YA Novel Review – The Rising of the Shield Hero, Vol. 1

The Rising of the Shield Hero, Vol. 128162610
By Aneko Yusagi
Published by One Peace Books
ISBN-13: 978-1-93554-872-0

Literary Merit: Poor
Characterization: Fair
Recommended: Optional
Level: High School

With the Winter 2019 release of the anime of the same name, teen librarians and other staff who work with teens can expect they may need to learn more about ‘The Rising of the Shield Hero.’ The story is an isekai, which is a type of story in which the protagonist (or other characters) come from another world or are transported to another world. Examples in American popular film include Alice in Wonderland, TRON, Enchanted, and Labyrinth. This particular story is about a protagonist being summoned to another world that is much like a fantasy video game.

For a very quick release history, this work began as a serial posted online, then as a light novel, then as a manga, and now it is an anime. On the anime side of things, Shield Hero appears to be one of the forerunners of the winter season as it sits in the top three shows currently airing according to MyAnimeList outside of continuing shows.

Curious about the source material, I decided to read the light novel. While the anime maintains most of the heavier themes and keeps the main character, Naofumi, a misanthrope, the light novel has a much more bitter tone to it. Naofumi is accused of some grievous crimes, which I will discuss a bit in the light spoilers section of this review, and it is understandable that he is undergoing pain and frustration at the overall situation.

Almost the entire world turns against Naofumi, a regular college student summoned from another world to serve as the Shield Hero, and so the story is about an underdog that gets kicked again and again by society. In the anime, his plight is relatable and tragic. The audience comes to love and care about Raphtalia, the blacksmith, and other characters that see Naofumi is more earnest than he lets on and is willing to do the right thing even when it brings him zero glory.

However, book Naofumi is much more spiteful and his thoughts are violent, especially toward women, which goes toward alienating many potential readers of the story. I have a feeling that, if one presses forward, the story and Naofumi will get better in the light novel, but I think I will be sticking with the anime.

I have given this work 3 out of 5 stars, but this is more to reflect the optional purchase of this book. I don’t believe it to be shoddy work, but it definitely could use some help. I do think if purchasing the light novel is possible for your budget; it is worth having for the teens who might be dying to read the source material for the anime.

– Light Spoilers for the first book and first 5-6 episodes of the show –

So here is the nitty gritty of the situation – Naofumi is falsely accused of attempted rape. In the first episode and first several chapters of the book, Naofumi is tricked by a woman into partnering up, as no other adventurers wanted to help the Shield Hero apparently, and then she has him spend a lot of money on armor, her armor and then robs him in the night. Myne, the woman in question, then accuses Naofumi of trying to rape her. This is a serious situation, and it is played that way for the most part. Treated like a scumbag, Naofumi spends the rest of the novel fending for himself. While the anime displays him as mostly hating the world that dragged him to it and Myne (rightfully so), the novel version of Naofumi is a misogynist now apparently. When he purchases Raphtalia, a slave girl, to act as his sword since he cannot attack anything himself, he frequently pictures Raphtalia as being Myne and seems to enjoy Raphtalia’s initial suffering more than I am comfortable with.

In the world of the show, Raphtalia starts as a little girl, maybe 10-12, but as they gain several levels in a week, she matures into a woman. Naofumi doesn’t notice this until a pivotal moment in the story for both the novel and anime.

In the anime, this moment is well done and leaves us with the feeling Naofumi may begin to open up to other people. In the novel, Naofumi comments on supple breasts, and it feels less like Naofumi will open up to anyone, but more so that Raphtalia’s attractiveness will save him from himself.

The message is problematic and underestimates men too much for my liking. I have not yet read the second book in this series, though I do plan to, as I hope that certain scenes from the anime that are briefly mentioned in the novel might reveal that Naofumi’s thoughts were being poisoned on purpose.

For now, I choose to believe in the anime’s version of Naofumi – someone who is bitter and angry, with just cause, but ultimately is someone who can overcome his fear of opening up to others despite the horrible first couple days he experienced in the new world.

