Polyvinyl Records and LFPL

Polyvinyl Headquarters in Champaign, Illinois

Polyvinyl Records started circa 1995 and was explicitly connected to the blossoming “Midwest Emo” scene of the time. The founders were based out of Champaign, Illinois, which is exactly where the Kinsella family and others were creating this sound. Mike, Tim, and Nate Kinsella were all a part of music in the mid 90’s and would soon become the godfathers of Midwest Emo in bands like Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc, and American Football.

The Kinsellas weren’t the only ones contributing to this sound. Bands like The Promise Ring, Braid, and Rainer Maria come to mind as well. This was Emo music being made with similar DIY intent to what was happening in Washington D.C a few years prior (with bands like Rites Of Spring and Embrace), but with less fury and more melody; less drama and more nostalgia. This movement was also a bit before the mainstream Emo bubble of the early 2000’s (with bands like My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, and Paramore). Those efforts often had fancier production value and more boisterous attitudes than the 90’s Midwest Emo, but many of them cite the 90’s efforts as influences on their own sound.

A lot of labels helped kick start this side of the Emo scene, but Polyvinyl is where so many of these bands have called their home at one time or another, and thus Polyvinyl lives as a hub for this type of information. Today, Polyvinyl is as strong as ever supporting numerous bands and not all of them identify as Emo or even Emo-adjacent. They’ve supported Experimental and Indie Rock as well as Electronic and Folk, so to minimize their identity to specifically Emo would do them a disservice. So much of their roster are incredibly talented and, combined with their marketing skills and PR presence, they are one of my favorite record labels to explore.

Below, I’ll talk a bit about music that we offer that is published through Polyvinyl.

To put it lightly, Deerhoof are one of the greatest Rock bands of all time. I dare people to find valid arguments against this. The Magic released in 2016 and is their 14th out of 18 studio albums since 1996. With so many albums, our system doesn’t offer all of them, but this is my favorite from the selection. This band is unstoppable. They exude creative energy at all costs and make it look incredibly easy. Very quirky, very fun, very energetic, and superbly inventive songwriting. They intersect so many influences, but this is a Rock band at heart while sounding like no one else. I’m not kidding, they are one of the greatest Rock bands of all time. Go see them live sometime and you’ll know.

Shugo is a multi-instrumentalist with an affinity for whimsical song writing. I’d consider Shugo a folk musician, but the sounds he brings to his records are diverse. He routinely builds robotic instruments to play percussion or piano and employs numerous musicians to play things like accordions, kazoos, Theremins, or horns. On TOSS, Greg Saunier of Deerhoof is playing drums, connecting the Polyvinyl family members. Shugo is influenced by classics like The Beatles and The Beach Boys and makes those sounds very modern with heartwarming and fun soundscapes. There is even a track here that sounds like it came straight from a Tom & Jerry episode.

Owen is the solo project of Mike Kinsella. A lot of people that write off the Owen catalog as too simplistic, but I wonder if its my favorite material from Mike. Mike helped coin the Midwest Emo style in the 90’s and that is still present here, but its stripped back just enough to make something that is remarkably cleaner than a lot of Midwest Emo records. We offer a lot of Owen material, but I revisit At Home With Owen the most. I will admit, it is overly simplistic, but its emotional clarity has an easy time finding my soft spots. The album art is a tight fit as well: it’s peaceful, mysterious, and a little lonely. Wading through those emotions brings catharsis for me.

The further I research for this article, the more I realize just how much Polyvinyl music I listen to and consider important. If I go on much longer, this will take up too much space, so I’ll wrap up with a few more recommendations gauntlet style.

  • American Football by American Football – The quintessential Polyvinyl and Midwest Emo release. This album is the root structure from which most Emo Revival music branches from. If you listen to only a single Midwest Emo song, make sure it is Never Meant.
  • Time ‘N’ Place by Kero Kero Bonito – Kero Kero Bonito is half British and half Japanese and somehow sounds exactly like the combination of those scenes. This Pop music fits into the British PC Music crowd like Hannah Diamond and GFOTY, but also the J-Pop classics like Perfume and CAPSULE.
  • [USA] by Anamanaguchi – This is their most recent album where they have evolved to their most mature form. This band combines chiptune and Nintendocore with traditional rock instrumentation for 8-bit fueled Rock epics. Extremely colorful, bright, and dramatic. Not a lot of bands out there keeping the chiptune vibe alive and these guys treat it with finesse and expertise.

