My twelve-year-old son finished Americus and said, “This is a good book.”
I’m always annoyed to read the list of “banned” books in American schools and libraries. It’s one thing for a parent to decide what to put in their own child’s head, but a town board? Harry Potter was banned in many places because ignorant people believed that by reading these books, children would learn about satanic practices. Morons. When I heard about this I wrote a song called, “Fool’s Blues.” I’m guessing MK Reed and Jonathan Hill felt similarly angry to churn out the graphic novel, Americus.
In their book, which I checked out from my library, a young geek named Neil has to save his beloved fantasy book series from being banned. He already knows, through junior high hell, that being a geek sucks in a small town, but he also learns that you can find your tribe and stick together to protect what matters.
“You kids better stop thinking on your own and start listening to what I tell you!” pretty much sums up much of the adult mind-set in the town of Americus, Oklahoma. The main plot is about a mother (see quote above) trying to convince the town board to ban The Adventures of Apathea Ravenchilde from the public library on the grounds that it is akin to pornography in its moral degradation of youth. This same mother sent her son (Neil’s best friend) to military school for declaring he was gay. However, the graphic novel is really showing what life is like for outsiders in real towns like Americus, where the enemies are, “liberals, atheists, and gays.”
This is a place where Neil’s mother gets flack from other women for letting her son wear black shirts. Apparently, only troubled youth that will eventually burn down the school wear black. Neil reads for fun (big mark against him) and the library is one of the few havens for geeks in Americus. Charlotte, the librarian, is a friend.
Mr. Howard, Neil’s neighbor, tells of his experience in high school, “Each day brought another indignity…now I sell them steaks, and they pretend like all that never happened.” Later, Mr. Howard defends the fantasy series at the town meeting, saying everyone needs an escape from reality.
Neil’s POV in high school is a highlight of this book. The first day of class speeches by the teachers are spot on. I reread them out loud to my husband to our mutual amusement. The biology teacher: “Now we all know that God created the earth 6,000 years ago for man to live on, but science tells it another way…” is hilarious. Though my favorite is:
“Realistically, most of you will quit or graduate high school and become cashiers and waitresses, and those of you with lofty goals might be a real estate agent or car salesman. Regardless, you’ll never use algebra again. But some of you might go to college and to prove that you’re more intelligent than a field of corn, you’ll need to take the SATs, half of which is math…”
Neil is pessimistic, frustrated, and misses his best friend. Yet, the young boy finds music and books that make him happy. He speaks up for what he cares about and makes friends along the way. I recommend this book for junior high and up.