Like sand through the hourglass…Sand Chronicles

Sand Chronicles (Vol. 3) by Hinako Ashihara; published by VIZ Media, LLC, San Francisco, 2008; 200 pages.

Having jumped into this graphic novel series somewhat in the middle, I can summarize this installment of the story along with a little background information thanks to a recap provided at the beginning of the book.  Ann is a 16 year old girl whose mother committed suicide in an earlier installment of the story.  Her father lives in Tokyo and Ann stays with him during the school year.  But she spends her summer with her grandparents in Shimane, where she has a boyfriend (Daigo) and friends Shika and Fuji (wealthy sister and brother who have a family secret—one of them is illegitimate).  In this volume, Ann finds herself in the throes of first love (physical and all) with Daigo.  Siblings Shika and Fuji throw a wrench in the works as threats to the love story.  In the end, we find the four friends struggling with emotions—all the typical teen angst.  The cliffhanger for this story is that Ann recognizes some of her mother’s depression in Fuji and expresses her concern to him, only to find that he has disappeared….  Stay tuned to Volume 4; like Sand through the hourglass, these are the days of our teens.

I have to get used to the idea that a graphic novel is different from a comic book:  The story is told more through images and what’s between the lines than in the text.  The themes and content are far more mature than the Archie comic books I read in the dentist’s waiting room.  At first, I was confused by the story and the stilted dialog, but then I enjoyed the rhythm of the tale.  The book will appeal to teens because of the “soap opera” content and because it is manga.  

Several things made reading this book unique.  First, it is manga.  That means that the book is read from back to front and from right to left—on each page and from page to page.  That took some getting used to but then it was actually fun to read in a different style.  Second, there is a glossary at the front—I mean back—of the book explaining terms and expressions that are unfamiliar to Western readers.  Third, there is a short summary of “the story thus far” and a list of main characters on the table of contents page.  Lastly, there is a parental advisory label on the copyright page.  Apparently, the publisher has rated this page “T+” meaning its content is for teens 16 years old and older; it is described as having mature content.  I can’t imagine an author or publisher in the United States labeling their books.

4P     3Q     Grade Level 9-12+

SAND_CHRONICLES_3Cover Art: The manga images will appeal to fans.  The colors and images on the cover will pique interest among teen girls especially.  The cover art belies the maturity of the content however and may make the book appeal to a younger crowd than the book intended.

From Reading List: Great Graphic Novels for Teens (2009 Top Ten List)

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