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When seventh-grader Ash, his crush Eleanor, and their friends are transported to a girls-only imaginary world, Ash must come to terms with the fact that he may actually be a transgender girl. Full of wonder, humor, and heart, Girl Haven is the newest original story from the author of Lumberjanes. Three years ago, Ash's mom, Kristin, left home and never came back. Now, Ash l When seventh-grader Ash, his crush Eleanor, and their friends are transported to a girls-only imaginary world, Ash must come to terms with the fact that he may actually be a transgender girl. Full of wonder, humor, and heart, Girl Haven is the newest original story from the author of Lumberjanes. Three years ago, Ash's mom, Kristin, left home and never came back. Now, Ash lives in the house where Kristin grew up. All of her things are there. Her old room, her old clothes, and the shed, where she spent her childhood creating a fantasy world called Koretris. Ash knows all about Koretris: how it's a haven for girls, with no men or boys allowed, and filled with fanciful landscapes and creatures. When Ash's friends decide to try going to Koretris, using one of Kristin's spellbooks, Ash doesn't think anything will happen. But the spell works, and Ash discovers that the world Kristin created is actually a real place, with real inhabitants and very real danger. But if Koretris is real, why is Ash there? Everyone has always called Ash a boy. Ash uses he/him pronouns. Shouldn't the spell have kept Ash out? And what does it mean if it let Ash in?


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When seventh-grader Ash, his crush Eleanor, and their friends are transported to a girls-only imaginary world, Ash must come to terms with the fact that he may actually be a transgender girl. Full of wonder, humor, and heart, Girl Haven is the newest original story from the author of Lumberjanes. Three years ago, Ash's mom, Kristin, left home and never came back. Now, Ash l When seventh-grader Ash, his crush Eleanor, and their friends are transported to a girls-only imaginary world, Ash must come to terms with the fact that he may actually be a transgender girl. Full of wonder, humor, and heart, Girl Haven is the newest original story from the author of Lumberjanes. Three years ago, Ash's mom, Kristin, left home and never came back. Now, Ash lives in the house where Kristin grew up. All of her things are there. Her old room, her old clothes, and the shed, where she spent her childhood creating a fantasy world called Koretris. Ash knows all about Koretris: how it's a haven for girls, with no men or boys allowed, and filled with fanciful landscapes and creatures. When Ash's friends decide to try going to Koretris, using one of Kristin's spellbooks, Ash doesn't think anything will happen. But the spell works, and Ash discovers that the world Kristin created is actually a real place, with real inhabitants and very real danger. But if Koretris is real, why is Ash there? Everyone has always called Ash a boy. Ash uses he/him pronouns. Shouldn't the spell have kept Ash out? And what does it mean if it let Ash in?

30 review for Girl Haven

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gee

    (I received an ARC from Oni Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review! Thanks to both for trusting me with 'Girl Haven') Trans Remembrance Day having been just yesterday, I thought that it was the perfect moment to read and review 'Girl Haven'. In this graphic novel we follow Ash, a teenager who feels like he doesn't quite fit in... Until he meets Junebug, Chloe, and Eleanor, who make up the Pride club at their school. Queer and proud, Eleanor becomes an instant crush of Ash, who can (I received an ARC from Oni Press, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review! Thanks to both for trusting me with 'Girl Haven') Trans Remembrance Day having been just yesterday, I thought that it was the perfect moment to read and review 'Girl Haven'. In this graphic novel we follow Ash, a teenager who feels like he doesn't quite fit in... Until he meets Junebug, Chloe, and Eleanor, who make up the Pride club at their school. Queer and proud, Eleanor becomes an instant crush of Ash, who can't help wondering whether he may, or may not, belong in the Pride club for more solid reasons than mere allyship... Something that he's going to determine soon. When Ash invites the club over to his house, they end up in a magical world called Koretris, which is place to women exclusively. As a "Girl Haven", Koretris would never let boys in... So what is Ash doing there? As the Pride club rushes to save Koretris from a threat unilke any other, he will have to discover his truth--and face it head-on. How can I explain what I felt? My feelings about this title are... Mixed. Complicated. All over the place. On the one hand, I really liked the concept. This is a really original way to explore gender identity, and I liked how the struggle that trans* can be was expressed through Ash. The land of Koretris was quite whimsical, too, with talking rabbits and beautiful Queens, and I enjoyed the lore. But, on the other hand, some things quite bothered me. First of all: Chloe, who is the impersonation of the 'Black angry butch lesbian' stereotype. She's really rude to Ash sometimes, and under the excuse of being a feminist, she pulls some discourses that don't even make sense. "You guys" is the trigger for a discourse on how Ash is sexist for his choice of words, for example. Not only that; she's constantly snapping at everyone, and tries to impose her ideas and beliefs instead of listening to her friends. She was a character that I instantly disliked, and I don't think that's a very positive portrayal of anything. It shows how, nowadays, feminism has become a movement fueled by anger. Then there's the treatment of men throughout the story. Call me crazy, but I don't think that, in order to empower women, you need to degradate men. While Koretris per se is amazing, and I don't have any problem with the premise that it's a land for women only, I didn't like how the boys were portrayed once they appeared. And I particularly didn't like how 'masculinity' was the big enemy that Ash had to defeat. Why is every LGBTQ+ and gender-affirming story so bent on making your typical, average boys and men look like terrible beings? Not only do I not get it--it bothers me. Diversity shouldn't demand that we exclude anyone, and cishet men are pretty much so. As for the art, I loved the drawing style. It was quite tender, and the colours were so warm, they felt like a hug. If there was another volume of "Girl Haven", I would maybe read it to see if these things have been fixed. However, I don't think it would be among my most anticipated GN sequels.

