Friday, May 17, 2019

Review - Stage Dreams

Stage Dreams
by Melanie Gillman
Date: 2019
Publisher: Graphic Universe
Reading level: YA
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 104
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

In this rollicking queer western adventure, acclaimed cartoonist Melanie Gillman (Stonewall Award Honor Book As the Crow Flies) puts readers in the saddle alongside Flor and Grace, a Latinx outlaw and a trans runaway, as they team up to thwart a Confederate plot in the New Mexico Territory. When Flor--also known as the notorious Ghost Hawk--robs the stagecoach that Grace has used to escape her Georgia home, the first thing on her mind is ransom. But when the two get to talking about Flor's plan to crash a Confederate gala and steal some crucial documents, Grace convinces Flor to let her join the heist.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

That's it? Um... okay. (Maybe there's going to be a sequel or something. I sure hope so. Because this is not a complete story at all.)

While I appreciate the intent of this graphic novel, I'm not sure it worked for me. I had a similar issue with it that I did with Jen Wang's The Prince and the Dressmaker: believability. The issue isn't so much people believing Grace is a girl; there are plenty of examples throughout history that show that it isn't impossible. However, in this book, I felt like I had to suspend disbelief about the attitudes. Lip service is paid to the difficulties trans people might have faced (within their own families, mostly), but the ease with which everyone around Grace accepts her (despite the fact that she's drawn with fairly male-looking features in some parts of the book) just doesn't seem right. Like in The Prince and the Dressmaker, the reader seems to be expected to believe that historical attitudes toward trans and queer people were better--more accepting--than they are today. While I'm sure there were some people who would accept folks just the way they were, I kind of doubt it was the norm... and books like these seem to be glossing over what must've been some difficult (and potentially dangerous) times for those with differing gender identities.

The story (what there was of it, anyway; it seemed to end just as it was getting going) is fine. The illustrations are kind of neat, too. They're done with coloured pencil, which gives everything a dreamy sort of look.

I wouldn't mind reading another book about Flor and Grace (if there's going to be one), because Stage Dreams didn't really satisfy my hankering for a good story. I guess we'll see if the plot continues at some point...

Thank you to NetGalley and Graphic Universe for providing a digital ARC.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 ladybugs

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