Everything you see here (except a few) are accessible through our catalog! Just click on the links in each blurb and you’ll find them through Hoopla (or YouTube)! Here is a link to both a comprehensive list of Polyvinyl releases and their official website. Check out these lists for more great tunes.

— Reviewed by Noah, Bon Air

Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, and the Kidnapping That Shaped America

The Taking of Jemima Boone: Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, and the Kidnapping That Shaped America
by Matthew Pearl
Harper Collins (October 2021)
272 pages
Link to The Taking of Jemima Boone in LFPL’s collection
Link to titles by Matthew Pearl in LFPL’s collection

Most Kentuckians are familiar with Daniel Boone and many have even been to Boonesborough, the fort Daniel and other settlers built on the outskirts of what is now Harrodsburg. The stories and legends about Daniel Boone are numerous, especially in regards to his dealings with the indigenous settlers who already called Kentucky home. One story that gets less attention, but is no less important is the kidnapping of Boone’s daughter Jemima. 

On July 14th, 1776 Jemima Boone and her friends, sisters Elizabeth and Frances Callaway were enjoying a rare break from chores and canoeing along the Kentucky River. They were attacked and abducted by a party of Shawnee and Cherokee Indians (a quick note: Pearl uses the term Indians over Native Americans on guidance from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian). Attacks and abductions like this were not uncommon. European settlers encroached on valuable hunting ground that sustained several tribes and indigenous settlements, and attempts at treaties and peaceful coexistence were unsuccessful, so in an effort to deter permanent settlement Cherokee and Shawnee tribes began policies of attacks and kidnapping. To a certain extent this was working, and by 1776 there were fewer than 200 settlers in Kentucky, comprised of white Europeans, slaves, and free Blacks.

After their abduction girls were quickly marched north through various Shawnee towns in an effort to throw off rescue parties. Not content to be passive captives the girls began using subtle non-compliance to leave clues for rescuers. Jemima began tearing her dress and leaving scraps behind. They dug in their heels and left footprints whenever possible. The plan worked and a rescue party made up of Daniel Boone and other men from Boonesborough caught up to the girls and their captors. What followed was a fast skirmish that left two Native men dead, including the son of prominent leader Blackfish.

The fallout was swift, a few months later Boone and others were captured by the Shawnee. Boone was adopted into the tribe and given the name Big Turtle. For months he lived and worked among the Shawnee, assumed dead by those back in Boonesborough. His family left the state. Boone eventually escaped and made his way back to Boonesborough, pursued by the Shawnee (and also the British, who had a somewhat tepid alliance with the Shawnee and the Cherokee). A standoff ensued with the folks at Boonesborough narrowly persevering. Conflict was far from over, but this was a turning point for the settlers, confirming their grasp on this stretch of “wilderness”.

This was Matthew Pearl’s first foray into non-fiction, but it’s written much like a thriller. It’s an engaging read about a part of history little remembered. Jemima Boone’s kidnapping was well known in the 18th and 19th century, it inspired James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, as well as famous works of art, but her name is now more of a footnote than a plot point in our understanding of early America. The same can be said of Native leaders like Dragging Canoe and Hanging Maw, names we don’t often hear in history class, but whose decisions and interactions with European settlers shaped the frontier. Pearl does a great job at helping the reader understand the struggle between indigenous tribes like the Cherokee and the Shawnee and European settlers who moved in and threatened their livelihood. This is a great read for anyone who is interested in learning more about the early days of Kentucky.

– Review by Jenny, Middletown Branch

Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor

Beautiful Little Fools
by Jillian Cantor
Harper Collins (February 2022)
343 pages
Link to Beautiful Little Fools in LFPL’s collection
Link to titles by Jillian Cantor in LFPL’s collection

The Great Gatsby has been one of my favorite books since I first read it as a high school junior sitting in a classroom in the same town Daisy and Jordan grow up in. Heck, I even had my senior prom at the hotel where Daisy gets married in the book. After reading Gatsby I wanted more about Daisy I wanted her backstory. And ever since The Great Gatsby ended up in the public domain last year I’ve been looking forward to Gatsby retellings that didn’t fall flat, like the first two that I read. However, Beautiful Little Fools by Jillian Cantor was everything I wanted in a Gatsby retelling including the title being taken from my favorite line in the book. She gave me not only Daisy’s backstory but Jordan’s as well and in the process turned it into a mystery. Through the pages of Beautiful Little Fools, you see not only 1920s New York but WWI-era Louisville.