  2. 5 out of 5

    ashes ➷

    I was so disappointed by this book! Easily what I was most excited to receive from NetGalley and what I am now saddest about. Admittedly this is making me want to take a break from NG because of this... run of disappointments. The premise is fantastic: a boy is drawn into an all-girls world. What does that mean for 'him'? And what does it mean about our society? In general I love stories with gender-based magic being subverted in some way-- off the top of my head, I adore The Witch Boy and its la I was so disappointed by this book! Easily what I was most excited to receive from NetGalley and what I am now saddest about. Admittedly this is making me want to take a break from NG because of this... run of disappointments. The premise is fantastic: a boy is drawn into an all-girls world. What does that mean for 'him'? And what does it mean about our society? In general I love stories with gender-based magic being subverted in some way-- off the top of my head, I adore The Witch Boy and its later volumes. Gender-based magic is a GREAT way to mess with a binarist, fundamentalist idea of our gendered society. And I'm glad to say that that aspect went off without many hitches. It's a little rushed-- I wish the book was that much longer, just because we could've used more scenarios where Ash is Suspiciously Okay With Being Seen As A Girl, but when she brings it up we can tell that it's been simmering beneath the surface for quite a while. So it's not just a case of magic 'knowing', but a case of Ash herself hiding the truth because it's hard to face. And the magic helps her face the fact that, really, she's known the whole time. It's a charming way of simplifying the journey many people take. Unfortunately, there were many related issues. And now we will talk about those. Firstly, this book has a case of the angry black woman. There are three kids in the GSA ('Pride Club') at Ash's school, and they're introduced through her getting her nails painted-- as a boy!!!! And this is how we meet not just the two friendly members, but one... slightly more intimidating character. (spoiler for large images) (view spoiler)[ (better quality) And after Eleanor, the redhead, invites Ash, saying the club is for LGBT people and their allies-- (better quality) (hide spoiler)] This is Chloe. She later tells Ash off for using "you guys," saying it's sexist and introducing herself as a "feminist killjoy"-- a label she also wears on her jean jacket. You may notice that not only is she black, but she's the most butch of the three characters (though it must be said that the smallest, Junebug, is nonbinary.) Junebug is the kid who tells animals facts about themselves ("you're a cat. Did you know that about yourself?"), and Eleanor is the girl who checks in with Ash several times in the Magic Zone (plus chemistry!), Chloe... doesn't have much personality. Except possibly this: (better quality) And this: (better quality) So let's put it all together. In a school named Marsha P. Johnson Middle School (yes... really), we have three kids in the GSA. One is white and feminine, one is racially ambiguous and feminine (albeit nonbinary), and one is black and butch. The black butch girl is: mean, overly zealous in her social justice endeavors, aggressive, intimidating, grumpy, and 'tough'. The letterer on this book is a black woman. I'm extremely hesitant to call this an openly racist move, given that the letterer is clearly (based on her website) focused on diverse books and... well, she is black, and I am white. (The author and illustrator are also white.) So instead I will say that this book does not exist in a vaccuum, and just as it was important to depict a white trans girl respectfully, it was also important to depict black butch girls respectfully. Unfortunately, this book failed to do so, and we live in a world where the white LGBT community has failed to treat LGBT people of color respectfully. The "Marsha P. Johnson" thing just feels like some kind of injoke in light of this. If I can continue on this theme, the "all-female country" also needs to be handled with extreme care. I like most of the book's take on it-- that unfortunately, the country has been poisoned by the fear of men, which has generated conflict. This is the IDEAL take, in my opinion. We live in a world where roughly half of the population is men, and we must live peacefully together. Banning men is not an option, and dreaming of a utopian world without men is not just unrealistic but also harmful for many more complex reasons (eg what do you do if someone turns out a man anyway? are we going to pretend that white women haven't exerted racist forces against black men? how does this work with an accurate conception of gender?) So I am happy that this was handled well... though I'm unhappy that Chloe's positions were not. Nobody ever speaks to Chloe about this. Of course, she's not a real person with real views-- she's a character written by a white woman. But the book proves that telling off 'boys' for getting their nails painted and making assumptions about them only drives them away. In the scene directly after that, Chloe asks-- seemingly seriously-- how it is that only three people come to Pride Club. And of course the reader thinks... well, you're a huge jerk! No wonder nobody wants to hang out with you! (A pause to acknowledge, again, that they chose the one black character to be this jerk.) Her claim about the phrase "you guys" only leads to an INCREDIBLY awkward and out of character insertion of "y'all" into Ash's speech. "You all" makes sense, but she... doesn't talk that way. It really stood out on the page, and it was obvious what she would have said if the author hadn't realized "oh shit I just banned all uses of the word 'you guys'." I'm not even going to get into how this can lead to AAVE-related issues, because, again, I'm white. (better quality) In the end, the book feels oversimplified. These are such major issues, and they're barely touched upon. Obviously we don't need a ten-page spread on why "you guys" is not inherently sexist, but... you know, why bring it up? Why not have Chloe be a full-fledged character who may have trauma with sexist men that she needs to work through? Why not focus on that conflict between her and Ash, who become friends and each change each other for the better? That doesn't have to be relegated to the world of adult books. I have also read Lumberjanes, and so I know this is possible. You can handle these things in a subtle and tasteful manner. The darkest-skinned character doesn't also have to be the meanest. This book is middle-grade, yes, but many middle-grade graphic novels are fundamentally satisfying and handle social issues well. This... and imagine here I'm sighing really, really loudly in frustration and despair at wanting to like this book SO MUCH... is not one of them. Okay now that I've discussed the story I want to... show you the art. It's kind of weird. I've read graphic novels like this before-- graphic novels where you can tell that the artist is okay at art, and oftentimes even talented, but they have no grasp on proportions. This was one of those cases-- it often felt like the artist was drawing them 2D every time. You couldn't imagine a seamless, 3D face for the characters because they were drawn so strangely every time. I've compiled a... collection of heads? for your consideration here, so you can see what I'm talking about. Facial shapes melting, backs of skulls way too small... there are clearly issues with the art that mark it as missing crucial proportion study. I feel bad saying this because I'm no artist, but this isn't a sketchbook-- it's a published graphic novel that I read and am reviewing. And this is not nearly up to par for a professional graphic novel. It will not hold up against the other offerings of the market. So I wasn't even able to give a star to the art, which I can normally do in cases like these! AUGH! The one bonus star is a combo of premise and worldbuilding... it was a great idea; I'm just sad to say it wasn't executed well enough for me to either read it again or recommend it to others. Ultimately, I hope this book can at least pave the way for better ones.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Madara

    From the author of Lumberjanes comes a story of belonging, gender identity, finding yourself and overcoming fears. It is beautifully told, the art is decent. The world of Koretris is interesting and I really hope there will be more adventures in the future. Review copy provided by the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    Trans portal fantasy in which a boy called Ash finds himself in the fantasy world his missing mother created. The catch being, the whole idea of that world is that it was everyone there, the talking animals included, was female – so maybe Ash is too? At first I was a little taken aback by how externally imposed that seems – is it qualitatively different to have a spell and a talking rabbit tell you your gender, rather than society or biology? But soon enough it's revealed that this isn't the fir Trans portal fantasy in which a boy called Ash finds himself in the fantasy world his missing mother created. The catch being, the whole idea of that world is that it was everyone there, the talking animals included, was female – so maybe Ash is too? At first I was a little taken aback by how externally imposed that seems – is it qualitatively different to have a spell and a talking rabbit tell you your gender, rather than society or biology? But soon enough it's revealed that this isn't the first inkling Ash has had, and as the story continued it all made much more sense. On top of which, Sturges' intro is at pains to point out that this is just one story about gender, and there are lots of other ones to be told. Plus, y'know, I'm not exactly the target market anyway. Still, there was plenty I enjoyed, from the storybook landscapes, to Ash's friend who is given to talking to animals anyway and only a little surprised to find them suddenly replying (this is 100% what would happen to me in that situation). (Netgalley ARC)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Layla

    I received an eARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Powerful, moving and thought provoking. This fantastic LGBTQIA graphic novel is perfect for anyone aged 10 up in my opinion. Beautifully illustrated and perfectly detailed on one person's journey through self identity. Coupled with a fantasy world setting, strong friendship and love - this was a graphic novel I struggled to put down. If you're looking for a great introductory book/graphic novel to give someone on gender identity I received an eARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Powerful, moving and thought provoking. This fantastic LGBTQIA graphic novel is perfect for anyone aged 10 up in my opinion. Beautifully illustrated and perfectly detailed on one person's journey through self identity. Coupled with a fantasy world setting, strong friendship and love - this was a graphic novel I struggled to put down. If you're looking for a great introductory book/graphic novel to give someone on gender identity, as well as sexual orientation and pronouns, I feel that Girl Haven does a wonderful job.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mikorin

