Americus

Americus was something of a surprise.  I was expecting a serious brow-beating of a book about the horrors of a religiously conservative town demanding that books be banned based on religious objections.  What I got, instead, was a book about a teen-aged boy who is caught in a crossroads of life where he is trying to figure out who he is, what he likes, and where he fits in when everything he knows changes.

Neal Barton is the kind of kid who, on a good day, is ignored by the rest of the world.  He likes to read and hang out with his best (and only) friend Danny.  They share a love of science fiction and fantasy books, particularly the “Chronicles of Apathea Ravenchilde, The Huntress Witch”.  The book provides both Neal and Danny with an escape from their lives, while providing clear examples of good and bad and right and wrong which are not so often recognizable in the “real” world.  When Danny is sent away to boarding school and the Chronicles of Apathea are threatened to be pulled from the community library, Neal’s life is turned upside down.

MK Reed wisely steers away from making the book overly dark or serious.  I think it is safe to assume that the people reading Americus will probably already be opposed to the banning of books.  By focusing on the human element and rooting the story in the life of Neal, Reed gives readers an anchor they can cling to.  Neal represents everyone who has ever had their life turned upside down.  Divorce, friends moving away, moving to a new school,  these things have happened to us.  Very few of us have actually gone through a book-banning.  Because Neal is going through so much, it gives the reader an “in” to the story that might not have otherwise been there.

Jonathan Hill’s artwork is charming and engaging.  His characters are cartoony and full of expression.  Each person in the story exudes personality.  His lines are clean and sleek, making each panel easy to read.  But that is not to say that the panels are simple.  There is plenty of background detail and the world of Americus seems fully realized.

Americus is aimed squarely at the teen audience.  However, in doing so, Americus may actually face some of the same challenges that it portrays.  MK Reed does a good job of portraying early teens.  She has their mannerisms and speech patterns down, including some of their more “colorful” phrases.  while the book is by no means vulgar or blue, there is a bit of language that is realistic, and therefore could be considered offensive to some people.  I would not be surprised that, if Americus were placed in school libraries, there would be some parents who objected.

That being said, it would be a shame for people to miss out on Americus.  It is enjoyable, accessible, and tells shows the power of books and storytelling to make a positive impact on people’s lives.  Americus will be in stores in September to coincide with “Banned Books Week” (September 24th – October 1st), so reserve your copy now!

For more information about Americus, including a preview, check out www.saveapathea.com.

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