Review | ParaNorthern: And the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calypse, by Stephanie Cooke and Mari Costa

ParaNorthernCoverThis graphic novel is just adorable! Abby’s a young witch who, when saving her younger sister from bullies, accidentally opens a portal to the realm of chaos bunnies. Now she and her friends — a wolf girl, a pumpkinhead, and a ghost — must find a way to close the portal before the bunnies wreak any more havoc on their town.

The story is simply a delight from start to finish. I love how strong and supportive the friendships amongst the main characters are — Abby and her friends are all ride-or-die for each other, even when they don’t necessarily know how to handle something as, well, chaotic as a chaos bunny invasion, and seeing them work together to figure stuff out is really heartwarming. I also love the strong relationships Abby has with her mom and sister — even as she decides to keep her mom in the dark about the chaos bunnies, you can tell how close they are as a family, and how much they care for each other’s welfare. There’s a lighthearted jokiness in the dialogue amongst many of the characters that just makes you want to be a part of their world, and be amongst their circle of loved ones.

I also like how the story focuses on the friendships and on Abby grappling with her insecurities rather than revert to a Chosen One narrative. Abby does turn out to be a more powerful witch than she realized, and much of the story is about her struggling to understand her powers without being overwhelmed by them. As she tells her friends, closing a chaos bunny portal is advanced magic far beyond the lessons she’s currently taking in her spell-casting classes. While most readers will likely never face the situation of opening a portal to a chaos bunny dimension, I think many will relate to Abby’s feelings of being overwhelmed by a situation she unwittingly caused.

There’s a fun scene involving a seance where Abby tries to connect with a long-dead ancestor for answers, but the scene that strikes a chord for me is one where her wolf-girl friend, whose parents are psychotherapists, invites Abby to try out a psychotherapy session of her own. The friend helps Abby work through her feelings of insecurity, and in doing so, helps Abby gain the clarity she needs to face the chaos bunny situation head-on. It’s a wonderfully relatable, real-world solution to a magical problem, and the climactic scene, where all of Abby’s friends, along with Abby’s sister, help the young witch send the chaos bunnies back to their dimension, sends a similarly wonderful message: not just that you don’t have to face overwhelming situations alone, but that you shouldn’t. As powerful a witch as Abby is, she needed her friends to fix the chaos bunny situation, and as trite as it may sound, it’s a good lesson to remember, no matter how old you are.

The characters are drawn with such complexity and texture, and all of Abby’s friends are given some pretty rich backstories of their own, that I’m fairly certain this is only the first instalment of more stories with this group of friends. And I, for one, am excited to read more about these characters, and spend more time in their world.

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Thank you to the publisher for an e-galley in exchange for an honest review.

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