    Huge thank you for Oni Press and NetGalley for granting me this ARC. Y’all, I loved every minute of this book. Just by looking at the indie art style I knew I would like this. One of the authors worked on Lumberjanes, which I have not read yet, but heard great things about. I also just love the title. Based on these two I expected something good and feminist and possibly LGBTQIA+ and I was not disappointed. The inner design sports a three colored flag-like set up, but I am unsure what these color Huge thank you for Oni Press and NetGalley for granting me this ARC. Y’all, I loved every minute of this book. Just by looking at the indie art style I knew I would like this. One of the authors worked on Lumberjanes, which I have not read yet, but heard great things about. I also just love the title. Based on these two I expected something good and feminist and possibly LGBTQIA+ and I was not disappointed. The inner design sports a three colored flag-like set up, but I am unsure what these colors mean. It is closest to the trans flag, but this one has dark blue next to the pink and white-ish color. If this is symbolism I guess that is kinda cool but it definetely went over my head. I love the character designs and the comic was very enjoyable. I felt that sometimes the backgrounds were a bit rushed, but I was happy with the art overall. Content warnings death mentioned but not shown, gender dysphoria, sexism (it is very frowned upon) The plot Ash is a lonely kid, who’s mom disappeared a few years ago. One day Ash sits next to the school’s tiny Pride Club at the cafeteria and ends up making friends with the members. Promptly joining them for the next club meeting. This was an adorable set up, the kids having fun and painting each other’s nails. Ash wanting to join in simply because it looks like fun. Later on, Ash invites the gang over to their house and shows them the shed where Ash’s mom left behind a treasure trove: books, art, costumes all made for an imaginary world, *looks at smudged handwriting*: T*tris. No, wait let me try again, Kore.. a, no, wait, it’s called Koretris actually. The club is delighted by the idea of a magical land that only welcomes girls, regardless of your species. They get into a bit of roleplaying when suddenly, the magic spell written by Ash’s mom turns out to be real - and transports them all to Koretris. This is where their magical quest starts and among other things Ash has to fight the expectations everyone has of them. I am using they/them pronouns for Ash in this review in an attempt to not sound too spoilery. As the blurbs promised this book is very much about gender and discovering who and what can decide your gender at the end of the day. Junebug: Hey, look! I’m a flag! Ash: I’m so jealous! I loved the flow of the book. We start with a short introduction written by the author that offers a bit of an explanation about gender. There is a short glossary at the end of the book too. This is a great way to introduce gender discussions for people who are not very informed about the topic. I appreciated that instead of the generic LGBT acronym throughout the book the more inclusive LGBTQIA+ was used. The main characters Ash, like the tree I absolutely loved our main character, Ash, and it was awesome to be a part of their journey. Honestly they were way too chill, given the stuff they had to deal with. I loved learning more about their thoughts and feelings. I was glad they could find someone to trust who helped them come to terms with their feelings. Eleanor, like the president She was just the nicest person in the book. She cares a lot about her friends. No wonder Ash immediately liked her. She was warm and welcoming, always trying to help Ash but never overstepping. I wish we learned a bit more about her. Junebug, the awesome What a super chill character. Though we don’t learn a lot about Junebug during the story, I enjoyed their spontaineity. Chloe, the feminist killjoy If the book had any downfall for me, it would be Chloe. From the first moment she has been hostile to Ash, for absolutely no reason. I get that informing others of sexist language they are using is important, but there is no reason to be rude about it if there is obviously no malicious intent. The joke about her being a “feminist killjoy” right after she bulldozes through the newest member of their pride club just felt super cringey.. I wish her behaviour towards Ash was reprimanded a bit. Overall rating I loved this book a lot. Gender was discussed in a natural way, focusing more on the feelings of the characters and not on the shiny glossary terms. There was a quest, magic and bonding time for the characters and it was just an overall uplifting read. I was surprised by the end reveal about Ash’s mom, not quite what I expected. I felt like the whole of Koretris was a great commentary on how society views gender and how literally everyone has an opinion of what gender people should be and how they should act to fit this assigned role. As a cisgender woman (don’t worry there is a glossary that explains) I learned a lot about gender and how difficult it can be to learn your own preferences when literally everyone is shouting their own expectations at you.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Anatl

    Thanks to Oni Press and NetGalley for giving me this arc in exchange for an honest review. Asher is a lonely boy who befriends 3 girls who are also the gay chapter of their school, he invites them to his home were he is now living with his dad after his mother left. While showing the girl's his mother's creations they are transported to the fantasy land his mother has envisioned, Koretris. As soon as they arrive they are capture by rabbits and taken to the Reed Warren. To go back home they must f Thanks to Oni Press and NetGalley for giving me this arc in exchange for an honest review. Asher is a lonely boy who befriends 3 girls who are also the gay chapter of their school, he invites them to his home were he is now living with his dad after his mother left. While showing the girl's his mother's creations they are transported to the fantasy land his mother has envisioned, Koretris. As soon as they arrive they are capture by rabbits and taken to the Reed Warren. To go back home they must first discover why magic brought them there and to complete their quest, defeat the scourge of the land and free Queen Cassandra. To talk about the way the book tackles gender issues I will have to reveal a few spoilers. The story uses the portal fantasy setting to discuss male/female demarcations and relations. Koretris is a land that forbids entry to male visitors, and Asher comes to rethink gender and how come the magic let him travel there in the first place. At first it seemed like there is a division the gender along the lines of boys are bad or girls have cooties. It turns out that the scourge is actually a group of boys who come from Guysville and who consider girls an enemy. But they are actually driven by The Beast which takes control of them and uses them. This beast seems to be inside them and has the ability to take control of their minds. The presence of the boys confuses Ash, but in order to work magic, Ash must figure out what's in his/her heart and how they will identify themselves in the future. I can't speak for the LGBTQIA+ representation from personal experience, but it did seem like a good introduction to the subject with a warm loving message about embracing and accepting your innermost feelings. Overall a very cute story that seems to be aimed to the middle grades. #GirlHaven #NetGalley

  8. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I just finished reading the ARC of Girl Haven by the writers who started Lumberjane> I had no idea, going in, what to expect. This was both so much fun, and so deep, it had be going both ways. The story is of a child born into a boy’s body, who always felt they were a girl, but since they didn’t know of anyone else with that issue, they stayed as a boy. They meet some other queer folks, and decides to hang out in their mother’s old workshop. The mother has been missing for three years. She was a I just finished reading the ARC of Girl Haven by the writers who started Lumberjane> I had no idea, going in, what to expect. This was both so much fun, and so deep, it had be going both ways. The story is of a child born into a boy’s body, who always felt they were a girl, but since they didn’t know of anyone else with that issue, they stayed as a boy. They meet some other queer folks, and decides to hang out in their mother’s old workshop. The mother has been missing for three years. She was a writer and artist and had created a world of only women, and the other kids, start reading what she left behind, and find a spell that sends them into to this world. That is the story. But through it all, Ash is beginning to understand that it is ok to be a girl, or whatever they want. It isn’t the main point of the story, but it is important to the story. Both good as a fantasy, and as a coming out story. And having representation. Thanks to Netgalley for making this book available for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Manon the Malicious

    I was provided an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Girl Haven is Ash's story. Ash's mother is gone and Ash never found out what happened to her. It's now just Ash and their father. After making new friends at school, Ash shows them the shed their mom used to work in and they all end up in a parallel world where people are in grave danger. It's a story of adventure but also a story of self discovery. I really liked this story, the characters were all on point, it' I was provided an ARC by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Girl Haven is Ash's story. Ash's mother is gone and Ash never found out what happened to her. It's now just Ash and their father. After making new friends at school, Ash shows them the shed their mom used to work in and they all end up in a parallel world where people are in grave danger. It's a story of adventure but also a story of self discovery. I really liked this story, the characters were all on point, it's queer as f*** and the adventure was all around captivating. I also really liked the art but most of all, it really was all about the characters. They were layered and all so different, which isn't easy to do in a 150 page comic. Basically, I had a great time reading this and I will be looking for more books by this author.

