It’s great when you discover a new literary treat. For us it could be something that exceeds expectations or something that comes out of the blue. NewsPrints by Ru Xu is a combination of both of those. This is a story driven graphic novel with manga influences that is difficult, if not impossible to put down. It’s a blend of cold war, science fiction and intrigue that’s guided by a young girl’s secrets and friends.
Blue is a young girl who sells newspapers. She’s a newsie, but only boys are allowed to be newsies, so she has to pretend to be a boy. The story behind NewsPrints is not the fact that she has to conceal the fact that she’s a girl. The fact that she pretends to be a boy is an aspect of the story, but it is not the focus.
While selling papers in someone else’s turf she is forced to hide in a messy warehouse. It’s here that she meets Jack, an enigmatic genius who wears a black uniform and who might work in a top secret division of the government building a weapon. Another one of Blue’s friends is Crow. He’s a young recluse who doesn’t trust grown-ups, wears a trench coat and seems to have a dozen or so crows around him at all times.
Readers also meet Jill, the Admiral’s daughter and commander in the military. Jill connects lots of dots, knows much more than she lets on and is her own boss. During a conversation between Blue and Jill, it’s suggested that Jill marry a guy who’d rather be at home so that she can continue succeeding where she is. Jill is a straight up Riot Girl in a respectful graphic novel, manga way.
NewsPrints puts the ‘novel’ in graphic novel. This is an all ages graphic novel whose written story makes the graphic novel feel like a book. It’s jammed with plot twists, engaging characters, sub plots and a central story that will hook you in from the moment you think you know where it’s going.
Combine the art from Ru Xu with the story and the book becomes something else altogether part Matrix, a little Goonies with a dash of Raiders. Some of the panels look like story boards from Raiders of the Lost Ark or Temple of Doom due to their action, style and sense of mystery. NewsPrints takes place in a time before modern technology, but when people can envision advancements and the military is actively building them.
That unique time period allows readers to really lose themselves in the innocence of those that don’t know, such as Blue and question the purposes of Crow and others. NewsPrints is a great graphic novel for anyone. The main character is a girl, but boys will love the action that follows her as she goes around town. The content in the graphic novel is OK for any age, but the reading level required makes it appropriate for ages seven and up.
It’s early in the year but you can go ahead and put NewsPrints down as one of the great graphic novels in 2017. This is one that’s sure to be in many top 10 lists.