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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

SPILL ZONE: The Broken Vow by Scott Westerfeld, art by Alex Puvilland

Note: today's review is a sequel, and though I do my best to avoid spoilers for the entire series, if you're afraid of having elements spoiled, you may want to wait to read this review!

Today's review is part of the blog tour for Spill Zone: The Broken Vow, the second in a duology helmed by YA powerhouse Scott Westerfeld! To see what other readers thought, make sure to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! Full list at the end of this post! =)

Spill Zone: The Broken Vow by Scott Westerfeld
Art by Alex Puvilland
Graphic novel / science fiction, 240 pages
Published July 10th 2018 by First Second
All hell breaks loose in the second volume of New York Times–bestselling author Scott Westerfeld's visionary graphic novel duology.

Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Strange manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone. Addison got close enough to the Spill Zone to touch it, literally. She survived the encounter, but came back changed.

It turns out she's not alone. North Korea has its own Spill Zone, and a young man named Don Jae is the only one who made it out alive. Alive, but changed. Now Addison, Don Jae, and, curiously, a rag doll named Vespertine, share an unholy bond and uncanny powers.

From Scott Westerfeld, the inspired imagination behind the New York Times bestsellers Uglies and Leviathan, comes The Broken Vow, the second volume of our highly anticipated new graphic novel series.

The Broken Vow is the follow-up and conclusion to 2017’s Spill Zone [REVIEW], a trippy little sci-fi-ish story of a girl doing what she has to to survive and care for her little sister, Lexa, in the wake of a catastrophe that wiped out her city (sort of) in some rather inexplicable ways. The beauty of Spill Zone was in the discovery — in seeing how Addison’s world has changed; in the little discoveries of this weird remainder of a city, that only she sees; in the general world-building and stakes-setting of Addison’s life and what it means to do what she does. This tends to be true of firsts in a series, and is maybe part of why seconds aren’t normally as successful or satisfying as that initial exposure to the world; the exciting discovery phase is over, and now you have to go about the business of setting things to rights, and that’s just never as fun.

In some ways, I think this is true of The Broken Vow. Most of the world-building is over, and though there are still some discoveries to make, the shine of a new world has begun to wear off. I still tore through this volume, and still enjoyed it, but where I feel like Spill Zone stuck with me for quite some time after reading, and I was eager to get back to the world with book 2, The Broken Vow has faded from memory so fast that I was struggling to remember what had happened when I sat down to write this review, even though I only just read it a short couple of weeks ago.
New cover style for the book 1 rerelease!

This is not to say that it’s a fail. I still enjoyed the story, and getting back to this world. I find Addison an intriguing, strong character, and I enjoy the relationships and dynamics that have been built. But something about The Broken Vow feels a bit off, and a bit rushed – and maybe it was? I was hoping it'd be a longer series, with a slower reveal, and part of me wonders if maybe it was intended to be. There were a lot of things I liked, like the slow reveal of Addy’s little sister's role in everything, and the development of the relationship between her and Verspertine, her creepy af talking doll, or the further reveal of the role the Korean spill survivor, Don Jae, has to play, and how he expands the world for Addison. But in some ways these things only emphasized that there was something missing from this book. Don Jae is a good example of this, actually, as I did feel he fell by the wayside, and didn't play as important a part as I would have expected from book one. Again, this goes back to it feeling like it was being wrapped up too quickly -- I almost had the impression that there was more intended for his character, but the series was curtailed and they had to just tie up strings. That feeling was a bit of a bummer. It also spilled over into the resolution of where the beings came from, how the spill happened, etc -- that could have been delved into SO MUCH, could have been stretched over a longer series in a slower, anticipation and tension -building reveal, and maybe even had some scenes from before, flashback-style, but there just… wasn’t much of anything. It was just a quick reveal, this is what it is, this is what happened and why, and okay, now I guess everything’s fine?  Even though I liked the story and the whys of it all, it feels like a lot of promise unfulfilled.