  10. 5 out of 5

    DeAnne

    *I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I found this to be such a lovely story, it opens a great narrative about gender as well as being a great adventure between four new friends. You immediately know what the themes of the story is about if you read the author's preface, which I felt was wonderfully written. I really enjoyed how different the characters were and how Eleanor especially worked towards being supportive and really buoy her friends up as they go on a fan *I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. I found this to be such a lovely story, it opens a great narrative about gender as well as being a great adventure between four new friends. You immediately know what the themes of the story is about if you read the author's preface, which I felt was wonderfully written. I really enjoyed how different the characters were and how Eleanor especially worked towards being supportive and really buoy her friends up as they go on a fantasy adventure to not only answer questions but to save a special world. I can't speak to representation or accuracy, but I really loved this story and it's exploration of gender.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Mushroom

    Arc provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Girl Haven has the potential to be a great Children's / YA series. Things I liked: discussion of Gender and Identity was not only well done but also seamlessly explained. I appreciated how the Fantasy World was a portray of extremes and, mostly, on how toxic masculinity works and how the patriarchy can be a prison for both victims and perpetrators, especially in the final battle. All the relationships, including t Arc provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Girl Haven has the potential to be a great Children's / YA series. Things I liked: discussion of Gender and Identity was not only well done but also seamlessly explained. I appreciated how the Fantasy World was a portray of extremes and, mostly, on how toxic masculinity works and how the patriarchy can be a prison for both victims and perpetrators, especially in the final battle. All the relationships, including the one between the main characters and the talking animals, were cute and easy to read. I would have loved this comic as a child. Things that could've been improved: As much as I liked this volume, I believe that the narration should've explored the characters a bit more. I appreciated that it took its time to discuss Ash's gender Identity and inner crisis, but at the same time I would've love to see more of the other characters as well, including some scenes with the animals. With regards to narration, the first half of the book was better than the second one, that has some parts who were rushed or could've used more explanations, eg. magic systems, how are the boys in the Girl Haven without disrupting the magic system, how did the LGTQ+ school group meet, etc. However, I also understand that this comic wanted to deliver a discussion about gender to children and that it has a limited number of pages to deliver it. Overall, I believe that it delivered what it promised and that children will probably love it. 4/5

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    Great young ya graphic novel. Action, adventure, feelings, coming out to yourself, LGBTQ+ rep... just really excellent. Ash has been struggling with a lot, including the disappearance of their mum and questioning their gender identity (AMAB protag who comes out as trans girl during story). When Ash and friends get swept into a fictional world - one Ash finds was created by her mother, a "girl haven" made for only girls - adventure ensues as the friends must complete a quest to free Girl Haven's Great young ya graphic novel. Action, adventure, feelings, coming out to yourself, LGBTQ+ rep... just really excellent. Ash has been struggling with a lot, including the disappearance of their mum and questioning their gender identity (AMAB protag who comes out as trans girl during story). When Ash and friends get swept into a fictional world - one Ash finds was created by her mother, a "girl haven" made for only girls - adventure ensues as the friends must complete a quest to free Girl Haven's captured queen from the "scourge" and restore balance.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Andrea Wright

    This was my first LGBTQ+ book and it was interesting for sure. I loved the idea of the story with the created world and all the animals that speak. This is a fantastic book to have in libraries for those kids wondering, and even for adults that want to bond with someone in understanding. I personally have a hard time with the pronouns changing so this was helpful to read it and really think about it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jaclyn Hillis

    This was perfection. I seriously loved everything about it! Eleanor, Chloe, and Junebug were so welcoming of Ash into the LGBTQIA+ club, and they definitely didn't turn down the opportunity for an adventure. Each character had so much personality, but Eleanor was my favorite! The art was beautiful, and I hope there is a sequel!! :) This was perfection. I seriously loved everything about it! Eleanor, Chloe, and Junebug were so welcoming of Ash into the LGBTQIA+ club, and they definitely didn't turn down the opportunity for an adventure. Each character had so much personality, but Eleanor was my favorite! The art was beautiful, and I hope there is a sequel!! :)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heather Freeman

    This is a very cute comic that centers gender identity, being trans, and other LGBTQIA+ content, all wrapped up a delightful high-fantasy, Narnia-esque romp. The art is very sweet, as are many of the characters, though at times I found the plot a bit too whimsical/twee for my taste (but this comic is hardly aimed at a middle-aged English professor, so there's that). There are also harsh, real-world stakes in this book, but [mild spoilers] they do NOT have to do with homophobia or transphobia--th This is a very cute comic that centers gender identity, being trans, and other LGBTQIA+ content, all wrapped up a delightful high-fantasy, Narnia-esque romp. The art is very sweet, as are many of the characters, though at times I found the plot a bit too whimsical/twee for my taste (but this comic is hardly aimed at a middle-aged English professor, so there's that). There are also harsh, real-world stakes in this book, but [mild spoilers] they do NOT have to do with homophobia or transphobia--there's very little of that in this book. There are some characters who try to insist on gender essentialism and the binary of girls=good, boys=bad early on, but that gets dealt with quickly. I would highly recommend this book for advanced elementary or any middle school readers.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chelsies Reading Escape

    This was wonderful queer comic about a trans girl whisked away to a fantasy world her late mother created with her friends from the LGBT+ group at school. There she discovers her identity and what really happened to her mother. I really enjoyed the plot and the world but I would have liked for the characters to be fleshed out a little more. I just wanted to know more about all of them, especially the angry black lesbian because what was shown of her character felt like a bad stereotype.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Elna

    *Received via NetGalley for review* I am familiar with Lilah Sturges from the Lumberjanes series, and I see a lot of commonalities in Girl Haven (the interactions between characters, the annoyingly cheerful and naïve small character [which, while some may like it, is very annoying to me. I would never be friends with someone like that in real life, and even fictional characters like Junebug manage to annoy me.). I really appreciated the note at the beginning that this is only one story of gender i *Received via NetGalley for review* I am familiar with Lilah Sturges from the Lumberjanes series, and I see a lot of commonalities in Girl Haven (the interactions between characters, the annoyingly cheerful and naïve small character [which, while some may like it, is very annoying to me. I would never be friends with someone like that in real life, and even fictional characters like Junebug manage to annoy me.). I really appreciated the note at the beginning that this is only one story of gender identity and struggle, and not everyone's will be the same. Unfortunately, this graphic novel is slight on plot. Ash and her friends are transported into her mother's magical world, and spend a lot of time asking questions and traveling and talking, and then the ending is very quick and pretty trite. It's much more an exploration of gender identity than a fantasy adventure. And, like many have mentioned, the art is pretty inconsistent and not really something I'd expect from 1) an established creator and 2) a professionally published graphic novel.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Grayson

    This book has major Lumberjanes x Adventure Time vibes, and I love it! I loved the way this book talks about gender identity. Ash, our main character, is a trans girl learning her identity while navigating a world her mother made. Koretris was a fantasy world created by a child, and I love how it showed the dreams and fears of kids minds. Ash's development was done so well, and I loved how she opened up and became a hero after realizing she is a girl and being who she truly was. I did have one is This book has major Lumberjanes x Adventure Time vibes, and I love it! I loved the way this book talks about gender identity. Ash, our main character, is a trans girl learning her identity while navigating a world her mother made. Koretris was a fantasy world created by a child, and I love how it showed the dreams and fears of kids minds. Ash's development was done so well, and I loved how she opened up and became a hero after realizing she is a girl and being who she truly was. I did have one issue with this book and that was the treatment of boys in this very binary fantasy world. The big enemy in this book is masculinity, and while I hate toxic masculinity, I don't like how boys as a whole were the enemy in this book. I think this book had a great opportunity to talk about toxic masculinity and show boys that are gay, trans, and gender nonconforming. I'm a lil disappointed in how that was handled As for the art, I loved the style! The lines and colors fit the story perfectly! And I love how the world and setting was depicted art wise

