MMGM and #IMWAYR: This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

***Blog news!*** It's the summer now, which means I have way more time to devote to reading books and to blogging! As such, I am starting a new feature on my blog called Thursday Thoughts! On at least some Thursdays, I'll be discussing book-related topics that I have opinions about and inviting you all to share your thoughts in the comment section! Note that these are not book reviews (I will continue to only post those on Mondays), but I hope these can be a new way for me to connect with my readers! (Also, if you want to see these posts in your Blogger reading list, I finally added a Follow button on my blog sidebar!)

***Public service announcement*** I heard some weird things online about people's Blogger posts getting deleted recently. I have no idea if any of that was true, but it seems like a good time to remind you all to download a backup of your blog on Blogger periodically—to do so, go to your Blogger dashboard > Settings > Manage blog > Back up content > Download.

Today, I do have another graphic novel to recommend, which was actually WAY better than I expected, considering I bought it sight-unseen: This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews. (By the way, I promised a talking bear in last week's review, and this book follows through on that promise.)

          I only managed to find this book because I went randomly searching for books on the website of graphic novel imprint First Second (which published this book, along with countless others I've reviewed). I don't normally search for books on publisher websites, but First Second's logo shows up so many times on my bookcase that it just seemed like an easy way to find some more graphic novels I might enjoy. (This was actually how I found the utterly amazing YA graphic novel Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden, which is absolutely worth a read!) What's hilarious is that this book has no blurbs, and no one recommended it to me, so I thought I was buying this obscure, nobody's-read-it graphic novel—and then I Googled it and found so many articles about it, including a recommendation of it in the New York Times by—not kidding—Erin Entrada Kelly, the Reigning Queen of Middle Grade Literature (Whose Books I Still Haven't Read Because I'm Ridiculous). Her recommendation is probably more convincing than mine—check it out here!

          But back to This Was Our Pact. At the start of this graphic novel, Ben and his classmates are setting out on a journey on their bicycles. Their mission—to follow the lanterns their village sends off in the river every Autumn Equinox. These kids are determined to find out where the lanterns actually end up—except that they're really not that determined, because literally all of them give up except for two. The first? Ben. The second? Nathaniel, the unpopular, "nerdy" kid who Ben's friends make fun of. Ben isn't thrilled about ending up on a journey with Nathaniel, but as the two boys venture forth on an incredible journey, filled with magic, intrigue, and memorable characters, Ben has to figure out what he really thinks of Nathaniel—and the two boys have to discover the fate of their lanterns while making it out unscathed.

          Considering the lack of knowledge about This Was Our Pact I had going into it, I was incredibly shocked and impressed by how beautiful, engrossing, and all-around fantastic it was! There's tons of things I want to mention (although I do have to balance the whole not-spoiling-all-the-intrigue thing), so let's dive right in. Before we examine the magic and adventure aspects of this book, I want to take a moment and discuss Ben and Nathaniel's relationship. I know, from my own experiences in middle and high school, that I have been in both Ben and Nathaniel's shoes. Some of those ways are more superficial—like Ben, I can worry myself to death and take the fun out of anything (you should see me on a vacation—I have a nervous breakdown every time), and like Nathaniel, I can rattle off tons of random facts and find all of them super-exciting (in other words, I'm a nerd—which you should have already known, considering I literally started my own blog to excitedly blither about books). But I'm also similar to Ben and Nathaniel in some deeper, more unpleasant ways. Like Nathaniel, I've been that kid who was so loud and excited that I couldn't always get along with other kids. And I hate to say it, but like Ben, I've been that kid who shunned other kids to protect myself. I found the exploration of Ben and Nathaniel's relationship to be imperfect at times—just a reminder that it's not an apology if it didn't include the words "I'm sorry"—but overall, I think the tensions of their relationship within the broader nightmare of childhood friend groups was very well-explored. I felt like I learned a bit about why I made the choices that I made in middle school and high school, and I imagine a lot of other kids and adults would too.

