Here's a link to the original review on Goodreads, which has a few more spoilers in it. But I'll post the totally spoiler-free review here. So, enjoy.
Title: The Girl Who Owned a City (The Graphic Novel)
Author: Dan Jolley, Illustrator: Joelle Jones
Release Date: April 2012 (ARC provided by NetGalley)
My rating: 3/5 Stars
So, after I finished reading this, I saw on the last page that it had been based on a novel from 1975. I have not read the novel or ever heard of it, so I don't know what the similarities and differences between the original and graphic novels are. Whether the flaws in the graphic novel are in any way the fault of O.T. Nelson––the original author––I don't know.
Anyway, to briefly summarize the plot:
The Girl Who Owned a City is the story of a grim, futuristic world in which a mysterious virus kills all the adults and turns them into piles of dust. Our protagonist is a girl named Lisa Nelson who is determined to find and protect as many surviving children as she can. But she is rivaled by another gang, led by a boy named Tom Logan who wants to steal her power and form some kind of dictatorship over all the other kids.
I obtained a digital version of this book via NetGalley, which is like my new best friend in website form. After I downloaded it I decided to look through it––so of course, I ended up reading the entire thing in one sitting.
This is an exciting and fast-paced read, and it's fairly short. So, it's something I would recommend if you were looking for something quick and fun. And what with the current dystopian craze, I could see this being a successful graphic novel.
Lisa is a likable main character, although I'm not sure how realistically she's portrayed. I don't think her age is ever defined, but supposedly she's younger than 12. (Otherwise, she would be a pile of dust.) I spent the whole book assuming she was around 14 or 15, because she seemed to be acting a little more like a teenager. Then, of course, I realized that wasn't possible. Granted, she seems to have gone through a lot so I wouldn't be surprised if she'd matured early. But regardless of her age, Lisa is easy to relate to. The reader can feel her stress and frustration as she tries to keep everything together and keep everyone safe.
However, I thought the other characters could have been fleshed out more. At least the relationship between Lisa and her little brother Todd was pretty nicely done, and Lisa's friend Craig was also somewhat interesting. But in the short span of the book, I didn't feel like I quite knew most of the characters. Most of them just seemed to be there to be Lisa's little helpers and not to have personalities of their own.
As for the plot ... It's not the most original thing in the world. Basically, this book is Lord of the Flies, Gone, and Maximum Ride combined. Once you've read Lord of the Flies, you've pretty much read all the books with the "Oh no! All the adults are gone!" plot, so you can probably already guess what this book is like. As for the similarities to Gone (by Michael Grant), it has the same premise where all the adults conveniently just "disappear" and there is only a vague explanation as to why. (More on that in a minute.) I guess I'm kind of stretching it with the comparison to Maximum Ride, but the whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking that Lisa is pretty much the same character as Max. She has the same tough-girl attitude where she doesn't want anyone to help her, and she wants to handle everything by herself, etc. And it didn't help that Craig kind of has a Fang-ish attitude with his whole "Let's just forget everyone else and live by ourselves!" attitude.
Anyway, as I was saying, I have the same issue with this book as I had with Gone by Michael Grant: the reason for the adults disappearing makes little sense to me. I believe that in Gone, the author blamed it on a nuclear chemical spill, which I found difficult to understand. In The Girl Who Owned a City, this is the only explanation the author makes: "for some strange reason, the sickness is not fatal to children."
You know, for once I would like to see one of these "post-apocalyptic-worlds-where-there-are-only-children-left" books where there is actually a believable explanation as to why all the adults are gone. Not only that, but it would make more sense if the adults didn't just "vanish." It would make more sense if it was like the Black Plague all over again, with rotting corpses all over the place. Disgusting? Well, yes. But far more realistic. I can't bring myself to believe that there would ever be a disease that would literally just turn people into dust.
The originality and lack-of-explanation issues aside, I think my biggest problem with this book was the lack of emotional reactions in the characters. At the beginning, Lisa informs us that it's only been a few weeks since the plague killed all the adults. Yet, none of the kids seem extremely upset. They all focus solely on surviving and don't seem to remember anything that happened before they were left by themselves. You don't have little kids crying for their parents all over the place. I can't recall any point where Lisa and Todd had a conversation about their mom and dad. It was like the author was so focused on making the story "kickass" that he completely ignored the realistic, emotional impact of the story. I understand if the kids are in shock or in denial or something, but at least a little more effort could have been made. I mean, in such a horrible situation, I really wanted to know how the characters felt. How on earth would it feel to see your own parents turn into dust? Because I'm pretty sure it would be devastating.
I swear I'm almost done ranting now. There's only one more thing I have to criticize, and that's the ending. I'm not going to specify too much so as not to spoil it. But in my humble opinion, it was a total cop-out and I was kind of disappointed.
So, in conclusion, I think this book had some potential in its premise, but there were a lot of issues with its execution. However, I still found it enjoyable. It was an easy, fun read and something that could keep you entertained for an hour or two. Even though the characters aren't totally fleshed-out, at least they're likable.
And if all else fails, the illustrations are pretty cool.