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mehsi

    I received this book from Netgalley in exchange of an honest review. OH MAN… this book just made me feel many emotions. From aww and go go Ash (for Ash and her/his problems and how they were trying to find out their place and identity) to OMG no (Chloe, how the boys were portrayed). I have thought about dropping this book many a time during my read. I have vented on Twitter each time. I am not happy with this book. For most at least. There are a few things in here that may be spoiler… though given I received this book from Netgalley in exchange of an honest review. OH MAN… this book just made me feel many emotions. From aww and go go Ash (for Ash and her/his problems and how they were trying to find out their place and identity) to OMG no (Chloe, how the boys were portrayed). I have thought about dropping this book many a time during my read. I have vented on Twitter each time. I am not happy with this book. For most at least. There are a few things in here that may be spoiler… though given the blurb and that is is pretty clear that Ash is a boy who wants to be a girl I don’t see them as big spoilers. Plus, I want to use the right pronouns for Ash. What I did like was Ash. I loved Ash. She (as per the ending) struggles, her journey, her everything was just so well done. We find out that Ash is struggling with who she is. Girl? Boy? Girl? Preferably girl it seems. I am glad she found someone to confide in. And I loved that part where she undresses out of an armour into the dress she wears under it. To show what she picked. I loved all the conversations between Ash and various characters about her identity. About what is right. What to pick. How to know if this path is right. I was cheering for her. I was rooting for her so much. She is so sweet and throughout the story shows great bravery. I am also so happy at the ending. I see that dad and Ash had a good conversation and that he is there for her. Go dad! I did love Eleanor and Junebug. They were just so much fun and I love how Eleanor and Ash got close. How Ash felt safe enough with Eleanor to talk to her about all their troubles. And I loved the ending and what Eleanor whispered into Ash’s ear. Oh yes! I am in for that! And Junebug was just adorable and fun. I loved how bouncy she (I will say she as that was stated in the beginning that she was OK with that) was and how nothing seemed to scare her. I am curious to how her test-drive (as per ending) is going. Chloe is the type of girl I would avoid in real life. And probably would have made me avoid a pride club if there was one in my high school. Constantly making remarks about everything. I was pretty disgusted by how she reacted when Ash said she (again using the right pronouns though at this time of the story she was using he/him pronouns) wanted to try nailpolish and how Chloe went into a full rant about male and what aggressive colours they should like and all that. And then came the you can’t say “Hey Guys”. Which just had me rolling my eyes. I am a girl, and frankly I don’t give a crap if someone says that to me as I CAN SEE that it isn’t meant in a wrong way. But these days people can’t it seems. rolls eyes Even Junebug agrees with me and calls Chloe grumpity. To which Chloe replied that she is fun. Sure, but your fun is not to everyone’s liking. Dismissing people, acting better than others, not listening. No thank you. I HATED how the boys were written. Stereotypical (boys are violent, boys can’t show emotions other than rage or happiness, boys are messy) and hurtful. And that the boys/masculinity had to be defeated.. whut? I am a girl myself, but why do we need to hate on boys like this? Our world is split in female and male. We are both needed for this world. There is no need to act like this. BUT I am confused. Koretris is for girls… but yet there are all these boys? So they aren’t boys? I am so confused about that part. Especially since dad specifically says that Koretris is for girls and that he cannot go there. Umm? So all these boys are trans/non-binary? I am trying to make sense of it, but I just cannot. I think this part could have been better written. I do love the fantasy world, well for most. I think it is an amazing place and there is so much still left to explore. I wouldn’t mind more journeys to it. The art was pretty great, I like the style. But yeah, I just cannot rate it high as I was frustrated at several things. 2.5 stars is all I can give. Chloe, how boys were portrayed, the war, the battle. No thank you. Review first posted at https://twirlingbookprincess.com/

  20. 5 out of 5

    mad mags

    (Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley.) -- 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 where necessary -- Seventh-grader Ash ("like the tree") misses his mom Kristin terribly.* Three years ago, she left the house, and just ... never came back. (Weirdly, her dad hasn't done much to find her, even though she's clearly a missing person. Fictional parents are a mystery, yo.) When Ash is adopted into a tight-knit group of friends - Eleanor ("like the Roosevelt"), Chloe, and Junebug - th (Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley.) -- 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 where necessary -- Seventh-grader Ash ("like the tree") misses his mom Kristin terribly.* Three years ago, she left the house, and just ... never came back. (Weirdly, her dad hasn't done much to find her, even though she's clearly a missing person. Fictional parents are a mystery, yo.) When Ash is adopted into a tight-knit group of friends - Eleanor ("like the Roosevelt"), Chloe, and Junebug - that also happens to represent the entirety of the LGBTQIA+ club at Marsha P. Johnson Middle School, he's eager to show off Kirstin's studio to his new besties. Ash's mom was a talented writer and artist; she created an entire fantasy world called Koretris, dedicating twelve years of her life to a 'verse populated entirely with girls. The shed out back is a testament to her creativity and imagination. Things go sideways (or maybe just right) when a fortuitous spell transports the quartet into the heart of Koretris itself; here, they're drafted by the anthropomorphous warrior bunnies to rescue Queen Cassandra and defeat the scourge that threatens to poison all of Koretris. Of course, Ash has his own agenda as well: find Kirstin, and maybe himself too. Even though everyone keeps telling Ash that he's a boy, he doesn't feel like one. If the magic of Koretris welcomed him through its gates, what does this say about Ash's gender identity? GIRL HAVEN is a really sweet (and sometimes silly - in a good way!) middle grade graphic novel. It's a coming of age story that addresses LGBTQ issues in a gentle, compassionate way. Ash is a compelling character, and I was rooting for her (and, more specifically her and Eleanor!) the whole time. Chloe - she of feminist killjoy fame - and the ever-cute Junebug deserve honorary mentions too, as does dad, who loves and supports his daughter fiercely. All trans kids deserve one or two parents like this. In short: this story is brimming with humor, heart, inclusion - and talking horses! * I wasn't sure of the best pronouns to use in this review, so I decided to refer to Ash as he/him up until the point in the story that the character comes out as a trans girl.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aud

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. To be honest, I think I was expecting more from this book. A little more depth, maybe? At the very least, I was expecting the panels to NOT disappear into the gutters on the inside edges (I read a paperback copy). It's not bad - I think kids will like it - and as an fantasy novel that also introduces kids to trans issues/gives trans kids a potential mirror I think it does its job, but considering one of the authors is heavily involved in Lumberjanes, I was expecting more well-roundedness all aro To be honest, I think I was expecting more from this book. A little more depth, maybe? At the very least, I was expecting the panels to NOT disappear into the gutters on the inside edges (I read a paperback copy). It's not bad - I think kids will like it - and as an fantasy novel that also introduces kids to trans issues/gives trans kids a potential mirror I think it does its job, but considering one of the authors is heavily involved in Lumberjanes, I was expecting more well-roundedness all around. I like the denouement. I like the explanation about how the boys were being used (against their will) by a stronger power, and that the boys themselves weren't actually bad guys (one of the strongest points of the book, imo). I like the idea that the Scourge was created because of fear of men to begin with. I do wish that the explanation of how Ash defeated this enemy was a little more spelled out (particularly for younger readers), but I think the overall gist is understandable. I also REALLY appreciate how Junebug keeps "innocently" pushing back against the idea that it's a world just for girls when she/they is nonbinary. I don't think she's meant to mean anything by it, but that just makes it more effective, in a way. As for Chloe, I've read some negative reviews about the book that object to her character. I don't know enough about those issues to have an informed opinion. My uninformed, white woman opinion is that she takes a certain amount of pleasure in being a "feminist killjoy", and that there's nothing wrong with being strong-willed, Black, and butch (is she butch just because she's wearing pants and has short hair, though? Where's that line, exactly?). She's one of the more sensible characters (she thinks about how worried their families must be back at home, she's the first to point out that being in the City with the boys probably isn't safe, etc.), and, honestly, I think she has the most developed character after Ash, the MC. Is her character playing into stereotypes? I know that one of the creators of the books is Black (the letterer), and, as I said, I don't know enough about the stereotypes to say. So, please take my opinion with as much salt as you'd like. I do with the author's note at the end had mentioned that some people are also asexual. I appreciate that there are a lot of sexualities in the world, and that they couldn't list every single one, but I wish they'd included mine. This is a personal preference, but I do think that kids should know there's nothing wrong with them if they don't feel attraction to anyone - it's important, and I think it's something that should be said more often. Overall, I'm glad my library bought the book. I think (hope) it will circulate fairly well, and I hope it will give certain marginalized kids more representation.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marie M. Taylor

