Disney/Pixar’s 2015 3D animated film, Inside Out, captured audiences’ hearts as soon as it debuted. Children and adults alike were treated to a smart, sensitive flick about emotions that managed to be tons of fun while also speaking volumes about how it’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling. Essentially, people are emotional creatures, and as much as they’d rather bury that for the sake of efficiency, it’s not going to change. Luckily, today’s fandoms are pretty open about all of their emotions— whether they’re ugly-sobbing over the death of their fave or squealing about the dawn of a new OTP— and the bookish community, while it’s divided up across many different fandoms and genres, isn’t shy when it comes to talking about feelings. Below are five books that correspond with each of the emotions in Inside Out (and a bonus for Bing Bong, of course!)
Superman: American Alien by Max Landis (writer), Jae Lee, Joëlle Jones, Tommy Lee Edwards, Nick Dragotta, Jock, Jonathan Case, and Francis Manapul (artists).
It’s not like the world has a shortage of Superman origin stories (far from it), and by now, it’s kind of easy to think if you’ve read one, you’ve, in effect, read them all. But if you were ever to rethink that stance, I urge you to pick up Superman: American Alien. There may be other things like it, but this one is in a league of its own. Max Landis’s Superman: American Alien is a smorgasbord of emotions. Humorous, touching, triumphant and raw, Landis treats readers to snapshots of Clark Kent’s life before and after he dons the big red “S”. It’s not so much a resurrection of the character as it is a resuscitation: a few twists, a little TLC, and Superman becomes a modernized, current, culturally-relevant hero who is still, perhaps, the best fictional symbol of hope the world has ever known. The art is unparalleled, bringing readers and art aficionados alike to new heights. While Superman: American Alien will make you feel a thousand different ways, its hero and its sentiment inspire pure, unadulterated joy above all else.
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman
This book eviscerated me, and I don’t want to talk about it. Just kidding, of course I do. In Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined, Danielle Younge-Ullman has mastered that precarious balancing act of things unique to mothers and daughters: the unconditional love, the blinding frustration, the glorious innocence and the shrewd wariness that follows after. Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined is also a stark portrayal of mental illness, the ugly, hungry mouth of it. There is no manic pixie dream-girl in Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined, just the realness of an inescapable bond, and the sting of the truth. But in sadness, there is always hope for a better tomorrow. Younge-Ullman has created a masterpiece, her narrative voice all heart.
Fireworks by Katie Cotugno
I thought about putting a book that I actually didn’t like for this section, but that would have felt like cheating, so I just picked the last book that made me feel some type of way. As it is, I really enjoyed Katie Cotugno’s novel about the formation of a girl group in the 1990s. Our scrappy, down-to-earth protagonist is a richly-layered character with a crappy hand from life’s deviously-dealt deck. When she gets the opportunity to become part of the latest music craze, along with her BFF, she takes it. The thing that pushed my buttons over the course of this novel more than anything else— more than the cutthroat entertainment business and the typical teenage girl drama— was Olivia, Dana’s supposed “best friend.” She shows off, pretty early, what kind of person she is, but Dana ignores the signs because prior to joining a band, Olivia is, quite arguably, the best part of her life (that’s sad). We’ve all been entangled in a toxic friendship before, and the turnout is rarely ever fun. Despite Dana literally being a better person about the whole thing, I really, really wanted karma to water-board Olivia into oblivion.
Dead Girls Don’t Lie by Jennifer Shaw Wolf
Dead Girls Don’t Lie is the last book that actually deprived me of sleep on the basis that I was scared out of my mind. The standalone YA thriller is told from the perspective of Jaycee, a teenager who prioritized kissing a boy over responding to her friend Rachel— and Rachel winds up dead. Spurred by guilt, Jaycee launches her own investigation into Rachel’s untimely end, uncovering a horrifying truth. Real talk: I know I’m a total wuss for being terrified by this novel, but in my defence, I literally had no idea what Shaw Wolf’s endgame was. It was so deliciously shocking, I can now say I am a wiser reader from having experienced the slap-in-the-face revelations and the sleep deprivation.
The Chair by Peter Simeti (writer) and Kevin Christensen (artist)
The Chair follows Richard Sullivan, a man on death row who clings to his innocence even as the harsh environment inside the prison becomes a pressure-cooker, with the new warden encouraging only the most brutal of punishments. There’s one specific scene in The Chair (in “Act 4: Monsters”) that, when I read it for the first time, made me swallow a knot of disgust. In a lot of ways, The Chair and Dead Girls Don’t Lie are similar in that I really should have seen the twists and turns before I got tangled in them.But as with Dead Girls Don’t Lie, The Chair is so engrossing that I found myself believing in the environment and the characters, to the point where any contradiction was a betrayal to the senses. But seriously. That one scene. It messed me up. Which is strange, considering how ordinary it is compared to the rest of the book. But it is one of the most quietly insidious scenes I have ever seen in the pages of a graphic novel.
Alabaster Shadows by Matt Gardner (writer), Rashad Doucet (artist)
ONI Press’s all-ages horror graphic novel, Alabaster Shadows, is a riotous exercise in imagination from start to finish. When Carter Normandy’s family moves into Alabaster Shadows, a neighbourhood positing to be so perfect it has its own Community Council, he knows something isn’t right. Aside from the cookie-cutter-identical houses, a community leader who would rather enslave children than tolerate them, and a leak in the basement that leads to another world, that is. I would personally love more of this spooky, vibrant world that Gardner and Doucet have seamlessly created— the characters are wonderful, and the art is honestly like a welcoming embrace from a good friend.