Beautiful Little Fools gives the reader the story before Gatsby, Gatsby as seen from the women of the novel and what happens after Gatsby. Cantor made Beautiful Little Fools a mystery giving you the point of view detective working the case. Cantor writes Detective Frank Charles as the way I imagined a 1920s police detective to be. The author gives readers this wonderful retelling and doesn’t take away from the source material nor try to make any changes to Fitzgerald‘s characters. If one isn’t familiar with the original story the reader can still enjoy Beautiful Little Fools as its novel, however, you will be spoiled for the ending of The Great Gatsby don’t say I didn’t warn you.

– Reviewed by CarissaMain Library

Depart, Depart! by Sim Kern

Depart, Depart!
by Sim Kern
Stelliform Press (Sept 2020)
88 pages
Link to Depart, Depart! in LFPL’s collection
Link to titles by Sim Kern in LFPL’s collection

For the past couple years, more and more books have been getting published that feature climate change as a core aspect of the plot, so much so that “climate fiction” or “cli-fi” is recognized as a genre. When I first started reading cli-fi, it definitely felt more real than my usual space opera fare, but still something in the distance, not an immediate possibility. I’m not sure if something changed, but Sim Kern’s Depart, Depart! felt so real I found myself wanting to Google news coverage of the hurricane in Texas that left the main character, Noah, a climate refugee.

Noah barely escapes the flood and finds himself in a shelter in the Dallas Maverick’s basketball arena, crammed in with countless others having the worst days of their lives. Noah is able to build a community there, but he has to make hard decisions about what might have to be sacrificed in order to survive. He remembers hearing stories of his Grandfather, who escaped the Holocaust only by making similar sacrifices, and wonders how much he should let his ancestor guide him. Depart, Depart! explores intersections of climate change and class, race, and gender, and finding community after feeling like everything you know has been washed away.

A quick and timely read, LFPL only has this novella available as an ebook, linked directly here.

View Sim Kern’s full list of published works on their website, here.

– Review by Valerie, Newburg Branch

In Defense of Comics, pt. 6

Welcome back, true believers and fellow travelers! I know it’s been a long time but your intrepid author is still on the case, dropping science on those four-color and/or black and white narratives you love so well.

First off, some definitions which will be useful to know for this installment’s conversation:

  • Canon, in comics, is the official body of stories that are considered to be the “true” history of a fictional character, team, or world.
  • Continuity is the accumulated history of a character or shared universe that is accepted by the publisher and the community of readers. It is often coherent in the way that a life story seems to be. This means that there may be odd stories or character quirks that exist but are explained or ignored in favor of consistency.
  • Copyright (defined by the U.S.P.T.O.) is “a form of protection provided by U.S. law to the authors of original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression.”
  • Legacy characters are ones who take on the identity of a previously established character. Often this is due to the age, disability, or death of the original character.
  • Reboot (or Continuity Reboot) is when previously established continuity is ignored in part or completely. Some feel that rather than the old continuity being destroyed, the current run simply recounts the tales of an alternate universe version of the same characters (however this interpretation is generally not accepted by the publisher as the new comic is now put forward as the “true” continuity with the older version ceasing to exist).
  • Rebrand (or Retool) is when a character changes without the rest of the continuity itself changing. It may be as simple as a costume change, more general as a new set of powers, or as complicated as a total change of the character’s identity. There may be no good reason for the change, other than for marketing purposes.
  • Retcon (or Retroactive Continuity) is the changing of some past event in a comic by a current plot line. It typically involves some kind of alteration or nullification of the previously understood continuity. However, a clever retcon will fit seamlessly with the past continuity though the understanding of events will change.