    Here are my thoughts... containing some spoilers. Enjoyed it... adorable, relatively light treatment of gender issues. While I, as an adult, would have liked a more in depth treatment of what was and has been going on in Ash's head, for a middle grade novel, this was likely a good place to settle. In reference to existing reviews, I did not find Chloe to be overly harsh at all. I did not find her unlikeable nor did I really feel she was a bitch. She protects herself and she is clear in what she b Here are my thoughts... containing some spoilers. Enjoyed it... adorable, relatively light treatment of gender issues. While I, as an adult, would have liked a more in depth treatment of what was and has been going on in Ash's head, for a middle grade novel, this was likely a good place to settle. In reference to existing reviews, I did not find Chloe to be overly harsh at all. I did not find her unlikeable nor did I really feel she was a bitch. She protects herself and she is clear in what she believes and values. She is cautious about letting Ash in... but frankly, many on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, and I imagine many Blacks on that spectrum, have had experiences that make them cautious and cause them to keep people at arms length until trust is built. That felt real to me... it did not make her an angry dyke in my mind. As for reviewers' concern that the angry person was the only black character... I had a different take. I would have liked more POC characters. That is just good practice AND would have allowed different types of black personalities to be represented, as in the real world. BUT, and this may not be my place to say as a white woman, it seems likely to me that a character who has dealt with discrimination based on multiple points of oppression (as a woman, as a POC, as a lesbian who presents as one) might well be a bit angry and certainly might have developed strong protective instincts. Such instincts that the white characters would not have needed. Junebug is still young, does not come out as non-binary until the end and basically presents as a tomboy, which society accepts. Eleanor may be gay but presents as a normal white girl and thus can keep her identity close at hand. So... yes, the one black character is the angrier character... but that seemed realistic to me. The answer that I would prefer to see for this issue is just having more characters of color. I was a bit concerned about the female vs males tone ... as if either can survive long term without the other. (Sperm? Childbirth?) BUT, felt a bit better as the oldest rabbit preached moderation ... not allowing the more militant rabbits to run amuck. I think I would have liked a bit more resolution as to what was going to happen to the boys who surrendered in Girl Haven. A moment I liked:  Ash is speaking to the Queen at the end and the Queen says "A boy is one kind of story, a girl is another kind. And they are but two of many stories. What folly to think that the complete works of humanity would fit on two shelves! Each one bending under the weight of all the books it tries to contain." I think the students in our elementary school will really enjoy this book. If that proves not to be true, I will return to update this.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Mahnoor Khurram

    I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love graphic novels. So when Lilah Sturges’ novel, Girl Haven came up on my to-be-read list and I dug into the adorable, romantic, and diverse story, I couldn’t help getting sucked right into it. Never have I seen sexuality and gender identity explored in such a wholesome fashion. Sturges did a great job showing different people with different choices, making this graphic novel a cute masterpiece. Ash, a boy exploring his identity and questioning his gender I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love graphic novels. So when Lilah Sturges’ novel, Girl Haven came up on my to-be-read list and I dug into the adorable, romantic, and diverse story, I couldn’t help getting sucked right into it. Never have I seen sexuality and gender identity explored in such a wholesome fashion. Sturges did a great job showing different people with different choices, making this graphic novel a cute masterpiece. Ash, a boy exploring his identity and questioning his gender is fascinated when Eleanor, a girl at his school paints his nails the colors of the pride flag and then invites him to a Pride Club meeting. On the way back from the meeting, he invites Eleanor, Juneberg, and Chloe over. On going through Ash’s mom’s stuff in the shed, the group is fascinated by a fantasy world Kristin created, a world called Koretris. When they find a spell book supposed to transport them to that land, they see it as the perfect opportunity to dress up and pretend. It all comes crashing down when the spell actually works and the group finds themselves in Koretris, a place full of heroic bunnies, creepy falcons, and other magical animals. The people of Koretris see Ash as a blessing, informing him that he is meant to save them all. The group learns about a strange villain called the “scrouge” who is apparently putting Koretris in danger. Ash finds out that his mother may be stuck somewhere in Koretris and is determined to defeat the scrouge and find her. Ash goes through some life-changing moments and has a different sense of purpose. Together, Ash, Eleanor, Juneberg, and Chloe navigate through this new, strange world, attempting to survive. God, this novel was everything. It was magical, fun, eye-opening, romantic, and gripping. The fictional world was creative and well-thought out, and the characters were well-written and interesting. I loved how excited Juneberg was for their fantasy dreams to finally come true. I loved Chloe’s grumpy yet badass nature. I loved how sweet and pretty Eleanor was. Ash was shown to grow from a boy, stunned to have such a weight on his shoulders, to a great individual, figuring things out about himself. The illustrations were comical and entertaining, the plotlines unexpected and interesting. The author clearly has an excellent imagination. The portrayal of LGBTQIA people as being different individuals with differing thoughts and choices was insightful and fascinating. The topics highlighted were important and wonderful. Overall, if you’re in the mood for an eye-opening yet fun magical adventure, I strongly suggest picking this book up.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jennybeast

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. On the one hand, I've been looking for books that younger kids can get into that explore trans experience, so that's appealing, and I think it's handled pretty well. Also, the fantasy world definitely reads as the kind of elaborate dream world a child might build over the course of their growing up -- from rabbit warriors, to fairie-type grass creatures, to elaborately named pretty ponies and weird candy villages guarded by creepy marionettes. It's original and authentic. Unfortunately, the plot On the one hand, I've been looking for books that younger kids can get into that explore trans experience, so that's appealing, and I think it's handled pretty well. Also, the fantasy world definitely reads as the kind of elaborate dream world a child might build over the course of their growing up -- from rabbit warriors, to fairie-type grass creatures, to elaborately named pretty ponies and weird candy villages guarded by creepy marionettes. It's original and authentic. Unfortunately, the plot really lets it down. It's very one dimensional; the girl vs boy dynamic as the big theme for the quest is just not that interesting; and doesn't hang together particularly well. It's also confusing when you add in the death of Ash's mother in the dream world -- she was literally killed by her fears? Her fears came to life and because she didn't figure out that she had to love and embrace them, she died?!? What, now? What the heck kind of message is that? I found the blurring of fantasy/metaphor/reality very confusing, and the "solution" to saving the cartoon world felt like something out of an 80s cartoon. It's a legitimate choice, it just didn't work for me. As far as characters go... that's the other thing that lets the book down. Aside from the harmful depiction of the one black character as combative and rude (a huge issue that several other people have commented on far more eloquently than I can) -- the characters in general are fairly flat. Even Ash's struggle to work out his/her identity is lacking a certain level of intensity -- though I do like how accepting Ash's father is. The budding romance with Eleanor also bothered me -- that little aside when she tells Ash that she's in the Pride club because she likes girls -- it's meant to be encouraging and flirtatious -- I'll like you as a girl. But to me it came across as valuing Ash's gender more than Ash as an individual which is clearly not the message the book wants to give. There's a lot of potential here, but I wonder if it would benefit from significant expansion. Delve more into the depths, give us more to love and get invested in. Give us back story on characters so they become more than the sketch on the page. Advanced Readers Copy provided by Oni Press.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Tyler