        So there's that aspect of This Was Our Pact, but we can't forget all of the magic-and-adventure stuff, which is practically flawless! There is so much crammed into this graphic novel that it is truly amazing. There's towering cliffs and frigid oceans. There's starry skies and fog so thick it's hard to navigate. There's mythology and unusual societies. There's potions and cramped, adorable workshops in which to craft them. There's terrifying monsters, cranky humans, and friendly companions. There's frantic bicycle-riding and sailing the seas. There's a jaw-droppingly-beautiful chapter toward the end of the book set in a gorgeous cave. All of this is made possible by author/illustrator Ryan Andrews's art. While I wouldn't compare this book's writing to graphic novels like Are You Listening? or my all-time favorite graphic novel, The Magic Fish, I would absolutely compare this book's art to that of those two. Quite frankly, I think the art style of This Was Our Pact is what ultimately makes the experience, as just gazing upon some of the frequent and stunning two-page spreads was enough to get me engrossed in this book. Andrews's art has an enormous amount of detail—it's clear that it must have taken a long time to create this book—but it also nevertheless has a simplicity and clarity to it that ensures the story itself is what takes center stage. Besides the beauty of the panels (especially in that cave scene—seriously, y'all, the cave scene is so good), let's see...well, the character designs and facial expressions are pretty much perfect. Also, similarly to The Magic Fish, the art style is color-coded, though in this book, it is different regions of the story that have different colors, whether those are the faded grays of the cliffs and fog, the soothing blues outside the aforementioned magical workshop, or the sharp yellow of the unnerving cellar. (The color-coding also makes it easy to tell what is going on in most panels.) All in all, I did not realize that beautiful art could, even by itself, carry a story to such high heights as it does in This Was Our Pact.

        Beautiful art and hair-raising adventures set the stage for Ben and Nathaniel's journey, but it wouldn't be what it is without the characters themselves. Nathaniel's ability to see the bright side (or fascinating side) of everything becomes endearing throughout the story, and although Ben does come across as a fun-killer for much of the book, readers will take a liking to him as well as things go on. And although I don't want to mention too many of the other characters (considering there's only a couple), I do want to mention the talking bear, or the Fisherbear, who is a friendly and eloquent bear that acts as a sort of father figure for Ben and Nathaniel in some parts of the story—although bits and pieces of his behavior irritated me, I ultimately found him to be quite endearing and worthy of mention here. Most of you probably haven't, but if you've ever watched the excellent animated TV miniseries Over the Garden Wall, which similarly blends emotional depth, childlike whimsy, and crazy, sometimes-terrifying adventures through a magical land, you'll feel right at home in This Was Our Pact. Although the emotional development isn't perfect, the overall experience, from the art to the characters to the journey itself, is truly spectacular. Authors and graphic novelists could learn a thing or two from this book about creating a fast-paced, memorable plot, and readers in general will be engrossed in the world of Ben and Nathaniel all the way from start to finish.

My rating is: Really good!




My rating for the graphic novel-averse is: 3!




Comments

  1. So glad you stumbled onto this one! I enjoyed it, too, when I read it last year. Great review. I agree - First Second puts out so many outstanding graphic novels!

    And ...oh, my gosh ... you are such a lifesaver! 14 years of blogging, and I don't think I have EVER downloaded a backup of my three blogs! Like I've said before, I just mostly ignore all the techy behind-the-scenes stuff. So THANK YOU again! I am - SLOWLY - making my way through your how-to video on changing my e-mail list, and I can't thank you enough for that - I can;t imagine trying to figure all this out on my own.

    Sue

    Book By Book

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just looked at your review, and I'm really glad you enjoyed this book as well! I'm thinking the only reason I haven't heard of it is that it is a bit older, since it seems like it was pretty popular when it came out, at least!