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YA & MG Nonfiction Book Review – Mass Shootings in America

Mass Shootings in America
By Dr. Duchess Harris
Published by ABDO
ISBN-13: 978-1-5321-1678-0

Literary Merit: Excellent
Characterization: N/A
Recommended: Yes
Level: Middle Grade and High School

A fair examination of mass shootings coupled with an exploration of possible causes and solutions, “Mass Shootings in America” is an astute overview of its title topic. Dr. Duchess Harris examines mass shootings from a historical perspective, a cultural perspective, a political perspective, and even covers what mass shooting looks like around the world. While this work could be categorized as an overview for a student project as it covers much in the span of only 104 pages, it also provides a jumping point for young readers and researchers to explore each chapter further with its plethora of sources in the back of the book.

This is highly recommended for all nonfiction collections that serve tweens and teens. The book is well researched and carefully handles this heavy subject matter with ease. It is well worth the sticker price.

Graphic Novel Review – The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins

The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins
By Clint McElroy, Griffin McElroy, Justin McElroy, Travis McElroy, and Carey Pietsch
Illustrated by Carey Pietsch
Published by :01 First Second
ISBN-13: 978-1-250-15370-8

Literary Merit: Good
Characterization: Great
Recommended: Yes, with some reservations noted below
Level: High School+

Based on the popular podcast of the same name, ‘The Adventure Zone’ promises high jinks, adventure, and laughter. For those not in the know, Adventure Zone is a podcast that began with three brothers and their father playing D&D together for the first time followed by the gang trying out different tabletop roleplaying games as the podcast matured. This graphic novel follows their D&D games and is told episodically with wonderful and hilarious asides from all the characters including Griffin, who isn’t actually a character in the story at all, but the dungeon master!

Haven’t listened to the podcast? Never fear, you don’t have to know anything about Adventure Zone to jump right into the graphic novel! The story is told with newcomers in mind so you won’t feel like you are missing any crucial details or have to worry about catching up with thousands of hours just to understand all the jokes within.

While I would highly recommend this for any graphic novel collection I must do so with a small, but important caveat. This graphic novel does contain mild violence and swearing. Swears, including the ‘f’ word, are used often enough that it might cause concern in certain teen collections. There are also sexual references in some places of the book, but nothing graphic or overblown. You know best if this content will fit your library.

All that said, I highly recommend picking up Adventure Zone even if you end up sticking it in the adult graphic novel collection. The podcast is incredibly popular and I am sure your customers will be ecstatic to find a copy of this series on the shelf! More volumes are planned, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled!

How-To: Dungeons and Dragons 5e

 

Hello reader,

I’ve created a concise, but detailed how-to on running Dungeons and Dragons. I have tailored this specifically for library programmers that might not know where to begin. Dungeons and Dragons has had a resurgence of popularity with the release of D&D 5e. Since its release, my teens had wanted to play D&D, but I didn’t know where to start or how to run a game. On my own time, I learned how to play, played in a few games, and have run a couple sessions of D&D on my own. Hopefully this guide will help you understand D&D, how to run it, and what you can expect.

This program may appear later in the YALSA Program HQ website. For now, you can save this post for your future reference.

Program Description

Participants will group together into groups of 5-7. One person in each group will be the Dungeon Master (hereon referred to as the DM), and the rest of the members of the group are the players. Together, the members of each group will role play, puzzle solve, and build a story together using Dungeons and Dragons 5e.

This program can be held as many times as you would like. The size of the program can also vary depending on how many of the participants are willing to be the DM. We hope that these programs have teens willing to volunteer to be the DM. If none, the largest size I would recommend is 6 per library staff.

Learning outcomes

  • How to work together to solve a problem and make joint decisions. Working together cooperatively to solve problems build a foundation for them to work with other people in teams.
  • Learn how to collaboratively create a story and tell it. Creating and telling stories allows the teens to explore their creativity and overcome the shyness that comes with expressing themselves. This will help them be more assertive when speaking with others.
  • Learn to work with other people by engaging them and being present.

Instructions

To start with D&D, the first prep is always the longest. Expect to front load a lot of information and, depending on your preference and budget, there is a front loaded cost to running these games as explained later. Following the first program, the rest of the sessions become easier and easier to prepare for once you have become used to the rules and story telling on the fly. There is a chance your teens may already play D&D, and I would advise you to speak with them and collaborate with them as you prepare to run this program at your own library. Encourage the teens to become DMs themselves!

What you will need:

  1. Read up on the Basic Rules for both Players and Dungeon Masters here. You can totally run a game of your own imagination just by following the free Basic Rules. If you find yourself wanting more or have the room in your budget, consider ordering the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual. These are optional purchases and somewhat costly, but they more than make up their cost in how many times you will find yourself using these invaluable resources. If it is possible, consider adding these items to your circulating collection, or even better, your professional collection.
  2. Get an assortment of polyhedral dice. These dice are used to determine success rates or the outcome of events. They are commonly used in role playing, puzzle solving, and combat. You do not need too many dice, having at least one of every kind of dice (starting from 20 sides down to 3 sides) should be good enough. I recommend buying large assortments as it makes rolling go more quickly if all the teens have their own set during the game. You will also find that some teens will buy their own or bring their own.
  3. During the first session, you will have the option to have the teens create their own characters using character sheets (download link) OR you can have them play pre-created characters. For first timers, I would suggest using characters from this website or the pre-made characters in the starter kit.
  4. Finally you will want a notebook or loose paper and something to hide that paper behind, such as a Dungeon Master’s Screen or even a large open binder. This is to hide your notes and rolls from the teens so that there is an element of surprise.

Your options in running your own game:

  • You can spend any amount of time creating your own original game. For the most part, you want to have a few story hooks, such as: the city is being attacked by orcs, the mansion in the bad side of town is haunted, or even a princess has been kidnapped by a dragon. You can be as detailed or as loose as you want, the important thing is to create a situation where the players have a goal to accomplish.
  • You can purchase the D&D Starter Kit for fairly cheap, and it will contain a physical print out of the rules for players and DMs, along with dice, pre-made characters, printed maps, and nifty miniatures and tokens. If you have some money to put into this, I would recommend you put it here.
  • You can download official Wizards of the Coast adventure league campaigns for cheap! These are meant to run for several sessions. There are several that you can choose to run. I suggest trying these before hand so that you can get a feel for how they are written and what might be expected to happen as you play.
  • You can spend money on campaign books. These books expand on the adventure league campaigns and can last for months or even over a year depending on your players and how often you meet.

Running the game:

  1. Start by creating/distributing characters to the players, handing out any pencils to people who didn’t bring any, and putting the dice at the center of the table.
  2. Have the players introduce their characters. You can have them speak in character, talk about their character, and/or do ice-breakers such as “Tell me what Grom the Dragonslayer likes to do in his free time?”
  3. Set the scene for the game. Describe the town, the situation, or an event that will engage your players to explore and quest in the world.
  4. Find good stopping points about 10-15 minutes before your program is over. I like to use heightened climax scenes or cliff hanger moments to entice the teens to come back next month.
  5. Wrap-up your program however you feel, whether you give an ending scene, talk about when the game will next take place, or ask how the players how they felt about the game.

You can easily run a single game (referred to as a one shot) of D&D rather than run a series of games. This is based on your and your teens’ preferences. I would always allot for at least 2 or 2.5 hours of play time. Here are a summary of upfront costs depending on your budget. Dice are included in most listings, because you should own at least 1 set!

Mostly Free:

  • Basic rules
  • Character sheets &pencils
  • Dice

$15-20:

  • Starter Kit
  • Pencils

$25-65:

  • Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and/or Monster Manual
  • Character sheets & pencils
  • Dice
  • Printed out Adventure League sessions from here or as listed in the supplements.

You can always become more invested and purchase the campaign books: Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Rise of Tiamat, Princes of the Apocalypse, and/or Out of the Abyss. These are optional, but have a ton of helpful information and ways to extend your game past a few months. The cost for each of these books is around $20 to $30.

Finally, here are some tips and optional things that I couldn’t fit elsewhere in the instructions:

  • You do not need miniatures, figures, or tokens. You can do combat without visuals. Pros to this is that it is cheap, cons is that it may be hard for the teens to get into combat.
  • You can use white boards, paper, and dice to represent maps, battlefields, and characters.
  • Be ready for your teens to drop your story hook, and want to do random things. Maybe they don’t care about the kidnapped princess and instead want to go exploring a nearby cave or they decided they would rather start up a business in the town. Be ready for them to do almost anything but what you planned!
  • I recommend using note cards to keep track of monster stats and player stats. This way you are not always referencing a book or PDF, and can instead rely or reference information on the go.