    Girl Haven, written by Lilah Sturges and illustrated by Meaghan Carter, is a graphic novel currently scheduled for release on February 9 2021. Three years ago, Ash’s mom left home and never returned, leaving behind a husband and child and a shed full of mystical curiosities related to the all-girl fantasy world she’d created as a child—Koretris. One day Ash invites a new group of friends from Pride Club over, and they try one of the spells to enter Koretris. To their amazement, they’re all trans Girl Haven, written by Lilah Sturges and illustrated by Meaghan Carter, is a graphic novel currently scheduled for release on February 9 2021. Three years ago, Ash’s mom left home and never returned, leaving behind a husband and child and a shed full of mystical curiosities related to the all-girl fantasy world she’d created as a child—Koretris. One day Ash invites a new group of friends from Pride Club over, and they try one of the spells to enter Koretris. To their amazement, they’re all transported to a magical realm filled with human-sized talking animals who are fiercely protective of their world and are ready to fight to protect it. But if Koretris is real, why is Ash there? Everyone has always called Ash a boy—shouldn’t the spell have kept Ash out? And what does it mean if it let Ash in? Girl Haven is a middle grade fantasy that holds appeal for older readers as well. Ash is trying to figure life out, find a friend group, and figure out how to keep moving forward after their mother disappeared. Making inroads with a new group is hard enough, but when you are still reeling with the loss of your mother and not quite comfortable in your own skin it is even harder. Add in a trip to a magical world with the journey of finding your own path and emotions, fear, and uncertainty can take over. I really liked the character and world building. I thin Ash and the Pride Group and are well built characters with room to grow both individually and together. I loved the world building of Koretis, and the story line surrounding is creation and troubles. I hope to see this continue on in a fun, lengthy series and plan on following it. The art style fits with the story, but I will admit is not my personal favorite style. However, it is a style found in many very popular graphic novels and cartoons, and I think it will appeal greatly to the target audience. There was great skill in the artwork, motion, emotion, and detail was well done. It is much more a matter of personal preference than anything else. Girl Haven is a solid graphic novel for middle grade, and older, audiences that is entertain and encourages readers to find their own truth and their own story.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Read more graphic novel reviews at The Graphic Library. ​ Ash and his new friends from the Pride Club stumble upon a spell that transports them to the world of Koretris. What Ash believed to be a novel written by his absent mother turned out to be an entire world filled with magical creatures. Koretris is a haven for girls, so how did Ash get here? It turns out that Koretris is in trouble - threatened by The Scourge - and the citizens hope that Ash has the same magical gifts as his mother. The fr Read more graphic novel reviews at The Graphic Library. ​ Ash and his new friends from the Pride Club stumble upon a spell that transports them to the world of Koretris. What Ash believed to be a novel written by his absent mother turned out to be an entire world filled with magical creatures. Koretris is a haven for girls, so how did Ash get here? It turns out that Koretris is in trouble - threatened by The Scourge - and the citizens hope that Ash has the same magical gifts as his mother. The friends must save the queen and Koretris, and Ash must embrace his true self if he is to save everyone. At its core, this is a story about gender, but there’s a lot going on here. There are some unpleasant stereotypes employed between Eleanor embodying the "Angry Black lesbian" trope, and that boys are primitive, violent, messy, and smelly. Junebug, a high-energy nonbinary sweetheart, is sprinkled into scenes like seasoning instead of really having any substantive contributions to further the plot, which is a shame because they are one of my favorite characters in this story. Ash and Chloe have some really wonderful conversations about identity and accepting oneself that then carry over to Ash and a few other characters, and this is where the majority of character development is spent. The amount of time and care spent on Ash is wonderful, so I would really have been satisfied with a little bit more time invested in everyone else. The illustrations and colors are very soothing and soft. There are a few panels where the cartoony nature takes over and some of the characters end up with strange proportions. The magical creatures are really interesting and reflect the journey to maturity that Ash's mother was on while creating this world. Oni rates this as middle grade. Given the delicate nature in which Ash travels the road of self discovery, this is one of the nicest approaches to some difficult topics that can begin around this age group. Sara's Rating: 7/10 Suitability Level: Grades 6-8

  27. 5 out of 5

    Amy Walker - Trans-Scribe Reviews

    Lumberjanes has long been on my list of things to read, as I'd heard nothing but great things about it, but trying to find time to get caught up on a series that has been going on for a while can be a bit of a challenge, so when I saw that this book was coming out I jumped at the chance to read some of Lilah Sturges' work. Girl Haven tells the story of four teens who go to the Marsha P. Johnson Middle School (which should tell you a little bit about the type of subject matter the book will be dea Lumberjanes has long been on my list of things to read, as I'd heard nothing but great things about it, but trying to find time to get caught up on a series that has been going on for a while can be a bit of a challenge, so when I saw that this book was coming out I jumped at the chance to read some of Lilah Sturges' work. Girl Haven tells the story of four teens who go to the Marsha P. Johnson Middle School (which should tell you a little bit about the type of subject matter the book will be dealing with). There's Ash, Eleanor, Chloe, and Junebug. Eleanor, Chloe, and Junebug are all friends, and part of the schools Pride Club, and after attracting the attention of Ash one lunchtime they invite him to come along and see what the club is all about.  Ash doesn't seem to have many friends, and jumps at the opportunity to make three new ones, especially as they have a bit of a crush on Eleanor. After the club Ash invites the three of them to their house, where he shows them the shed where their mother used to pain pictures and write books about the fantasy land of Koretris before she left several years before. The girls love the things that Ash's mother left behind, and instantly want to dress up as adventurers and pretend that they're in Koretris. But there's a problem, Ash doesn't think that he can play, because only girls can go to Koretris. Eleanor tells him it's only make believe, and that he can put on one of the dresses and just pretend if he wants.  It's then that Chloe reads one of the spells from a book of magic that's supposed to take you to Koretris, and the four of them find themselves in this amazing fantasy world. Not only is it real, but this world might hold the secret as to what happened to Ash's mother. However, it also presents an important question, if only girls can be in Koretris, how was Ash allowed in. Not only is Ash having to grapple with the idea that this fantasy world is real, and that his mother might still be alive, but he's also forced to take a look at his own gender identity, and what ultimately makes him happiest. I have to be honest, I had no idea that Lilah Sturges was trans before reading this book, and didn't even realise until after I was done reading it and looked her up online. I was worried at the start of the book that perhaps this was going to be a book about the trans experience that was going to be written by a cis person, someone who sympathised with the difficulty of having to examine your own gender identity and wanted to make a story about it, but had never experienced it themselves. But because Sturges herself has been through that, has had to look at their own gender and how they fit into the world she's able to pour a lot of that emotional journey into the pages of Girl Haven. There are a few early scenes where Ash seems uncomfortable with who they are, like when they're given the dress to wear that touch upon this. You can see the look on their face and you could hand wave that away as 'a boy's been told to wear a dress and doesn't really want to', but it's more than that, that hesitation Ash shows is a longing, its them wanting to do that, but being afraid to. This is something that I'm sure a lot of trans women will be familiar with, that closely held desire to be like other girls, the want you feel to just be like them and to be treated like a girl, but the fear that if you tried you'd face ridicule or disgust; or even knowing that if you were surrounded by friends like Eleanor, who accepted it and didn't make you feel bad you know that you'd still have to take the dress off and go back to being a boy, and knowing that it's not forever hurts. The moments where Ash is encouraged to just be herself, to put on the dress and be the person she wants to be are weighed down by these fears, these self doubts, and you can see the character struggling with this. For readers who have never been through this themselves they might feel frustrated that Ash isn't jumping at the chance to just be a girl, but that struggle, the fear of taking that step is something so real and so genuinely debilitating that it can be a hard choice to make. Sturges gives these moments the weight and time that they need, she makes it so that readers have to follow Ash on a journey not just to adventure and fantasy realms, but of self acceptance too. Ash has to learn to accept herself for who she is, even if others already do, even if the reader does. This is a story that anyone could write, but its a story that I think only really works this well if the person writing it knows how hard it is, if they're able to channel some of that emotion into the work.  I think I might have painted too dour a picture of this book, because it's not all about Ash and her gender, or her pain, there's a lot more to the book too. The world of Koretris is bright and colourful, and has some really awesome stuff in it, some which only makes brief appearances but makes a big impact. The Rabbits of the Reeds are a group of warrior bunnies who I instantly fell in love with. Okay, this might have had a little bit to do with the fact that I've got four bunnies running around my house, but they're so cool. I would have been happy for a book all about them because fantasy adventures with rabbit people is something that I didn't even realise I wanted until I read this book, and now it's something that I'm going to be hoping for in everything I read. There's so much about Koretris that is only touched upon briefly here that I want to know more about, there's the slightly creepy Scarionettes, which are giant living marionettes that look like Dracula, the wolf-man, a mummy, and the Bride of Frankenstein. I don't know what these things are, but I really want to because they're one of the most unique fantasy creations I've ever seen. Then there's also the moral implications of the Sweet Deliveries, little baby like creatures made of candy, who eat candy. Chloe tries to talk to them about this, asking if that makes them cannibals, but this isn't really put to bed and I feel a more in depth discussion on that subject is in order. Koretris is a strange world, one that has some cool and interesting inhabitants, and one that I want to spend more time in. Whilst the book ends with the idea that Ash and her friends aren't finished with this magical world I don't know if there's more planned for the series, but I certainly hope so. Girl Haven is a fun and engaging adventure story that has some important things to say about gender identity and the journey to accepting and embracing who you are. It will appeal to readers of all ages, and I think that because of that it's going to be a hell of a popular book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lyzz

