To no one's surprise, November wasn't the best reading month for me. Not because of a slump or anything, but because I was in the middle of NaNoWriMo.
It's the same thing every year that I do NaNoWriMo. My November reading goes down to being almost non-existent. The fact that I read anything at all is usually quite impressive. And honestly, I don't mind that I read way less. It allows me to focus my creativity on writing and not needing to worry about comparing myself to other writers.
I did start a third book, but only made it about 1/3 of the way through before giving up because I knew I couldn't focus on it while writing. I have plans to finish it in December though, so no worries that I'm not enjoying it. Oh, and if you're interested, I filmed a satirical review of a book that's way out of my comfort zone.
So, let's look at the two books I did read this month!
Title: Locke & Key Volume 2: Head Games
Author: Joe Hill; illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
Genre: Horror graphic novel
Date Finished: November 17, 2020
*TRIGGER WARNINGS* Alcoholism, murder, PTSD, abuse, gaslighting, mental torture, emotional trauma, disturbing scenes, & homophobia
Opinions: Moving into the second volume of the series after a couple weeks of waiting, I did need some time to get back into the story. And while I did enjoy what I read, a lot of what happened in this volume wasn't necessarily my favorite.
The focus of this volume, at least from what I can tell, is to explain a lot of the backstory we haven't gotten until now. Things from the past that happened to other people we're just beginning to be introduced to. And while all of that is great, I struggled to care about a lot of the new introductions. Something about the way the story was being told didn't quite grab me as much as the first volume did, and I found it incredibly easy to put the graphic novel down when I wasn't feeling it.
I think part of that struggle was also because there was less focus on the relationship between the Locke siblings. That was one of my favorite things about the first volume - seeing how they interacted after the trauma they went through. Being an older sibling myself, I'm always curious about other sibling dynamics. The first volume gave me a lot of that, but this volume felt like a major regression from where we got to at the end of the previous volume.
I wanted to see more of Tyler, Kinsey, and Bode. I wanted more of their struggles to relate to each other because of the different experiences they had with the trauma. And I wanted to see their growth. But the little bit that I got fell rather flat for me. Yes, they interacted with each other quite a bit throughout the story, but after everything they went through in the first volume, I was kind of disappointed that there was so much dismissal of Bode's findings. Maybe it was because they rarely interacted without the presence of other characters, but I found it hard to enjoy the times when they were together. I could easily be happy with graphic novels that focused entirely on the Locke siblings.
The introduction of the new characters didn't entirely appeal to me. Particularly, there was a love interest I didn't really like, if only for the reason that I thought the character could do much better. No spoilers for this one, I just felt like the love interest this character had was so underneath him and didn't do anything supportive for the relationship. Literally one of the conflicts was because this love interest put the character in a dangerous place.
There was more exploration into the background of Dodge, who we know to be the main villain from the first volume. I don't think I talked about him in October's wrap up, but he's an important part of the story. Unfortunately, I lacked interest in what he was doing in this volume. Mostly, I found him annoying and a "distraction" from things that were going on with the Locke siblings. Having to keep up with Dodge's storyline did help explain a lot of things, but I didn't care very much in that moment.
It's hard for me to really explain why I feel this way about this volume. It's not bad by any means. The story remains solid and the art is still stunning. But I couldn't get into it the same way I loved and devoured Volume 1. Something just didn't grab me in the same way, and I struggled (as much as one can) to finish this so that I could move on with the story.
I will say that I'm thoroughly intrigued and invested in the idea of all these keys. There are so many possibilities, I have no idea what Hill will come up with next. It's so creative and I could never imagine coming up with something like this. Reading about all the different keys and what they can do, it keeps me hooked on the story because I want to know what will come up next and how it works. And I think the story is starting to get to an interesting discussion about what people will do when they have this kind of power and how it affects them. I love a good discussion of whether power corrupts and I think this will be a fun exploration of that theme.
At the end of the day, I do think this is an important piece of the story. Do I wish I had been more invested and interested? Yes. Will I read it again? Probably when I buy the box set for myself. Do I still think this is a good series to pick up? Definitely.
Title: Locke & Key Volume 3: Crown of Shadows
Author: Joe Hill; illustrated by Gabriel Rodriguez
Genre: Horror graphic novel
Date Finished: November 18
*TRIGGER WARNINGS* Gaslighting, emotional trauma, alcoholism, domestic instability, PTSD, homophobia, rape trauma, & disturbing scenes
Opinions: This one might be my favorite in the series so far. Yes, it 100% had to do with how much time we got to spend with the Locke siblings and seeing how the family dynamic played out. I'm consistently intrigued by the roles everyone plays in the family, especially considering that Mrs. Locke is an alcoholic. Watching the way the Locke children interact with each other in caring ways, despite their claims that they don't care about each other, really gives the story layers and depth.
There's a lot of commentary on trauma, grief, and how people process those things differently. Each member of the Locke family is experiencing this in some capacity, and they all choose to deal with it in different ways. And I have to admit, I really enjoy seeing how children change when they're forced into more mature roles at a young age. I was one of those kids because of my parents' work situation and the fact that I was an older sibling, so I like seeing how other kids step into the same roles and how that affects them. I think I turned out okay, but not everyone handles it well.
Near the end of the volume, there's a big scene that I thought really pushed the story and the characters. I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll keep from saying too much. But I thought the whole thing was very well executed and really demonstrated the tension that we've been seeing grow in the background.
Once again, the keys were a huge delight for me. I have no idea how many keys there are in total, but each one keeps becoming more and more fascinating. There was a moment when I really hoped that a key would reveal something more crucial to the characters, but I can see why it wasn't quite the time yet. Of all the keys we've discovered so far, the ones in this volume were my favorite. Perhaps that's the other reason why I enjoyed it so much. Getting to see the rules of each key and how the characters interact with the keys really gives me a lot of admiration for how much thought and planning Hill needed in order to pull this all off.
With each passing volume, the art is also getting more and more spectacular. I keep being drawn to how the art is telling the story, sometimes in ways the text can't convey. The blend of the text and the art do wonders for the story, and I can really see the talent Rodriguez has for stories like this. Though I don't really know much about art, I've taken a few classes that have taught me some things that help me understand what artists are trying to achieve. Seeing that play out in this series so far has been a beautiful experience, and I know it can only get better from here.
Also, with the way this volume ended, had it not been for me focusing on NaNoWriMo, I probably would have finished the series that same day.
Despite only reading two books, I think I had the chance to think a lot about story and pacing. I'm glad that I chose to use these graphic novels as my main form of reading because they taught me something different that I could put to use while doing my own writing. And it really goes to show me that I enjoy graphic novels more than I thought.