Let’s look at continuity using the case of everyone’s favorite friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. The character has been either in high school, in college, in the adult world, married, unmarried, a journalist, a billionaire tech innovator, a clone (yes, a clone!), bonded with an alien symbiote, et cetera, all while remaining in copyright and under the control of one publisher, Marvel Comics. Spidey has stayed primarily in his late teens or early 20’s for most of that time, though in August it will have been 60 years since his first appearance (Amazing Fantasy #15). Spider-Man’s many changes are not that unusual for the comic business (for instance, the Barry Allen version of The Flash clocks in at 65 years since his debut, 23 years of which he was canonically dead).

OK, let’s talk about the function of narrative. Narrative is the pithy way to say, “how a story is told,” or “the way in which meaning is conveyed from author/publisher to audience/consumer.” In order to do so, narrative takes many possible pieces of information and compresses them in a way that can be (relatively) easily translated. Typically, there are five elements of narrative: setting, characters, plot, conflict, and result (some would say “resolution” but one possible outcome is just that something happens and nothing is truly wrapped up tidily).

Disjunctures in narrative are where the various issues surrounding continuity arise. These innovations, breaks, or interruptions may eventually be enfolded into the ongoing mythology of a series (oh, wait, there’s Pink Kryptonite, too) or may lead to larger adjustments (so, uh, Thor Odinson isn’t worthy to wield Mjolnir? But Jane Foster is? Ok, let’s roll). Or more drastically, there is no connection between two versions of a character in the same fictional universe (ex: Jack Kirby and Neil Gaiman’s versions of Death*). As well, another creative team may decide that they just need to start from scratch but use a cool name that is too good to pass up (I’m looking at you Kamala Khan). Many times, the characters will be linked in some manner (most common is a passing of the mantle) and so a legacy character is born.

Keep in the back of your mind that copyright often makes this complicated in the case of older comics. This is because once copyright protection expires (or if it was not appropriately established in the first place), a different publisher or creative team can swoop in and do what they want with the character. This sometimes means there are competing versions of the same character at the same time on the market. That’s not a problem when you are enjoying the stories (or collecting) contemporaneously but can make it a nightmare when trying to delve into the history of a long-standing property.

A perfect case in point would be British comic Marvel Man (alternately named Miracleman), made popular in later years by Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman stories. Originally, the title was published from 1954-1963 by L. Miller and Sons, a British producer of comics, magazines, and cheap paperbacks. Mick Anglo, the creator of the character, who left employment with L. Miller and Sons, also published some tales on his own in 1960-1961. L. Miller and Sons went out of business altogether in 1966 and the character languished for almost 20 years.

In 1982, Quality Publications put out a new version of Marvel Man with Alan Moore as writer and Garry Leach (and later Alan Davis) as artist. After two years and complaints from Marvel Comics, the character’s story ended abruptly without being resolved. Quality then licensed the character to two indie publishers in succession, Pacific Comics, who quickly went out of business, and Eclipse Comics. When Eclipse got ahold of the character, they changed the name to Miracleman to avoid legal action by Marvel Comics and hired Neil Gaiman to be the writer.

It gets pretty murky after that because Eclipse went out of business in 1986. Todd McFarland, a popular creator at the time (his most famous creation being Spawn), purchased the rights to the catalog of Pacific Comics in 1996. Neil Gaiman disputed McFarlane’s ownership, contending that as the name had changed and he had crafted a completely different version of the character, he was a co-owner of Miracleman and had not surrendered his interests at the time of Pacific Comic’s sale.

After years of legal action, the original creator, Mick Anglo, was deemed the true owner of the character in 2009. That same year, Marvel Comics purchased the rights from Anglo. Eventually, they released the entire series in an oversized trade paperback edition, retaining the title Miracleman. And finally, just this past year, Marvel decided to bring the character into the mainstream Marvel Comics continuity in their new Timeless series, the trade paperback of which is scheduled to be released this February.

Along the way, the character was distinctly different under each era of publication, though subsequent incarnations did incorporate elements from the previous iterations. The comic has had six publishers, some in the UK and some in the United States. It was its own independent universe for most of its run but now is a part of a larger multiverse. It has been released in multiple sizes, carried different numbering, and two separate names over the years.

