Better Place and Lifetime Passes–New coming of age graphic novels for kids attempt to bridge the generation gap

Lifetime passes cover Better Place cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

From Abrams ComicArts and Top Shelf Productions, two new graphic novels are just the thing to help young people and senior citizens try to bridge the generation gap.  Both stories feature youth encountering, interacting, and understanding folks of their grandparents’ age–and vice versa.  From Abrams, Lifetime Passes follows an orphan named Jackie, who helps her aunt working in a senior housing center.  When a nearby Disney-like theme park offers a strange way to get tickets, she and her friends stumble into getting to know people at the senior center better.  From Top Shelf comes Better Place, following a boy named Dylan who just moved to a new house, with no friends, and a mother who doesn’t have time for him.  But his grandfather becomes his best friend, partnering with him to create a superhero duo–until his grandfather passes away.  In the spirit of Over the Moon, Soul, The Mitchells vs the Machines, and Ghost Tree, these new books Lifetime Passes and Better Place may have everyone begin to understand what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.

For younger readers, Better Place, by writer Duane Murray and artist Shawn Daley, is a sensitive story drawn in a kid-accessible, manga style.  It’s a black and white comic with a few panels of color as an accent along the way.  The tone of the book moves across several tough coming of age concepts about death and communication gaps between kids and parents.  When Dylan’s mom isn’t forthcoming about his grandfather’s death, it sets off a chain of events that are both adventuresome, educational, and dangerous.  Readers who have watched Netflix’s Over the Moon will find this story mirrors all of that story’s plot points, including the use of a rocket by a kid to try to find someone who has died.  Woven into the story are panels by “guest artists” Jeff Lemire, Matt Kindt, Nate Powell, and others.

For older kid readers, Lifetime Passes, by Terry Blas and Claudia Aguirre, is less on the sensitive side about dealing with the elderly and death, as a teen and her peers attempt to leverage some senior citizens to win free passes from a summer theme park.  Whereas Dylan in Better Place is innocent, naive, and young, here the protagonist Jackie is jaded, somewhat justifiably from her loss of her parents, and Jackie’s friends are part jerks, part normal teens–quick to listen to a rumor and act on it, self-centered, and insensitive to the feelings of others.  As with other coming of age tales, the teens learn some good lessons, particularly about compassion and empathy, by story’s end.

Here is a preview of Better Place:

And at the Abrams website here is a video preview of Lifetime Passes.

Neither story has the supernatural elements of Ghost Tree, but both have the same quiet atmosphere as that book and are similarly contemplative, sure to have readers evaluating their own thoughts and actions.  Better Place arrives October 26 and is available for pre-order now here at Amazon.  Lifetime Passes arrives November 23, and is available for pre-order now here.  Both are solid, modern growing up stories, particularly for kids of different ages with grandparents.

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