Title: No Ivy League
Author: Hazel Newlevant
Genre: YA Graphic Novel, Contemporary
Length: 208 pages
Publisher: Lion Forge
Publish Date: August 20, 2019
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Content Warnings: Graphic Language, Mature Themes
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Edelweiss, Lion Forge, and Hazel Newlevant for this free copy.
I don’t know when I finally realized that this was an autobiography of the author’s life growing up, but I think I finally got it. I mean, unless Hazel named the main character after themselves for no other reason than just to use it, which I doubt.
I think after realizing that this was a personal story, I went into this in a totally different light. One, I wanted to make sure that I give this story the right attention, and remember that what they decided to tell us and share with us was personal. Two, I wanted to understand where they were coming from when certain situations came up, without judgment. I want to say that I was able to do just that, and from there, I was able to appreciate this novel for what it was.
There were themes in this novel that while I may not have gone through personally, Newlevant was able to portray in a way that I would be able to understand and put myself in their shoes. For one, Hazel in the novel was homeschooled and taking community college courses at the age of seventeen. Extremely proud of them and their accomplishments from just that point alone! To top it off, they were able to get a summer job with No Ivy League, where the company’s mission is to save the forest by removing the poison ivy that has been growing in that area since European colonists brought it there. It’s to help maintain the environment since the poison ivy can damage the ecosystem of the forest. So Hazel takes on a lot, while also working with their best friend and their boyfriend on a project to win them some money to travel to DC to see one of their favorite bands perform live.
Another thing that I felt Hazel go through was that they felt out of place with the other teens that worked in the group, from cultural differences, sexual identity differences, and even romantic differences. There are times where you feel like Hazel feels out of place, but doesn’t really know why, or doesn’t want to explain why. They just had a weird day, which is okay, but that also didn’t stop them from doing what they had set out to do in the first place.
We also see Hazel develop feelings for their instructor, who is 15 years older than her and can be a borderline inappropriate relationship. There are times where Tono (short for Antonio) feels like their conversations are straying from what is appropriate between an adult and a student, and Hazel seems to want to push that boundary, despite having a boyfriend who is a year and a half younger. Now, I get having a crush on an authority figure. I’m pretty sure I had a few crushes, but I don’t think I could have acted on it. Hazel is pretty damn brave, or foolish. Take your pick, but I’m not judging. Nothing’s wrong with having those feelings, right?
Wow, sorry that got a long longer than I was anticipating. Basically I really enjoyed this graphic novel, and I felt like I learned a little bit more of Hazel Newlevant and what they wanted to tell us about their coming-of-age story. It was deeply personal, honest and brave to be so vulnerable like that.
Additional Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.