As you can see, totally a nightmare but totally worth reading (*ahem* LFPL currently owns volume 1 of the Marvel reprints).

The Marvel Comics edition published in 2014

Reboots and rebrands are more controversial. They may well be the thing needed to give a shot in the arm to a flagging character or group. The new direction or new look can also come with new artists or authors, spinning exciting new stories. Sometimes it is a small thing, such as a character with a goofy or outdated costume gets upgraded into a much cooler outfit. But the changes involved often are met with resistance by the regular readers, who have a vested interested in the continuity they have come to know and love.

The modern issue with rebooting is that (in a market that has seen a noticeable downturn in sales for individual issues over the last decade or two) reboots are becoming very common. The reason for this is that — due to collectors’ habits — a new first issue for a title generates a big bump in sales. But the practice also leads to burnout on the part of regular readers and contributes to attrition of those readers over time as they drop titles or even whole publishers.

Despite all that, I do love new takes on old characters, especially a well-done retcon. One in particular that I enjoy is the Captain America storyline, The Winter Soldier, by Ed Brubaker. I don’t want to spoil it for you but I will tell you that this run is the basis for several of the MCU blockbusters that have come out and for The Falcon and Winter Soldier television series.


*Both denizens of the DC universe, Kirby’s Death is known as the Black Racer, who, hilariously, is just a guy using skis to zoom through the air while Gaiman’s Death is the cute GGF (Goth girlfriend) that generations of fanboys have lusted after.


– Article by Tony, Main Library 

Louisville Own Prodigal Son

Title: Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson
Author: Juan F. Thompson
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2016
274 pages

As a teenager, I was afraid of him. Then in my 20’s/college years, I was leery of the fandom surrounding the whole Gonzo ego bit. Then, when I was in my early 40’s, he blew his brains out. I could now trust him. I read most of his books and the bios too. Eventually, I could do Gonzo as good as Johnny Depp.

And then in my mid-40s, other people burned me out on him. No one around me could understand the greatness or complexity of this man. They only told me about his flaws. There were many. So when this book came out five years ago, I passed on it. I wasn’t ready. Recently, I saw a clip of Hunter criticizing Jann Wenner that was so honest and brutal, yet caring, and I knew no one living could talk like that. So I am ready.

I am the same age as Hunter’s son, Juan. I had a very close, but at times difficult, relationship with my dad. He was a tough guy who worked manual labor and fought in two wars. But, he was nothing like Hunter. I suspected Hunter would be someone to avoid at all costs, because he was mean, angry and always boozed up or high on cocaine and other drugs. And my instincts were right. In my 20’s, I read his second (and most famous) book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and didn’t get it. On the first page I missed his use (maybe?) of hyperbole when he listed his drugs for the trip. I thought no one could use all that weird mix of drugs, and why would they want to? Obviously, I didn’t KNOW Hunter.

So after he died, I read his first book, Hell’s Angels, and loved it. In the beginning he quotes heavily from Nelson Algren’s Walk on the Wild Side, a favorite of mine. Toward the end he gets into his Gonzo style serendipitously in order to meet a deadline. So I reread Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, got its Mark Twain humor, and realized that Hunter had written a perfect, unique book. When I have insomnia and know that I won’t sleep, instead of fighting it, I read Vegas in its entirety. It is so funny.

This book? Wow, there is so much. Hunter was an absent dad, off chasing fame, drugs, adventure, and other women. So that led to a broken marriage, then divorce, fights, then more madness. A megalomaniac with drug abuse and a large collection of fire arms is not a good combination. But he could write like no one else from the mid 60’s until his habits caught up with him by the Reagan era. He still wrote until the end, and there were flashes of brilliance at times, but he wasted himself and his talent by the 80’s.

Juan states from the start that this book is a memoir and it is. Thus, we learn about his life and the way Hunter interacted in it. There were angry hurtful times but by the end there was forgiveness and growth, and even love. Much like my own father and I, Juan and Hunter were poles apart. But there were things that they both loved, such as guns. But even with that common interest they were very different, Hunter being the irresponsible one. He even accidently shot one of his many female assistants.

And eventually, Hunter’s vices caught up with his body too. I didn’t know specifics of this and his suicide on February 20, 2005 at age 67, but I had always wondered. Juan has an entire chapter titled “The Last Day.” Hunter had planned this suicide and wanted all of his immediate family there. He had been through two brutal operations which he had to face the problem of being an alcoholic in a hospital. So like one of his top heroes, Ernest Hemingway, Hunter shot himself at home. His body and mind had given out and he lacked the will to fight it any longer.

There is also a long section about Hunter’s return to Louisville for a celebration of him put on by Ron Whitehead in 1996 that included Johnny Depp, Warren Zevon, and Douglas Brinkley. It was a wild ruckus, and I don’t regret making the choice to not attend.

Sure, Hunter was a wild, out of control, drug addled freak. But I don’t need my literary heroes to be saints. His first three books are as good as any writer’s top three books. And they are all different from each other. So forgot the image, and read this book to see how complex a man he was. Then go read his stuff from 1967-1979.

– Reviewed by Tom, Main Library

Books That Will Build You Up!

If you want to start your morning on the right foot read, Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me and for You by Lin-Manuel Miranda. You won’t want to read this book in one setting. You are going to want this book on your bedside table, readily available to incorporate into your morning and night time routines.


The Comfort Book: Haig, Matt: 9780143136668: Amazon.com: Books

If you have anxiety or depression or just want a little extra comfort in your life, read The Comfort Book by Matt Haig. This book does not need to be read in order. This book is full of stand alone affirmations to lift you up. Haig includes a list of music that brings him comfort among essays and personal antidotes of his mental health journey.


It’s impossible not to smile while reading Little Moments of Love by Catana Chetwynd. Chetwynd has perfected a collection of comics about the sweet moments in relationships. If you want to read about the snuggly parts of romance than this book is for you. You might just want to find your coziest spot and settle in before you begin.


A young boy meets three friends in this short graphic novel, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. In this quiet and thoughtful book the four friends traverse through the wilderness all the while sharing their hopes and disappointments. Hopefully when you finish this short story you will feel loved and encouraged and optimistic about the world.


Amazon.com: For Every One: 9781481486248: Reynolds, Jason: Books

When your dreams seem impossible and you are feeling tired and beaten down, pick up For Every One by Jason Reynolds. In this short poem, Reynolds will encourage you to continue on through all the adversary. In this short poem we are reminded of our own strength and the power to persevere.

– Reviews by Catherine, Main Library

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

This is my ultimate favorite read for the entirety of 2021. And a lot of great books debuted in 2021.

The Final Girl Support Group explores a world in which the events in our most famous slasher films really took place before being optioned for media production. The survivors of several bloody massacres – the titular “final girls”, per the movie trope of one lone girl surviving a horror story – are left to find their way in a world where everyone knows what they lived through, and though many consider them a strange kind of celebrity, others would just as soon see their killers finish them off. Some of these girls, now women, have managed to capitalize on their fame and dictate the terms of their own lives years after the slaughters they all lived through, owning their strength. Others are barely hanging on, destructive coping mechanisms and constant fear haunting their every step.

Lynnette Tarkington is in the latter group. She lives like a ghost, as off-the-grid as possible, her apartment transformed into a panic room and with only two personal attachments: her houseplant Fine – short for “Final Plant” – and a ragtag therapy group made up of other final girls and the psychiatrist who assembled them all, Dr. Carol. The members are fierce and bitter survivors as likely to devolve into low-blow verbal warfare as to help each other actually heal. They’re in no shape to band together when the heart of their group, Adrienne King, is suddenly found murdered. Like falling dominos, outside threats in the form of leaked secrets, misinformation, and physical attacks begin to target each member of the group at once, stalking and isolating them. Lynnette finds herself fighting to survive once more as she is left to untangle the web of a psychotic mastermind, with few resources and fading credibility in the eyes of the public and the other final girls. Every contingency plan she’s made may not be enough to save her from a bloody fate this time.

Grady Hendrix’s stories are unique, twisted, highly energetic works anchored by characters who have what two-dimensional horror flick protagonists typically lack: emotional depth that grips the reader and renders them unable to put down the books and abandon the characters, because the only thing scarier than what’s stalking them in the dark is the thought of not knowing how it all ends. Within a week of finishing this book I was lucky enough to get my hands on and finish all of his other novels, and I’m now a diehard fan. I don’t normally go in for horror novels and can’t watch scary movies at all, but the premise of The Final Girl Support Group was just self-aware and campy enough that it seriously intrigued me. I won’t lie, there were moments and a handful of scenes throughout that I did find disturbing and scary (so horror-intolerants, beware…) because Hendrix is very good at his genre. But in the end the plot had the addictive elements of a fast-paced thriller and hooked me so hard I had to see it through. In my opinion sleeping with the hallway lights on for a couple of nights was more than worth an incredible story.

I knew that if Hendrix was really faithful to major horror tropes, certain character archetypes nodded to in the story (the single Black character in a group, the one gay character, the prima donna, the jock, the junkie, etc.) were likely doomed to meet a bad and/or gratuitous end, and to some extent he does play off some of those clichés. But he also uses each character’s varied circumstances to explore different themes about death so that for the characters who are killed, it’s the start of their conversation in several ways, not the end, because he puts in the work to flesh out each and every one far beyond the two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs slasher flicks often reduce characters to. When someone dies, in what ways do they live on? Is the strength of one’s legacy enough to triumph over death from beyond the grave? Which is preferable, a sudden, violent death or a slow and wasting one at the natural end of a life, and is there really a difference in the level of horror each invokes?

I wouldn’t host one book discussion group about this novel: I’d have to host a series of them to have enough time to discuss the nuances Hendrix gets down to his elbows in, even places where he could just as easily have left details unexplored or played them off as a gimmick. But this author is an artist when it comes to literary examination of the human experience: it would be obvious in any genre he chose as his canvas, but in my opinion we’re lucky he happens to prefer such a clever and fun one.

Speaking of which, and without revealing any spoilers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite character in the entire thing, Dani. It’s rare as a queer reader that I encounter portrayals of butch women at all, let alone one that grabbed my heart like Dani, a member of the group who survived a Friday the 13th-style gauntlet of attacks and is just as much, if not more, of a badass as Lynnette. Lynnette mentions in her analysis of Dani that she already knew she was a lesbian when she experienced her attacks, and in a world that often judges LGBTQIA+ kids as inherently sexual and therefore no longer an innocent child, within a genre where only “innocent” girls who follow the rules and remain “pure” in contrast to their peers’ social behaviors tend to survive to the end of the story, I appreciated that little slice of acknowledgement of queer teens’ worth. The novel doesn’t spare Dani’s trauma: it explores every character’s nuances as their pasts are dug up and used to torment them one by one. But it also gives us a glimpse into this fascinating queer character who we see secondhand through Lynnette as a protector of her friends, a relentless warrior, and a clever and wise soul who loves so hard it nearly consumes her. I’ll be honest, I definitely have a crush on this character.

In my opinion, Lynnette is the perfect narrator for this kind of emotionally driven story – if any of the other “final girls” had been the focus, it would have been a very different story of a few days’ events, likely with a radically different conclusion. Lynnette’s decisions are all informed by fear, and from a first-person POV a reader can’t help but get excited and anxious along with her (which may make this book off-putting to readers who don’t like to get sucked into emotion that intense). Lynnette’s adrenaline is always kicked into high gear, focused on survival at every moment. She feels everything acutely, not just panic and suspicion but affection that borders on codependency; grief that almost swallows her up in despair; curiosity that nearly – literally – kills; and anger that powers her through moments where others might succumb.

The same excessive survival instincts that protect Lynnette also blind her in certain ways: readers may pick up on several details she misses, who she should or shouldn’t trust and even whether she’s chasing red herrings at times. Lynnette is incapable of pausing to examine situations without some level of bias (possibly a nod from the author to ways in which it’s been proven that PTSD, intense anxiety and other stressors can impact one’s brain over lengthy periods of time.) It personally pulled me into the mental space of watching a slasher movie, yelling at the characters on the screen (as if they can hear you) not to go into a dark basement, or to watch out behind them for a hidden killer, which in context of this genre was artfully done.

A breakout star in horror, Hendrix has already had several of his most popular works optioned for television with star-studded production teams. I was thrilled to learn that Charlize Theron will be an executive producer on The Final Girl Support Group TV series, since her portfolio of roles featuring battle-hardened women who have lived through various traumas and bashed their way out the other side had me picturing her as Lynnette in my mind throughout the book. Theron will bring a valuable perspective to the project and help it to fully realize its potential, having been inside the minds of multiple characters who could be profiled alongside this book’s blood-soaked heroines. I highly recommend plowing through as many of Hendrix’s novels as possible before the TV content starts dropping, because it’s all going to be extremely worth it to skip the library waiting list when every horror-tolerant person you know starts devouring this and Hendrix’s other works. I personally am glad to have found this powerful book now, both for the experience of a deeply impactful story…and so that when I sit down to watch the series through my fingers, I know exactly where to close my eyes.

The Final Girl Support Group falls in a niche where not every horror fan may find it terrifying enough to suit them and not every reader of tongue-in-cheek genre parody will find it cerebral or humorous enough. I’m personally unfamiliar with many other works that bring emotion and wit to horror the way this one does, except Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart Is a Chainsaw – another clever, self-aware horror novel from this past summer – and of course Grady Hendrix’s other works. I would certainly recommend The Final Girl Support Group to fans of Charlize Theron films like The Old Guard and Mad Max: Fury Road where warrior women have marked character growth and autonomy amid a backdrop of over the top action and violence. If you enjoyed shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and aren’t put off by slasher movie-level gore, or films such as the Alien franchise (but with the ability to laugh at their own genre), I highly recommend making this your first 2022 read.

– Review by SarahMain Library

Both/And: A Life In Many Worlds by Huma Abedin

Huma Abedin is one of those people you’ve seen in the public eye for years, but know next to nothing about. She is best known for two things, being Hillary Clinton’s long-term personal assistant, and for being married to the scandal plagued Anthony Weiner. Her autobiography goes in depth about both of these, but also about her childhood and faith.

Abedin is a Muslim, and her faith has deep meaning for her. Abedin tells how the women of her family sought education beyond what was expected of girls — starting with her grandmother. Abedin also paints a vivid picture of her warm and charming father, who died far too young, and how the family struggled silently with the emotional pain of that loss.

We see how Abedin began to work for Hillary Clinton in what staffers called “Hillaryland,” a supportive workplace where staffers were encouraged to become leaders themselves.

Abedin also writes of how she met Anthony Weiner, and how his charm and humor swept her off her feet. She then relates how her marriage went wrong, and her pain at his deeply personal betrayals and the public humiliation from that.

I highly recommend this book.

– Review by Keri, Main Library

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

A Psalm for the Wild-Built: Monk & Robot, #1
Becky Chambers
Tor.com (July 2021)
160 pages // 4 hours, 8 minutes on audio

Link to A Psalm for the Wild-Built in LFPL’s collection

Link to titles by Becky Chambers in LFPL’s collection

A Psalm for the Wild-Built is a wholesome book about the friendship between a robot named Moss and a non-binary monk travelling the world, serving people tea, and listening to their problems in their journey to discover what it is that people need on the most basic level. Of course, there is some really interesting world-building that sets up the protagonists’ current situation, a history that includes robots becoming aware of their slave-like conditions, revolting, and disappearing into the wilderness, and lore surrounding the society that they created. My favorite of which is the tidbit that the robot’s name is Moss because moss was the first thing the robot saw when it woke up!

This is a perfect short read for those looking for an escape from a world where everything seems to be going wrong into a world where things went wrong, in the past, but in the current moment characters are allowed to explore themselves and their world peacefully. Although the subgenre of  “cozy mysteries” is well-established, I can’t say there is an equivalent in the science fiction genre – that is, aside from any book written by Becky Chambers. A Psalm for the Wild-Built is simply Chambers’ most recent. I *still* think it would be my favorite even if it wasn’t the most recent book of hers, though! I even bought a hard copy of it for my personal collection when I finished it! I’m hopeful that Chambers’ books are the beginning of a larger pattern within the genre of comforting books that are somehow still exciting, that explore our world and philosophy in ways that enable escapism without increasing the reader’s heart rate too much. 

And there are more adventures of Moss and Sibling Dex (the monk!) coming out in July of 2022, according to the rumors on the internet (by which I mean this incomplete Goodreads page).

– Review by Valerie, Newburg Branch