      And I'm so glad to hear my video is helpful! There's definitely a lot of confusing stuff when it comes to running a blog, so I'm glad I could make a few things less confusing for you! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  2. Thanks for the tip on backing up your blog. I hadn't even thought of it. I've found some of my favorite authors through randomly picking up their book at the library. Glad you enjoyed this one so much. It sounds really good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's wonderful that you've found favorite authors just by grabbing a random book! I found one of my favorite books ever, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, just on a table at Barnes & Noble (to be fair, it was a Newbery winners/honors table, but still). And I'm glad my backup advice was helpful! I hope you enjoy this book if you ever have a chance to try it, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  3. Very thorough review! I read This is Our Pact last year and agree the artwork is just gorgeous. The story has a lot of twists and turns and I had a hard time putting it down because I too, wanted to know where the lanterns went. A mix of realistic fiction and fantasy, this graphic novel has a lot of kid appeal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree! There was so much exciting stuff happening in this book that, during the second half at least, I couldn't put the book down either! I'm really glad you had a chance to read this book, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  4. I thought this GV was a slight cross between Stranger Things and a Studio Ghibli film so I enjoyed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Somehow, I haven't watched Stranger Things or any of the Studio Ghibli movies, but from what I've heard of them, that sounds like an accurate assessment! I'm glad you enjoyed this book, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  5. This sounds like an amazing book! I'm immediately intrigued by the friendship aspects, the biking, the cave, and the magic. And a father-figure bear? I'm in. I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but this one sounds like something I'd really like. Thanks for featuring it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad this sounds like a book you'd enjoy! It is a nice mix of fantasy/adventure and a bit of realistic issues, and the father-figure bear is a nice touch as well! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  6. You've convinced me & like others on my list, it is there from others' recommendations, but I "still" haven't read it. I put it up higher on the list! Thanks for the blogger tip. I haven't heard of anyone losing their content, but I did back up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely hope you get a chance to try this book, though I understand about books getting buried down your list—I started a list of my own that is already at least 20 books long and doesn't include the 30-or-so books waiting on my bookcase! Yikes. And I'm glad the backup tip was helpful—I suspect not many people (if any) actually lost any posts, but Blogger can be so weird that backups seemed like a good idea. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  7. I took this out from the library months ago and returned it before I got to reading it. It sounds like I should check it out again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it would be worth it! I recall you being the one to suggest City of Secrets by Victoria Ying, which I loved, and this has some striking similarities, being a beautifully-drawn adventurous graphic novel! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  8. Wow! Such an enticing review of a book I missed when it came out. The characters and unique story will have me searching for my own copy to read this summer. Thanks for the great review and I'm looking forward to your THURSDAY THOUGHTS.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad my review got you interested in trying this book! I hope you enjoy it if you get a chance to read it this summer. And I'm also glad to hear you're looking forward to Thursday Thoughts—I'm looking forward to starting them as well! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  9. Thanks for this great post. I had read about This Was Our Pact, but decided to add it to my list after reading this post. (It was the talking bear that did it!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad to hear the talking bear sold you on this book! I hope you enjoy This Was Our Pact if you get a chance to read it, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  10. I just read Soul Lanterns and the character in that book talks about wondering where the lanterns end up that are used in the ceremony. It's an interesting idea to have a couple of kids follow them. Thanks for your review. Maybe I will check this one out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I Googled Soul Lanterns, and it sounds great—I hadn't heard of it! And that is definitely an interesting similarity. If you get a chance to try this book, I hope you enjoy it, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  11. Wow... this does sound good. Thanks for sharing. I will have to look it up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No problem! I'm glad this sounds interesting to you, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  12. We had this book on our 2020 Mock Newbery list. I always like including a graphic novel or two, and this was a good choice. It was interesting how the author wove the realistic fiction and fantasy story together.
    Looking forward to your Thursday posts too!
    I know I've never backed up my blogger content. Where do you download it to?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree—the realism and fantasy mix together really well! The Blogger backup just downloads as a .xml file to your computer, in the same place that your other files from the Internet download to (usually your Downloads folder, unless you've changed it yourself). Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
  13. Still working through your video on migrating the e-mail list. I have 2 blogs, so I/m now going through the steps a second time!! I think the book blog is all good now :)

    I had a question for you, about having my mailing address at the bottom of each e-mail. I didn't feel comfortable with my home address on the e-mails (though I suppose anyone could find it pretty easily!), so I deleted the address. But then, you said something in the video about it being a legal requirement? Can you clarify that? Now, looking through other e-mails I get, it DOES seem like everyone has their address in the footer.

    And THANK YOU again for all the help! There's no way I could have figured all this out on my own, and with your help, my e-mails are looking great!

