Graphic Novel: House of Night (Graphic Novel #1) by P.C. Cast (Story by), Kristin Cast (Story by), Kent Dalian (Script by), Joelle Jones (Illustrator), Karl Kerschl (Illustrator)
Summary: Zoey Redbird is a vampyre changeling at the House of Night school in Texas. Recently (and reluctantly) made leader of an important school group, The Dark Daughters, she must band with her friends and turn to the Fledgling Handbook in order to learn five lessons and become a true leader.
Characters: I had a hard time liking Zoey. I don't usually mind sulky characters, but Zoey is sulky with no reason and no consequences. I didn't understand how she had become the center of a group of bubbly vampyres, because the most interesting things about her were things she had no control over (she has adult marks and an affinity for all five elements). I felt like she was learning, but not growing. I also have a hard time liking characters that are too good and every time Zoey made a mistake it was out of ignorance and not because she had intentionally made a decision.
Plot/Pacing: The House of Night graphic novel is separated into five sections, each named for a vampyre affinity: earth, air, water, fire, spirit. Each section involves Zoey and her friends deciding which lesson to learn, a story from their handbook, and then Zoey and her friends discussing the lesson and Zoey putting what she learned into practice. It is a little "after school special" for my taste and quite a bit of time is spent catching the reader up at the beginning of each section. However, my biggest problem is that the history lessons seem to have nothing to do with the lessons Zoey needs to learn. More than that, there are some major issues (rape, bigotry) that are never satisfactorily addressed or resolved. The worst offender here, is the Air lesson, which I will get to in a moment.
Moments I Loved: There is a scene where Zoey reconciles with her brother, who has been raised to think of vampyres as the devil's creatures. While the entire story is oversimplified and too easily resolved, it is a sweet moment.
WTF Moments: This is where the triggers are. In the Air segment, Zoey needs to learn to be accepting and lift people up. This is the history lesson: two princesses are beaten and raped, brutally and graphically, for several days by an army of men. They become vampyres, then they are captured and raped some more. They escape to House of Night, where they are so broken that they decide to kill themselves, but after Nyx (Vampyre Goddess) gives them an Air Affinity they float around, everything is better, and they start a support group (The Dark Daughters) where they accept and support one another. I had ISSUES with this section.
More triggers. First, it is a graphic novel and I felt the portrayal of the rape was graphic and inappropriate. I would have been horrified with the dialog and the soldier reaching for his belt. Instead we get close ups of the sisters screaming, trying to pull down their dresses and cover themselves as their clothes are ripped off. We have a close up of men holding their legs down and apart so that the men kneeling behind them can take turns. We get a close up of a bruised and bloody face, totally broken. I thought I was going to be physically sick. Actually, writing this, I feel like I might cry. I never wanted to write anything so graphic on this blog, but I wish I had known to expect this going in so I can't ignore it.
More triggers. Second, it is so easily resolved that it is offensive. There is some seriously horrible stuff going on and at the end there was a panel of them floating in the air which makes everything okay. Are you kidding me? Whether intentional or not, the message is that rape is not a big deal and getting over it is easy. Um, no.
More triggers. Finally, this horrific story of rape is little more than a plot device that had little connection with Zoey Redbird or the lesson she needed to learn. Zoey took this story and decided to use her air affinity to make the mean girl feel better. Again, ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Artwork: There is a LOT of sex in this graphic novel and on top of that, I felt that most of it (especially the history stories) are highly sexualized. I was a little put off by that and I didn't expect to see so many woman objectified in the panels (especially for a story that has a strong message of feminist empowerment and is aimed at teen girls).
One of the things that I dislike about graphic novels is that woman are often all drawn so similarly (big boobs, small waist, long hair) that it is impossible to tell them apart if you have more than a blond and a brunette. While I felt House of Night did draw their female characters all with the same body type, they had distinguishable faces, which I appreciated.
Another thing I appreciated is that each of the stories from the fledgling handbook is drawn and colored in a way that is distinct and appropriate for the story being told.
Overall: There were a lot of heavy issues that were only superficially dealt with, including a graphic rape scene that felt inappropriate and offensive.
I have opted not to assign a Fake Steph rating. I have tried to form my opinions in as objective a way as possible, but am so upset about the Air story line that I don't think I can give this graphic novel a fair rating.
**I received an e-galley of House of Night from the publisher through NetGalley. I was in no way compensated for my review and all opinions expressed here are my own. Feel free to check out my full FTC Disclaimer on my About This Blog page.**