Evaluation

Evaluation is done via asking the teens their opinion. I do this by sending out a monthly e-mail about D&D to my teens while also asking for their input.

My questions for them:

  • How do you feel about the length of the event? Too long or too short?
  • What did your group do that you enjoyed? What did they do that you didn’t enjoy?
  • What was your favorite part in the story?

To give you an overview of comments I received:

  • I think the program should be an hour longer. (We now play for 4 hours)
  • Sometimes the room can be very noisy, and I find it hard to hear. (Consider your space and how you can use it. We have made D&D an after hours program so that we can use the entire building.)
  • I would like to change groups because I want more story than combat.
  • I just like fighting things.
  • Can you teach me how to be a DM? (DMing is something you just have to do. There is no training for it. Encourage them to just jump in! If they are still nervous, direct them to the Dungeon Master’s Guide or the DM’s Basic Rules for more information.)
  • I wish we could play D&D more than once a month.

Other resources

Link to D&D Behind the Screen: Collection of reference materials, pdfs, and how-to DM guides

Talk with your local gaming/comic book stores, gaming groups, and your teens to see what kind of collaboration you can come up with. If you are lucky, a local store might sponsor your library program.

 

Savvy by Ingrid Law, Book Discussion

Savvy

Hello readers,

Today I will be posting my thoughts and book discussion questions for Savvy by Ingrid Law. This is a book that my teens and I are reading for our book club, and I think it will help me organize my thoughts to give a short review here and the possible discussion questions I will ask the group to generate thoughtful discussion!

Savvy is a charming tale about Mibs, a newly minted 13 year old who gained a savvy. What is a savvy? It is a special kind of know-how, that varies from person to person in Mibs family. For example, her grandpa can manipulate the earth, her mother can do just about everything perfectly, and her brothers have control over electrical currents in the case of the older or water in case of the younger. A few days before her 13th birthday, which is the day you might receive a savvy, Mibs’ father, who is just a regular guy, gets into a terrible car accident. On the day of her birthday, Mibs believes her savvy might be the only thing that can help her dad, so she, her friends, and some of her siblings join her on a bus adventure toward their goal.

That is pretty much just the first few chapters, and the story evolves further as they realize the bus is going the wrong way. They meet various people, and go through some challenging events. This story is worth reading if you like the idea of mundane magic, or of magical realism. This book is written in a way that 5th graders through high school will enjoy the read. I would place the reading level squarely in the middle school range, despite the amount of older teens that read this title.

Savvy was suggested as a book club selection by my teens in the Teen Advisory Board.

Some suggested Book Discussion Questions:

  1. Were there any parts of this story you particularly enjoyed? Any parts of the story you didn’t care for?
  2. Mibs and her family seem to be bullied and made fun of. Why do you think that is?
  3. Why does Mibs’ family have to keep their savvies secret? How hard do you think it is for them to keep their secret?
  4. What did you think Mibs’ savvy was at first? Did you guess it correctly? Or did you get it mixed up like Mibs?
  5. How did Mibs figure out what her savvy was?
  6. Will Jr. and Bobbi ended up on the bus with the Beaumont kids. How does the relationship between them evolve?
  7. In the book, did you get the feeling the adults, Lester and Lill, on the bus had savvies of their own? What do you think those savvies might be?
  8. What do you think of the relationship between Will Jr. and Mibs?
  9. What, if any, do you think is the morale of this story? There might be more than one!
  10. Do you think you would like a savvy even if you had to keep it secret? What would your savvy be?

After The Red Rain by Barry Lyga

Hello Reader,

For anyone who follows my GoodReads account, you may already know I had a chance to read After The Red Rain by Barry Lyga, Peter Facinelli, and Rob DeFranco. After The Red Rain is scheduled for an early August release, and loving both post-apocalypse and Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers trilogy, I thought to give this e-ARC a try. I received my copy from NetGalley, which is a great website to receive e-ARCs from. My thoughts about this title are somewhat mixed, but definitely positive overall. I do believe this is a title worth purchasing for the teen collection for teen librarians or purchasers, and worth at least checking out from a library if you are a reader.