    Girl Haven Author: Lilah Sturges Illustrator: Meaghan Carter Genre: Graphic Novel Pages: 160 Publication Date: 2/2/2021 Description: Ash follows his crush, Eleanor to Pride Club at his school. Afterwards, Ash invites his new friends to his home and shows them the magical world his mother created Koretris. His mother disappeared many years ago but has left behind all the artwork and writing about the world. When one of his friends casts a magical spell, they are all transported to this world which is f Girl Haven Author: Lilah Sturges Illustrator: Meaghan Carter Genre: Graphic Novel Pages: 160 Publication Date: 2/2/2021 Description: Ash follows his crush, Eleanor to Pride Club at his school. Afterwards, Ash invites his new friends to his home and shows them the magical world his mother created Koretris. His mother disappeared many years ago but has left behind all the artwork and writing about the world. When one of his friends casts a magical spell, they are all transported to this world which is for girls only. Ash simultaneously realizes that he is a girl and needs to save Koretris from the Scourge, an evil force tormenting this world. What I liked about this book: *The story was thoughtful and powerful. I have not seen many epic tales that tackle the patriarchy, gender and talking bunnies woven together so artfully. *The illustrations are a beautiful blend of simplicity, color and detail that creates the beautiful world of Koretris. *I loved the ending of this story – especially how Ash’s dad reacts to his journey to Koretris. What I wanted more of: *I wanted to see more of Koretris. We got to see the Reed Rabbits and the Candy Babies, but I wanted more. I’m glad that the story left the door open for more explorations into this world. *I wanted a bit more of the supporting characters throughout the story. They are heavily featured in the first 25% of the graphic novel and then slowly fade away. This is a delightful tale that blends fantasy with exploration of gender and the patriarchy. I would recommend this comic and look forward to reading more in this series.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jae

    Girl Haven by Lilah sturges was a whimsical tale about Asher finding who they identify as and figuring out that even if society wants you to be a boy because that is how you look like, we don't have to conform to society and we can be whoever we are. Asher struggles with their identity until they finally accept who they are in the end. I enjoyed the plot quite a bit. It was a very colorful world and the artwork was nicely done. i enjoyed that finding oneself was portrayed as an adventure journey Girl Haven by Lilah sturges was a whimsical tale about Asher finding who they identify as and figuring out that even if society wants you to be a boy because that is how you look like, we don't have to conform to society and we can be whoever we are. Asher struggles with their identity until they finally accept who they are in the end. I enjoyed the plot quite a bit. It was a very colorful world and the artwork was nicely done. i enjoyed that finding oneself was portrayed as an adventure journey in a far away land created by the stories that his/her late mother told him when they were small. now there are some problems with the characterization of some characters I did not enjoy. First the way boys were portrayed was uncalled for in my opinion. Having them be the bad guys because the main character is fighting their inner struggles wasn't what I was expecting. The ending was more like defeating an inner villain than of acceptance of themselves. I did understand that the "evil man/Fear" was supposed to be a peaceful moment for the character but it didn't fully feel like that in the end. My other problem was how Chloe was portrayed as a butch lesbian "feminist". Her character was just there to be mean to her friends and was not very supportive. She even labeled herself as a killjoy feminist and called Ash sexist for such a minor inoffensive comment which did nothing for the story and made the only character of color in the story come across as unlikable. The story was still fun and short and the bunny characters were delightful.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    I picked this up because of the interesting premise; Koretris, a girls-only land built from imagination, is being threatened by The Scourge. Ash and his friends are drawn in and need to face the threat to save the land and all its inhabitants. Along the way, Ash begins the journey towards accepting an important truth - that he is actually she, and that her gender is based on what she chooses to identify as. I appreciated the inclusive, diverse cast of characters and the multiple important issues I picked this up because of the interesting premise; Koretris, a girls-only land built from imagination, is being threatened by The Scourge. Ash and his friends are drawn in and need to face the threat to save the land and all its inhabitants. Along the way, Ash begins the journey towards accepting an important truth - that he is actually she, and that her gender is based on what she chooses to identify as. I appreciated the inclusive, diverse cast of characters and the multiple important issues tackled (gender/sex, toxic masculinity, mental health, loss, etc.). I also really liked the ties back to the real world, addressing how the “girls-only” haven was built out of a fear that needed to be faced rather than run from. My main issues with the book revolves around the world building and passage of time. I think the author tried to stick a little too much into a book this short, and some aspects of the world really felt under-utilized or not fully fleshed out. This was coupled with some rather jarring scene changes, such as one transition from nighttime to daytime that felt so sudden I looked back to see if I’d skipped a page. The art was cute, though some of the panels definitely felt rushed. Sometimes, the characters faces were drawn in kind of quirky, off-centered ways that I wasn’t a fan of. Overall, it was a good read and one that I would recommend especially to younger readers. If you're looking for a fantasy story with a trans character that has better world building, I'd recommend 'The Deep & Dark Blue' by Niki Smith.

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