I said in the review for book one that the art is not for everybody, which is certainly true, but it is exceptionally well-suited to the story. The chaotic nature and hyper-color of it really adds to the story, giving an excellent example of how art and story go hand in hand in a comic -- the story would have worked fine with different art, sure, but this art (which probably wouldn't have worked for just any story) adds another layer of its own, making the world more fully-realized and distinct. The whole thing is a bit more on the older-YA, adult side as well, so bear that in mind when buying or recommending for younger kids. The bright colors may fool you, but the suspended reanimated bodies and abundance of ..."colorful language" mean that it's definitely not ideal for you seven year old, ya know?

So, I know I've given some serious criticisms here, and I stand by them, but I have to be clear: I still really enjoyed The Broken Vow, and the Spill Zone duology as a whole. And who knows, my opinions may get a little rosier in hindsight, after I've had time to sit with the story for a bit; I was less than glowing in my review of book 1, too, even though I later considered it one of the graphic novel highlights of last year. As a whole, the duology has a world that stuck with me, and characters I found interesting, and it's not really like other things out there, especially in the sort of neon acid-trip art. Like a stern parent, the reason I'm hard on it is because I liked it.

Tough love, darlings.

Curious what other readers thought? Check out the rest of the stops on the Spill Zone: The Broken Vow blog tour! Or pick up a copy of The Broken Vow, which landed in stores yesterday!

7/8 Novel Novice http://www.novelnovice.com/
7/8 Undeniably Book Nerdy http://booksandmakeup.blogspot.com/
7/9 Bookcrushin http://bookcrush.in/
7/9 Hit or Miss Books https://hitormissbooks.wordpress.com/
7/9 Bookling Critics https://booklingcritics.wordpress.com
7/10 Seeing Double in Neverland http://seeingdoubleinneverland.blogspot.com
7/10 WhoRuBlog http://www.whorublog.com
7/11 Here's to Happy Endings http://www.herestohappyendings.com/
7/11 The Book Rat www.thebookrat.com &mdash YOU ARE HERE!
7/12 Miss Print http://missprint.wordpress.com/
7/12 Bookstore Finds Www.instagram.com/bookstorefinds
7/13 Teen Lit Rocks teenlitrocks.com
7/13 Adventures of a Book Junkie https://www.toofondofbooks.com/
7/14 Novel Reality http://novelreality.blogspot.com
7/14 Flavia the Bibliophile http://flaviathebibliophile.com/
7/15 Haku & Books https://www.hakuandbooks.com/
7/15 Emily Reads Everything    www.emilyreadseverything.com
7/16 YA Book Nerd http://yabooknerd.blogspot.com/
7/17 Take Me Away to a Great Read https://takemeawaytoagreatread.com/
7/18 Bumbles and Fairy-Tales http://bumblesandfairytales.blogspot.com
7/18 Pink Polka Dot Books http://www.pinkpolkadotbooks.com/
7/19 Folded Pages Distillery www.foldedpagesdistillery.com
7/20 Book Nut Booklovingnut.com
7/21 The Life of a Booknerd Addict http://www.booknerdaddict.com/

About the Author:
Scott Westerfeld is a New York Times bestselling author of YA. He was born in the Texas and now lives in Sydney and New York City. In 2001, Westerfeld married fellow author Justine Larbalestier.

He is best know for the Uglies and Leviathan series, and his next book, Afterworlds, comes out September 23, 2014.

His book Evolution's Darling was a New York Times Notable Book, and won a Special Citation for the 2000 Philip K. Dick Award. So Yesterday won a Victorian Premier's Award and both Leviathan and Midnighters 1: The Secret Hour won Aurealis Awards. Peeps and Uglies were both named as Best Books for Young Adults 2006 by the American Library Association.

Disclosure: The book was sent to me by the publisher for review consideration purposes; all thoughts and opinions are honest and my own.
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