Cool. Awkward. Black.

Four Black teens surrounded by swirling, glowing books, ufo's and masks, all indicating something magical is happening.Cool. Awkward. Black: this collection of eighteen stories confirms that yes, you can be all three. Some of the best writers of young adult books have come together to prove it. Into cosplay? Cool. Play videogames? Nice. Enjoy fantasy role playing games? We got you. Do you craft? You’re not alone! Do you love LARPing? We see you!

The genres include fantasy, horror, science fiction and more, often with a bit of romance. You’ll meet teens who hunt UFOs, others with surprising mystical powers, many who dare to live their authentic, nerdy selves. Ibi Zoboi’s “Earth Is Ghetto” explores how people can feel like aliens on earth and questions whether there are answers off planet. “Requiem of Souls” from Terry J. Benton-Walker is straight up horror  – with music. Roseanne A. Brown’s “Wolf Tracks” shows how love can be transformative on multiple levels. If you’re looking for adventure, in “Drive Time” by Lamar Giles, two teens who start out taking a “behind the wheel” lesson suddenly find themselves forced to be their instructor’s getaway drivers.

I have to admit, this book grabbed me from the first entry. In “Our Joy, Our Power” by Julian Winters, two young men meet and make a sweet connection at a Comic-Con like gathering – one of my favorite places to be! A nice thing about this collection is that it’s kind of meta – not only do the stories reflect the interests of different nerdy Black teens, these are also the kinds of stories that nerdy Black teens like to read.  There is so much variety here, anyone who picks up the book will find something to enjoy.

Find Cool. Awkward. Black at your local bookstore.

Artie and the Wolf Moon

ArtieGet ready for a horror story with a heart.

Eighth grader Artemis “Artie” Irvin is one of the few Black people at her school. She gets picked on but doesn’t care. Artie immerses herself in her favorite activity, old school film photography, a hobby she picked up from her late father. She wants to go out at night and take pictures under the full moon, but her mother Loretta says no, worried about Artie’s safety. Of course, Artie sneaks out any way. She sees a wolf and runs home, terrified. The wolf ends up at Artie’s door – and transforms into her mother! Artie demands answers. Loretta explains that yes, she’s a werewolf. Being a werewolf is an inherited trait, but since Artie’s late father was human (making her bi-mammalian), Loretta isn’t sure if Artie will become one. Artie is excited about the idea that she could become an apex predator, but her mom warns her – werewolves are not the scariest things out there.

When Artie’s abilities do emerge she and her mother go to a nearby community of werewolves where Artie learns more about her heritage and how to manage her powers. Finally, she’s in a place where she fits in and is accepted. She even finds romance with Maya, a werewolf she meets there. Things get complicated and scary when Artie learns secrets about her family’s past and how vampires threaten not just the werewolf community, but Artie’s family in particular.

The narrative weaves deftly through time – from the origins of werewolves during slavery, to Artie’s parents’ courtship, to Artie’s coming of age in the werewolf community. Artie and Maya’s queer romance is sweet. The conflicts between werewolves and vampires are dramatic and scary. The art integrates with the story beautifully; color is used skillfully to set time, place, and ominous moods. The werewolves are all Black and the vampires are light skinned.

I enjoyed this graphic novel so much! The narrative and art successfully blend heritage, horror and love into a compelling story.

Find Artie and the Wolf Moon at your local bookstore or comic book shop.