Now for the review, there are some slight spoilers ahead for what the setting is like and what the characters are like, but that will be all.

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After The Red Rain takes place at least a few hundred years after the world was ended by… something. The regular people that inhabit the world now, such as Deedra, don’t know exactly what happened to the world. All they know is that they are living in an assumedly better world. They live in a world that is run by essentially dictators and are expected to be good citizens and cooperate with their government. The air quality sometimes suffers from poor quality or low oxygen, so often times people must wear masks in order to breathe. Some people, like Deedra, go scavenging and take guesses as to the uses of past relics, such as tiny, circular mirrors that have a hole in the center for your finger to hold up. That scene is definitely reminiscent of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and I enjoyed reading these aspects of the book.

The people live off of food created in labs, which are synthesized from stem cells and the genetic map of past creatures. As such, the food doesn’t taste that great. Clearly, the food exists simply to keep the people alive. All in all, the world built is fairly realistic, and I do think the color scheme for most of the book is in different shades of gray. While I take some issue with trees, plants, and animals seeming to be rare, it is possible that the description of how the flora and fauna did or did not survive is incomplete or not well described. Overall, I do think the world the authors created is interesting and contains stories I am interested in reading in.

Deedra, our first protagonist, starts off well enough. She is adventurous, but not stupid. She is curious, but has some short comings related to that such as being uninterested in the “why” of how the world is now. Deedra has a friend named Lizzy, who is hilarious. Together, they make a fun duo and they way they carry on lightheartedly in an otherwise dark setting greatly increases the uniqueness of the story. Deedra seems to have her own characteristics and destiny, but that changes over time as we are introduced to Rose, our second protagonist.

Rose, a young man with an unusual name, comes from seemingly nowhere. He is a weary traveler, who has seen some of the worst humanity has to offer. Yet, Rose is a kind person. Rose is feminine in appearance, and seems to be accepting of his appearance. Rose is definitely an interesting character that compliments Deedra. I take only two major issues with Rose as a character. The first is that Rose and Deedra go from having an interesting relationship to Deedra obsessing over Rose and his safety to the point she nearly gets herself killed a couple of times. The obsession is off putting and undermines her own personality as depicted previously. The second issue is one that I will describe later on, but in short is a sudden action Rose takes which seems to go against everything we learn about him as we read.

The conflict of the story revolves around the murder of a somewhat minor, somewhat major character in the book. Deedra finds herself accused, then worried Rose may have been the culprit. As this is hard to describe without spoiling it, I won’t go too far into it. I do believe that when the investigation begins on Deedra the story doesn’t seem to use its setting to its advantage.

While the world is, in my opinion, really amazing and the opening to the title fantastic as Deedra and her friend explore the wastes for salvage, the novel switches from a cool, post-apocalypse to a dystopian YA fic. My bias here is that we’ve seen these dystopian themes before and already examined the bleakness of a situation in which the government is basically evil and corrupt. The novel here simply reads as OKAY. Not great or amazing, just “Okay, so that is what is happening now.”

Finally, the ending. I can’t even describe it, because I do believe people will have fun reading this even if I didn’t. I do think there is potential here. This novel won’t be released for several months, so who knows what might change. Suffice to say, the novel ends in a way where there will definitely be a sequel. Almost none of the secrets of this world have been revealed. Rose does something totally out of character for him, which really countered my feelings of “Wow, he is a unique male character. He is good, kind, and always values life. He isn’t just that male protagonist that hits people, is dark/brooding because reasons, and is the typical vision of the male power fantasy.” I will leave that at that.

Overall, it seems like I wouldn’t recommend this title, but I think everyone should give this novel a try. While it has its shortcomings, I honestly think the authors are on to something that could become great, fun, and continue to break stereotypes and tropes found in YA fiction. I know I will be reading After The Red Rain again when it is released in its final version. I recommend this to any YA reader that loves: post-apocalypse, dystopian, romance, and are looking for something at least a little different.

Look forward to After The Red Rain‘s release in August 4th, 2015.