still interesting, impactful, and worthwhile.

Slow pace

It may be because the tension is kept low, but the pace seems slow at times. This is because it is showing the everyday life of a seventh grader. Even the less interesting moments. The beginning took awhile to get into until it felt like the story really began and I was hooked.

Conclusion

I would certainly recommend this book, especially for middle school and junior high students, because I think they will identify with Jordan’s struggles to fit in and I think that not enough books are on English syllabi that have African American protagonists.

The poet Horace said that “the aim of the poet is to inform or delight,” and I believe that applies to writers in general. New Kid does both skillfully.

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