Caroline Dotson

File photo

Caroline Dotson

The allure of the graphic novel

'Kingdom Hearts II, Book I,' a work that draws in reluctant readers

— Young readers today are enjoying a new twist on literature.

Not quite a comic book or chapter book, the increasingly popular graphic novel has qualities of both.

The graphic novel and even more specifically, "Manga," is derived from Japanese culture. The book starts at the back and reads forward, plus the pages read from right to left. A first-time reader could get confused, but with practice it is easily mastered.

Inside these novels are detailed illustrations that, when joined with the storyline, help play out the setting, plot and action. The illustrations are what give it the name - graphic novel.

Another "Manga" trait is the numerous characters involved. The illustrations of the characters may only differ slightly, and often it is hard to tell the difference between male and female. The reader must pay attention.

For instance, "Kindom Hearts II, Book I" has nine main characters and a handful of sub-characters. Thankfully, there is a character index at the end of the book.

"Kingdom Hearts II, Book I" is a Disney work, with the idea taken from a video game designed by Shiro Amano and Tesuya Nomura. Other "Manga" stories come from japanimation cartoons or are made into cartoons after the series is a success.

A "Manga" series can be small, ranging from one to 10 books, or may reach 29 books if the series remains popular, like "Naruto," another "Manga" series.

"Manga" is a great addition for young readers and has the added value of bringing once reluctant readers into the rich and rewarding world of literature.

In "Kingdom Hearts II, Book I," the main character, Roxas, dreams about an unfamiliar boy's life.

It is the end of summer vacation, and Roxas and his friends attempt to take a trip to the beach. They work hard and earn enough money to go, but a mysterious man sabotages their trip.

Roxas and his friends are rivals with another gang and they have a Struggle Match - a sporting contest, of sorts - coming up.

When Roxas sees strange things such as aliens, dark men and a beautiful girl, his friends start to worry. The day before vacation ends, Roxas fights in the match to win the title, but while battling, he is thrown into a fantasy world. The story ends with Roxas holding a trophy, but unsure of his connection with the boy in his dreams.

The young people in this book are typical: They like to hangout with their friends, enjoy friendly competition and are good role models.

Earning money for activities and staying physically active is encouraging for other young people to read. Throughout the book, Roxas and his friends take time to enjoy the simple pleasure of eating ice cream. They even mention how the moment is nostalgic.

I love this book and how the story leaves the reader hanging at the end so anticipation builds for the next book.

Because of this, I suggest readers buy "Manga" in bundles so they're not tortured by the unfulfilled ending by reading just one. None of my questions were answered about the characters, but that is one of the great things about "Manga" - it keeps you wanting more.

"Kingdom Hearts II, Book I" is published by Tokyopop in 2007 and is available at Downtown books for $9.99.

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