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LA Times Book Prize Nominees - Graphically Inclined

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LA Times Book Prize Graphic Novel Nominees

LA Times Book Prize Graphic Novel Nominees
We're at it again - inappropriately guessing at who might take home an LA Times Book Prize this year.

This time around, we're looking at one of our favorite categories and still pinching ourselves that, for the first time ever, there is now a Graphic Novel category for the LA Times Book Prizes. To celebrate this new category, we'll tread lightly on yeas/neas and focus more on these excellent nominees in the Graphic Novel category.

In the Graphic Novel category, we have the following finalists:

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Luba (A Love and Rockets Book) by Gilbert Hernandez
GoGo Monster by Taiyo Matsumoto
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
Scott Pilgrim, Vol. 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Footnotes in Gaza by Joe Sacco

Before we get all crazy about who wasn't nominated here but should have been (A Drifting Life by Yoshihiro Tatsumi and Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry, for example) we're staying focused on the delicious fact that there is finally (finally!) a category for Graphic Novels this year. About time, no?

The trick for us with graphic novels is that oftentimes, we're so caught up with the aesthetics that we care less about the story. Shame on us because graphic novels get a bad rap for this very reason - it's assumed the storytelling isn't as good as the accompanying art used to tell the tale. This roundup of novels have (in most cases) both and it's what makes this category (in our humble opinion) one of the more exciting ones to watch as prizes are awarded April 23rd.

So - to the point: we're trying not to get band wagon-y here, but have you seen Asterios Polyp? It's insanely fantastic. It's gorgeous and the story of Polyp, celebrated architect re-examining his life and the many twists and turns that brought him to his present state, is enthralling. It is also dense. This is a big novel of big ideas and once we finished it, we wandered around in a fugue for days. It took Mazzucchelli ten years to write this and that's how it feels. Asterios Polyp has been hailed as a book that will redefine the future of the graphic novel and it may well do that. For this massive attempt alone, it is oh so worthy of the LA Times Book Prize.

But what of the others? Go Go Monster tells the tale of nine-year-old Yuki, an outcast at school who uses his vivid imagination to spin tales of fantastic spirit worlds to escape his daily frustrations. In doing so, he begins to blur the lines between what's real and what's not, often believing that his imaginary monsters are at school with him. It's a gorgeous book, even if the tale veers a little far on the fantastical side for our taste.

Scott Pilgrim Volume 5: Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe is the fifth novel in a wildly successful - and very funny - young adult series that features Scott Pilgrim, who is known for little else other than his "awesomeness" - something that allowed him to capture the heart of Ramona Flowers in Volume 4. In the latest installment, Pilgrim works to keep her affection by dueling with twins that are known to be even more "awesome" than he is. O'Malley's storytelling is, as always, quite funny and touching. Fans of the series are mixed on the latest tale - some deem Volume 4 as the ultimate in the Pilgrim series - so it will be interesting to see if O'Malley takes home the prize.

If you've not checked out Luba by Gilbert Hernandez, you should. Especially if you live in LA. It's not Palomar, but it gets close upon re-reading. Luba is as funny and delightful as ever in these stories (some super short one-pagers, others much longer, over a hundred stories in this collection) of her and her family and the play between their work lives and personal lives is comical and poignant and over the top in classic Hernandez style. This is the first time all of these stories have been collected in one place, so it's a great get for Luba-lovers. Will it win the book prize, however? We're thinking no.

Finally - there's Joe Sacco's Footnotes in Gaza, the antithesis of all the other books in the category, for the subject matter alone. Sacco uses the graphic novel to great effect in telling the story of a bloody massacre near the Gaza Strip and as the details become clearer, parallels to much larger personal and political histories are drawn, examined, overturned. This is less storytelling and more graphic reportage and it is compelling and moving and difficult. Sacco is a master and may well walk away with the prize for this ambitious work.

Do you have a favorite among these? A graphic novel that didn't make the cut but should have? Let us know what you think in the comments. The Book Prizes will be announced on April 23rd.