Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Review - Haphaven

by Norm Harper
illustrated by Louie Joyce
Date: 2019
Publisher: Lion Forge
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 160
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Ever-superstitious Alex Mills will do anything to avoid a jinx. Picking up pennies, knocking on wood, collecting rabbit's feet... you name it. That is until she steps on a crack and it actually does break her mother's back. To save her mom, Alex must follow Hubbub Caskside, a trusty leprechaun, on a journey through the end of a rainbow to Haphaven, the world where all of Earth's superstitions draw their power. All she needs is a rabbit's foot to save her mom, but she soon discovers the lucky article won't be so easy to retrieve. Not only is the rabbit's foot guarded by Haphaven's most formidable creature, the Jinx, there's also a forest full of trees that knock back if you don't knock on wood, people named Penny who do not like to be picked up, and a particularly vindictive black cat who will not be crossed.

As Alex finds herself desperately searching for a way to save her mom, she learns of a mysterious connection between her family's fate and the rulers of Haphaven. With her mother's life on the line and her own fate at stake, Alex must find the strength within herself to unlock the mystery and take back control of the superstitions that have controlled her life, even if it means crossing the Black Cat once and for all.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is an okay graphic novel. I'm all for fantasy, but this one really requires the reader to suspend disbelief.

Alex Mills is extremely superstitious. She won't even celebrate her thirteenth birthday because she's worried about bad luck. After she steps on a crack and somehow gives her mother psychosomatic paralysis, she's thrust into the world of Haphaven, where all superstitions come from.

I think part of the problem I had with this one is that it looks like a young adult title. Alex is not drawn as a girl who's just turned thirteen. She looks far older. And so, as I was reading, I kept forgetting her age and then getting slammed out of the flow of the narrative by the juvenile plot elements: the talking cat and rabbit, the jinxed gun that shoots ice cream cones (among other things), Alex eating the equivalent of a Happy Meal (toy included!). The subject matter and age of the main character suggest that it's a middle grade title... but the illustrations just don't fit.

I also didn't particularly like Alex. She goes to a new world, and the first thing she does is kidnap a leprechaun. Then she snatches a rabbit. It's like she has no respect for this world at all. She thinks she knows everything, and yet, she's one of the most ignorant characters in the whole story.

The cat villain is just plain ridiculous. He might as well have been twirling his whiskers like a mustache. There's no nuance to the storyline about his takeover. Once another character contradicts his version of events, they're believed without question and the rest of the story goes from there. I would've liked to see a little more doubt. We've got two versions of events, and the one that Alex and her friends choose to believe is the one that fits with their biases. It could've been more interesting had the conflict not been so black-and-white.

I'm not having great luck with graphic novels this year. This one isn't terrible, but it wasn't what I was expecting. Younger audiences might get more out of it than I did... but only if they like the style of illustration. I think it might be hard for thirteen-year-old readers to relate to a supposed thirteen-year-old who looks like she's at least twenty.

Thank you to NetGalley and Lion Forge for providing a digital ARC.

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

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.5 out of 5 ladybugs

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