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ARC Review: The Divorce Colony

The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier by April White April White’s The Divorce Colony is set during the Gilded Age, in the America of the late 1800s. It revolves around the lax divorce rules then to be found in South Dakota.  Today, getting divorced is almost easier than getting married. But in the Gilded Age, divorces were not so easy to obtain. Divorce was viewed as a moral concern for the state, and was denounced from the pulpit for threatening the sanctity of marriage. Even President Theodore Roosevelt spoke out against it.  Laws around divorce tended to be most lax on the frontiers of the United States. By the 1880s the territory of Dakota gained the dubious honor of posting the largest rise in divorces in the country. At the turn of the century one city - Sioux Falls, South Dakota - gained a reputation for having the laxest divorce laws of all, and required only a three month residency in order to take advantage of them

Book Review: Bloom

 

Bloom by Kevin Panetta (Author) & Savanna Ganucheau (Illustrator)

Bloom is the story of two teen boys trying to figure out what life has in store for them post high school. A coming of age romance, the book has as its main setting the family bakery owned by one of the boy's parents. 

Like many of us when high school ends, Ari longs to break away from his small town. He wants to hit the big city with his pals, looking for fame with their garage band. To make his dream a reality Ari hatches a plan. He’ll find a replacement for himself - someone who can step in and help his parents run the bakery. And so, Hector enters Ari’s life. A year older than Ari, Hector is taking time off from culinary school, loves baking, and is eager for the job.

Suddenly those big city plans don’t seem so urgent to Ari. Over the blooming bread dough at the bakery something else starts to bloom. While feelings are blossoming between Ari and Hector, Ari’s high school friends start to make their own plans and drift away. A sudden turn of bad fortune at the bakery forces Ari - with a little prompting from Hector - to question why he wanted to be somewhere else in the first place?

This is a graphic novel and the artwork is great. Done in blues and blacks on white, with the occasional swooping panels and flowery edges, it carries a lot of the story. The panels give us the character’s emotions and create a real sense of place. The attention to detail gives the book a lot of its warmth and charm.  

The narrative unfortunately doesn’t seem as strong. The storyline is episodic and flat, and the characters one-dimensional. Ari’s high school friends come off as cliches. The main plot point around which the story turns seems rushed. That all means that Ari’s coming of age over the summer isn’t as convincing or as touching as it should be. Hector, on the other hand, seems as kind and sure of himself at the end of the book as he did at the beginning.   

I have to be upfront here and say that this is my first graphic novel. Yes, you can call me a late bloomer (pun intended). And I am way past the target age for this YA. If I were a younger man, or more versed in graphic novelry, I’m sure I’d be more forgiving of the narrative. Still, even though I’m an old curmudgeon, I did find it a cute, quick read. I hear there’s supposed to be a sequel coming out next year. I may just have to put it on my TBR.

If you like queer coming of age stories, Bloom may just be the fun, quick, bakery store romance you didn’t know you needed. Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐.



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Title: Bloom
Author: Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau
Publisher: First Second Books
Publish Date: January 29, 2019
ISBN-13: 9781626726413
Publisher’s List Price: $17.99 (Paperback as of 02/2022)