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March Staff Picks!

Check out this month’s staff picks from the Betty’s Books crew!


Alain’s Pick


Persephone by Loic Locatelli-Kournwsky (he/him)
Persephone may be the adopted daughter of the famous witch Demeter, but she’s still struggling to find her place alongside such a force of nature. Everyone expects her to wield such strong magic, but in truth, the only thing Persephone is interested in is gardening. Persephone’s desire to find out where she belongs accidentally takes her deep into the Underworld, a city that has been forgotten about and uncared for by the rest of the world. Once there, she’s determined to discover who she truly is — even if it means risking her life.
With interesting political conflict, compelling characters, and gorgeous art, Persephone is an incredible read. Persephone feels like a fusion of Studio Ghibli storytelling, the magical girl aesthetic, and Little Bird.


Alex’s Pick


Superman: Son of Kal-El by Tom Taylor & John Timms

This was the first experience I had reading anything centered around Jon Kal-El, Superman’s (very powerful – duh) son, so I can’t speak to how he’s typically written, but this book gave him such a sweet and heartfelt disposition you just can’t help but root for him. Jon, still only a teenager, has to cope with the entire world knowing he’s the son of Superman, the pressure that puts on him, and the additional pressure added from his superhero friends and family, who all know Jon’s powers very well may exceed his father’s. A lot on a kid’s shoulders!

The book also alludes to previous canonical happenings in the world of Jon Kal-El, like the fact that he’s been to the future, but the writers do a great job of making it accessible for those of us just hopping in now. On top of everything, Jon knows how certain things will work out for his family, and, surprise surprise, they’re not great.

Luckily, despite feeling almost completely alone in the world, this story has Jon connecting with an aspiring radical journalist named Jay, and the two (spoiler alert) end up developing a very sweet romance. They even have a full-page kiss, which speaks volumes to how far we’ve come regarding queer representation. Refreshingly, there’s no hand-wringing over it either. Jon doesn’t have a sexuality crisis, and doesn’t seem to feel nervous about this budding relationship, other than typical teenage anxiety. His best friend Damian (AKA Robin) even figures out the two have something going on, congratulating his friend with little fanfare. Jon’s being queer is just about the least stressful thing going on in his life.

I really loved this first installment in Jon’s story, and I’m pumped to read more. I haven’t even touched on the interesting moral qualms we see Jon facing, like “Why doesn’t my dad stop more horrible things from happening if he can? Why is there inequality and violence in a world where Superman exists?” I’m so excited to see how he comes to terms with these questions, and how he veers from his father’s generation in tackling them.


Betty’s Pick


Lunar New Year Love Story by Gene Luen Yang and art by LeUyen Pham

I’m not usually a “love story” reader, but this was high on my TBR because I’m a big fan of Gene Luen Yang. BOXERS & SAINTS and AMERICAN BORN CHINESE are iconic in both the young adult fiction world and the graphic novel/comics world. And then, as I read the first couple of chapters, I was like “Whoa. This is not a love story. It’s a ghost story! I’m in!”

The book tells the story of Valentina Tran, who loved Valentine’s Day so much as a kid that she had an imaginary cupid friend “Saint V.” But as she grows up, she finds out some tough truths about her parents’ separation, and cute little Saint V becomes a creepy ghoul who says he can protect Val if she gives up her heart. Fortunately for Val, she has an awesome grandma who takes her to a Lunar New Year celebration at her church and she meets two lion dancers, Leslie and Jae. Lion dancing helps her rediscover her love of dance, and maybe it can help her find love too, as well as vanquish her inner and outer demons.

Ok, so there is some love in this book, but I promise there’s a lot more lion dancing, ghostly Saints, and family drama than yearning looks and smooching. I especially loved the creepy ghosts, and the chance to learn more about lion dancing, which was something I wasn’t familiar with at all before reading this book. LeUyen Pham’s limited palette artwork conveys the power and strength of the lion dance movements as deftly as the eerie, quiet of the Saint V appearances. The design for each character is distinct and delightful–not formulaic like you sometimes see with comics (or text novels too!)

I would recommend this book for people interested in reading about ghosts + romance in a fresh context, family lore, and Asian American culture. Age Recommendation: 13+


Katie’s Pick


SuperMutant Magic Academy book coverSuperMutant Magic Academy by Jilian Tamaki
Originally a webcomic, SuperMutant Magic Academy, is a collection of single page slices-of-life at a prep-school for mutants and witches. While paranormal activity is inevitable, it mostly lurks in the background allowing the trials and tribulations of adolescence to shine brightly. Crushes, underage drinking, teen angst and more. It’s humorous and irreverent, and had me laughing out loud. On repeated occasions I interrupted my partner reading their own book to enjoy a particularly smirk-inducing page. Grab a copy and have a chuckle.


Lottie’s Pick


The Backstagers book coverThe Backstagers by James Tynion IV and Walter Baiamonte
The Backstagers follows a highschool theater program with a mystical secret. The actors are rude, cruel, and downright unlikable– so the crew that works backstage end up extra tight-knit. That alone is an excellent starting point for the story, and then you find out that the backstage is actually an endless labyrinth of mystery, monsters, and theater supplies!? Follow the newest theater kid into unraveling the secrets of backstage, staying safe through FRIENDSHIP! The art is beautiful, with amazing colors and a style reminiscent of Steven Universe and other products of that time. It also features an entirely queer cast which is not only super fun, but also super accurate to high school theater in the real world– speaking from experience!


Samantha’s Pick


Snow White With the Red Hair by Sorata Akiduki
This book, despite its long title, is a great romance and casual everyday read if you are looking for something relaxing. A young girl named Shirayuki (which means Snow white in Japanese) is an herbalist and healer in her community, but when she hears word that the ruler of her country wants to marry her without even asking, she runs away to the neighboring country! It’s there that she meets Zen, a kind and fun loving guy, as well as his two attendants.

I wont say much more because I don’t want to spoil it, but the romance between Zen and Shirayuki is one of my favorites in manga. It’s so wholesome, kind, and considerate. Not to mention the royal political drama that occurs always has me on the edge of my seat excited for what will happen next. I would also recommend this manga to anyone who hasn’t really read any manga before. It’s a great jumping off point for practicing reading the other direction, and its fantasy world is very European, so it’s familiar to a western audience! Happy reading!