    Thanks -

    Sue

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I believe it is a legal requirement of spam prevention laws to have a mailing address in the footer (I think any kind works, including a PO Box or business address), but I think as long as you aren't sending a bunch of spam emails and aren't adding back people who unsubscribe from your emails, you should be fine. I realize now that I did forget to mention in the video that there are some places, like on the subscription preferences page that your subscribers can see, where that mailing address is displayed and cannot be removed, so do be aware of that—with my account, I did not use my real address at all to avoid this issue. (And I apologize for forgetting about that in the video.) Let me know if I can be of any more help, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

      Delete
    2. Ok, thanks for the clarification. Maybe I'll see how much a P.O. Box costs, though it would still show my small town. What did you mean that you didn't use your real address? Is that allowed? You just put in something made-up? Sorry to keep bugging you - you've been so helpful!

      Delete
    3. Don’t worry about it—it’s definitely a whole complicated mess! Yes, I just made up a fake address and used that, and then I left it removed in the footer of the emails anyway—but on some of those subscription preferences pages, the fake address is shown and cannot be removed, which is why I made it fake. I believe Mailchimp doesn’t care particularly one way or another, since they do give you the option to remove it in the first place in the emails—I think their feeling is that they’ve made clear that it is on us, not them, to comply with the spam prevention laws, and since they’re not liable, they don’t care what we do. As for the actual laws, I am not sure how large your mailing list is (mine is just 20 subscribers, but even a few hundred is still relatively small), but I cannot fathom that anyone is interested in tracking down people with small mailing lists who aren’t even sending spam emails in the first place and are actually allowing people to unsubscribe, just because they don’t have a real address in the email footer.

      I will mention that I’ve heard of some other email subscription services since making the video, like one called Follow.it, that post a company address for you in the footer instead of making you provide your own—but they seem to have their own downsides as well (Follow.it has Taboola-style ads at the bottom of every email, as an example). For me personally, I’m comfortable enough with the risks to keep using Mailchimp and making use of their generous free plan (and the fact that they’re large enough not to go out of business next week or anything like that), but I totally understand that it is a risk you might not be comfortable with, and that is fine! Again, I’m so sorry about both the hassle itself and any confusion regarding the video, and I hope this helps!

      Delete
    4. No apologies necessary! You've been so kind to lend so much of your time to helping others (including me). So, I was as surprised as anyone, but I actually have over 1000 subscribers for each of my blogs! I was just letting Feedburner do its thing in the background for the past 14 years :) I really had no idea that many people were following by e-mail, especially on the book blog. I did have to delete a bunch of unverifieds, but they are still both over 1000. So, I did look at other providers, but I like that Mailchimp is still free up to 2000. I SO appreciate your input and thoughts on this. I'm going to check with some friends of mine who send an e-mail mailing list through Mailchimp for their podcast - I noticed their address (what looks like one of their home addresses) is at the bottom of their e-mails, so I'll see what they think, too. Honestly, I've never even noticed other people's addresses at the bottom of any e-mails, so chances are others don't notice either!

      Thanks again for the extra attention and your quick responses!

      Sue

      Delete
    5. Absolutely—I'm always happy to be of use! And that's amazing that you've gotten so many subscribers over the years! I hope your friends have some useful advice regarding the whole thing—good luck with all of this!

      Delete
    6. Well, it worked well for 2 days! I got an e-mail yesterday from Mailchimp saying I'd exceeded my limit (of the free account) by sending more than 2000 e-mails a day and that now nothing more will send until "the hold expires" (doesn't say how long that will be!). It makes no sense because I have 1250 on my list, and I only have 1 campaign, to send a once-daily at 4 pm automated e-mail if there's a new blog post. I did have a new post every day this week so far, but that should still only be 1250 e-mails per day. I've sent an e-mail to the Mailchimp Help desk, so we'll see what they say.

      I'm not asking for your help (for once!), unless you have some insights or see something I'm missing. I just wanted to vent because I'm frustrated and I know you'll understand, having gone through all this set-up yourself :)

      My 2nd account and list are on hold for the moment, while I wait to see what they say. I was hoping to avoid a paid account for a while, but if I need one, then I may try to put both lists into 1 account as separate audiences to avoid paying for 2 accounts! This is why I hate all the behind-the-scenes tech stuff - problems always crop up unexpectedly!

      Thanks for listening (as if you had a choice - ha ha) and for all the help!

      Sue

      Delete

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment—I always love reading them!

Popular posts from this blog

MMGM and #IMWAYR: Everywhere Blue by Joanne Rossmassler Fritz (plus the Summer 2021 Book Giveaway!)

MMGM and #IMWAYR: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

MMGM (6/12/2017): Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo