Reviews for Young Adults – March 2020

This month we have a spotlight on Studio Ghibli films and a celebration of LGBTQIA+ books, alongside our usual reviews of our latest, favourite reads! I myself have been slowly making my way through the recent Studio Ghibli releases on Netflix – at the moment, my favourite is Only Yesterday which feels so much like a book. Taeko – 27 years old – is travelling to the countryside for a summer holiday and reflects on her childhood, while struggling with the new adult issues of career and love. If you’re more of a fan of realistic stories, Only Yesterday might be your cup of tea. If you want more fantasy, read on for Ann’s Spotlight on Studio Ghibli below.

Spotlight on Studio Ghibli

Ann – Spreydon Library

As a huge fan of Studio Ghibli and master animator Hayao Myazaki I was excited to learn that 21 films from the legendary Japanese animation house will be streamed on Netflix.Christchurch City Libraries hold some of the titles on DVD so if you are yet to discover them you are in for a treat.

I have listed a few of my favourites, not an easy task, as I love most of them.

My Neighbour Totoro

One of the most enjoyable children's films ever made, a simple tale of an imaginary tree spirit who befriends two children whose mother is ill in hospital. Essentially how fantasy can help deal with emotional stress. Look out for the delightful grinning cat bus. This a film for all ages to enjoy over and over.

Spirited Away

Arguably Studio Ghibli's best ever film! It’s an animated wonderland fantasy that contains everything we love about Studio Ghibli from the main character, a strong young girl that still somehow manages to show vulnerability, to the enchanting but at times scary storyline. The animation is an artwork in itself. Stories about female empowerment is one of Miyazaki's favourite themes and this is one of the best in the genre. A young girl loses her parents in an abandoned theme park and discovers they have been turned into pigs by the spirits who now inhabit the place, she must find a way to rescue them before they become pigs forever. The spirits dislike humans so she must try not to be discovered.

Howl's Moving Castle

A detailed filled feast of imagination with a strong anti-violence theme. A visual tale of how war and violence corrupts the human soul and destroys the landscape.

Based loosely on the book by Diana Wynne Jones, it tells the story of Sophie, a young girl who gets turned into an old woman by a witch, as she meets a Wizard named Howl and becomes involved in the resistance movement in the war against a corrupt King. It is said that Miyazaki opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and this film was his response.

From up on Poppy Hill

A more straight forward drama, this is an adaptation of a popular manga aimed at a young adult audience. A gentle teen drama with likeable main characters with a few twists and turns, it is essentially about using the language of naval flags to communicate messages to ships at sea.

Kiki's Delivery Service

13-year-old trainee witch Kiki leaves home with her broom and black cat Jiji to start her new life. She gets taken on at a bakery, in exchange for accommodation, and while helping out the heavily pregnant owner she gets the idea to open a "witch delivery service". Not every delivery goes to plan, on her first delivery she loses the cat toy she is supposed to deliver! With gentle humour, a few tears and lots of adventures, this is a film for all ages to enjoy.

Studio Ghibli – Reading

Alicia - Hapori | Community, Tūranga

Check out some of the inspiration for and the manga adaptations of the Studio Ghibli films!

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle

The Art of Howl's Moving Castle

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind

And if you enjoy Studio Ghibli, take a look at these other fantastic Japanese animated films! Mary and the Witch's Flower is from a studio founded by former animators and producers who left Studio Ghibli.

Mary and the Witch's Flower

Your Name

Christchurch Pride

We’re celebrating Christchurch Pride at Christchurch City Libraries

There’s a whole bunch of events but for the readers, check out Judge a Book by its Cover at Upper Riccarton Library. We’ll introduce you to a bunch of books featuring LGBTQIA+ characters and you can get to decide if it’s something you’ll take home based on the cover, the blurb, and the first chapter. Our Judge a Book by its Cover events are a great way to discover a new read and move past your initial impressions of a book.

We have a great range of books in the YA collection featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, including this one here:

The Fever King

Frankie from Upper Riccarton writes "every character is LGBTQIA+++ in The Fever King, and the sequel The Electric Heir is out soon!!"

Can’t make it to Judge a Book by its Cover? We have a bunch of recommended book lists.

Fiction Reviews

Yes No Maybe So

I’m a massive Becky Albertalli fan so take everything I say with a grain of salt, but I loved this book. It has a wonderfully diverse cast and feels really relevant to what’s happening around us. It’s a good reminder that everyone experiences the world differently, but we’re not powerless when it comes to making other people’s lives better. There’s a little bit less romance than other Becky Albertalli co-writes like What if It’s Us, but I didn’t miss it.
Emma – Shirley Library

A Good Girl's Guide To Murder

I haven’t read a book that has made me stay up until 2am for a long time – I couldn’t put this book down!

5 years ago, schoolgirl Andie was presumably killed by her classmate and boyfriend Sal Singh but her body was never found and the case was quickly closed. Now Pippa wants to use her senior project to look deeper into the case because she doesn’t think that Sal did it. She quickly finds some loose ends and finds out that someone is going to extreme lengths to keep the past buried and she is in danger of them coming after her. The book is full of twists and turns and includes written interviews and transcripts to add to the investigative element. It is a fast-paced rollercoaster of a psychological crime thriller which works well as a YA novel.

If you like Pretty Little Liars or Veronica Mars then don’t miss this book!
Amy – Linwood Library


Another psychological thriller for fans of Black Mirror and a glimpse into the possibilities of our social media obsessions.

Heartstream is told by two characters – Cat and Amy. Cat is part of a boy-band obsessed online fandom who can track and deduce where any band member is at any time based on their social media use. She also has a secret – she is dating one of the band members but if the fandom knew, she would be eaten alive. Amy uses Heartstream – a technology which allows users to feel the emotions of the streamer. Amy has a huge following and she has been streaming her mother’s journey and death from cancer. She finds herself in a terrifying situation when she is confronted at home by a crazed woman who is rigged with explosives. How far will she go to talk to Amy?

I liked the fast pace and interesting near-future technology content and it had a great twist that stayed in my mind. A great tale of the intensity and consequences of obsession.
Amy – Linwood Library

Manga and Graphic Novels

Magus of the Library
This manga is a love-letter to libraries. It's beautifully illustrated, makes excellent points about the philosophy of libraries, and has enchanting characters that are very relatable. I can't wait to read more of Theo's adventures! Whether you’ve never picked up a manga before, or you’re a veteran in need of some lovely storytelling, this fantasy adventure is for you.
Claire – Hapori | Community, Tūranga

Witch Hat Atelier

It was love at first sight when this book rolled up on the new book trolley. The art style is truly gorgeous – the details bring the world to life! In Witch Hat Atelier, witches are supposedly born not trained, which is a disappointment to Coco who has always loved magic. Unfortunately, a tragedy brings Coco into the world of the witches and she learns that magic is something that she can do – if she works hard. The type of magic the witches in this series do is really unique and I’ve enjoyed the way the author has used Coco’s training to slowly unveil the world of these witches. Coco is a great character whose enthusiasm for magic smoothes out some of the more serious drama taking place in the story.
Alicia – Hapori | Community, Tūranga