GRAPHIC NOVELS

Beetle & the Hollowbones

S. & S./Atheneum. Jul. 2020. 256p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781534441538; pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781534441545.
COPY ISBN
Gr 4-8–Beetle, a 12-year-old goblin, lives with her grandmother, the helpful town witch. When she’s not bored to tears being homeschooled on goblin magic, she’s hanging out with her best friend, the teeny and adorable Blob Ghost, a floating, speechless, but incredibly expressive red orb who haunts the local mall. Though magical forces prevent Blob Ghost from leaving the mall, Beetle is certain that the two will always be pals—until Beetle’s former best friend, Kat Hollowbone, arrives. Beetle and Kat don’t get along quite the same as before—there might be feelings involved now—but Kat isn’t here alone. Kat’s a sorcerer’s apprentice for her menacing aunt, Marla Hollowbone, who just happens to have bought out the mall. And unless Beetle and Kat do something, the mall will be demolished, with Blob Ghost still trapped inside. Cartoonist Layne makes a stellar debut. Simultaneously gorgeous and goofy, the artwork is reminiscent of the animated series Bee and Puppycat and a delicious love letter to shoujo manga. Layne’s supernatural cast is fantastic, from green-skinned Beetle and her grandmother to Kat and Marla, respectively, skeletal cat and bird creatures. Characters’ LGBTQ identities, such as Beetle and Kat’s changing relationship, as well as the use of the they pronoun for Blob Ghost, are gently woven throughout the narrative. Relying on intersecting plotlines in lieu of a more straightforward romp, Layne conveys themes of independence, identity, and realization of one’s potential.
VERDICT Action-packed yet heartfelt, short and sweet yet riveting, this one is not to be missed.

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