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Refresh, Refresh Paperback – September 29, 2009

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A resonant, slow-building tale of the boys--or men, in the eyes of the armed forces--left behind, and senselessly left fatherless, by war.” ―Booklist

“Disturbing and intense . . . a thoughtful examination into these very contemporary characters' psyches.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Three small-town Oregon boys whose fathers are off fighting in Iraq relentlessly push each other to become men in this somber graphic novel. They brawl violently with each other in backyards, sneak into bars, and peer into the scopes of rifles pointed at more than just deer, all the while wondering desperately what to make of their empty email inboxes and the deafening silences coming from their fathers. While all of the boys' stories are presented, the one whose future wavers between college and combat becomes the focal point. Novgorodoff's artfully misshapen lines and grotesque facial expressions capture the uneasy quality of her story, the tumultuous nature of her characters' psyches, and the explosive instability of their unfocused rage. But by far the most striking sequence comes near the end, where washed-out inks hint at the suffocating myopia of the Iraqi desert and also serve as a bleak metaphor for the boys' emotional states. A resonant, slow-building tale of the boys-or men, in the eyes of the armed forces-left behind, and senselessly left fatherless, by war.” ―Booklist

“Three young men in the Pacific Northwest deal with the wartime absences of their fathers coupled with their own adolescent angst. Cody, Josh and Gordon struggle to deal with their feelings during this confusing time. Answers do not come easily to the boys and usually manifest in a form of violence; the trio routinely boxes to "make each other tougher." Split into three narrative threads that combine and then separate, this graphic novel routinely intertwines and then unwinds, showing the dynamics of the boys together and then in their homes. Each boy is desperately waiting for his father to contact him (they pine in front of their computers, constantly refreshing their e-mail for new messages), although when one of the boys receives unwelcome and disturbing news, the group bands together and lashes out viciously. After this action, the group makes a shocking decision that affects their impending futures. Disturbing and intense, this proves to be a thoughtful examination into these very contemporary characters' psyches. (Graphic fiction. YA)” ―Kirkus Reviews

“The title of this graphic novel comes from the act of refreshing an e-mail inbox often to see if anyone has replied, in this case, teens' fathers who have gone off to Iraq to fight in the war. Cody, Josh, and Jordan miss their dads and stay busy by beating each other up in the back yard (to make themselves stronger), hang out at the local bar and drink alcohol, hook up with older women, and participate in a slew of other activities that are pretty risky but make sense, feeling left behind. Of the three, Josh's future looks the least bleak as he receives an acceptance letter to college.
The story is well drawn, with the damage from the fight scenes among the teens evidenced in painful black eyes and blood. The day-to-day living is also painful when the power has been shut off because the bills are not being paid. Although the story is never really upbeat, it will probably ring familiar to readers whose parents have gone off to fight in the war or are simply absent for various other reasons. It is a good book for discussion as it touches on tough topics with which many teens may be wrestling, whether or not their parents play a large role in their lives.” ―VOYA

“Gr 10 Up–Outsiders in their small Oregon town, Josh, Cody, and Gordon relentlessly beat one another to a pulp in Josh's backyard. They fight for practice so they can defend themselves against anyone who hurts them. All three teens must help care for their families after their fathers ship out to fight in Iraq. Josh lives with his grandfather, Gordon is the man of a house full of brothers and sisters, and Cody is the main caregiver for his younger brother, who wants to be a soldier, too. The boys obsessively click "refresh" to check for new emails from their fathers, messages that sadly do not come often. This raw story shows the harsh realities of life when a parent is deployed. The teens encounter enthusiastic recruiters, bullies at school, and vicious physical and emotional hits. Particularly striking is their reaction when the father of one of their school tormentors is killed overseas. The illustrations are realistic and reflect the intense emotions that dominate this gripping and moving tale.” ―Laura Amos, Newport News Public Library, VA, School Library Journal

About the Author

Originally from Louisville, Kentucky, Danica Novgorodoff is a writer, painter, photographer, and comics artist who now lives in New York City where she works as a graphic designer for First Second Books. She has also worked as a horse trainer in Virginia, an assistant to photographer Sally Mann, and an artist review writer for galleries in Chelsea and SoHo. In 2006 she won the Isotope Award for her mini-comic, A Late Freeze, which was later nominated for an Eisner award. Her last book was the graphic novel Slow Storm, which was a New York Magazine Best Graphic Novel of 2008.

Benjamin Percy's story, Refresh, Refresh, was first published in the Paris Review and is included in Best American Short Stories 2006.

James Ponsoldt is a writer and director. His first feature film, Off the Black, premiered at Sundance in 2006.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: First Second; First Edition edition (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596435224
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596435223
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,125,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Danica Novgorodoff set a pretty high standard for herself with the gorgeous Slow Storm, last year's poignant work about crisscrossing lives that converge in the onslaught of a huge storm. Just as she showed there, she has an ability to capture the small nuances of human emotion in little movements and facial expressions, a talent she brings to her latest, Refresh, Refresh, an adaptation of Benjamin Percy's prose short story of the same name. (A movie based on the book is in the works, so the story has hit the trifecta of cultural touchstones.)

Refresh, Refresh takes place in rural Oregon. It marks the time three teenage friends spend together as they struggle with growing up without fathers and trying to define for themselves just what it means to be a man. They live in a town where most of the adult men have gone off to fight in Iraq, and they know, as they count down the minutes till graduation, that they will be expected to do the same.

Or not. Life is full of possibilities. But when you change the plan, the one that seems to be carved in stone, you're not only defining yourself and your own views on life--you're also making a statement about the decisions of everyone else surrounding you.

The title refers to one of the constants in the boys' lives: refreshing their email to check for news on their dads. As they await news of their fathers' fates, they come closer to their own.

Refresh, Refresh, fittingly given its background, plays out much like a small movie, with Novgorodoff using the pages as her own personal cinema. It's beautifully done, and the story itself offers a perfect meshing with her talents.

-- John Hogan
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Format: Paperback
I don't really know how to write a review of this book, which I guess is why it took me so long to do so. It's so sad, all around, and so hopeless in so many ways. The three boys that are at the center of the story aren't the only ones affected by the war, most of the town is, so there isn't really anywhere for them to go to get away from the worry and fear that they themselves feel. Each of them deals with it in their own ways, coming together for their fights. The prevailing feeling is pain. The fights just make that pain physical, shared, and visible.

Most of the story is told through the artwork. The dialog and text are pretty sparse. It works so well in this graphic novel that I can't imagine the short story it was based on. The lack of words make the faces and feelings take on so much more meaning and, in the end, the feelings are what this book is about. And it's beautifully drawn. The images pulled me into the story in a way that I don't know if the short story would have.

Anyway, I really thought Refresh Refresh was very good, but I know that I'm not doing it any kind of justice here. Just trust me, it is well worth the read.

Book source: Philly Free Library
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Format: Paperback
Three boys whose fathers enlisted are left behind to be the men of the house. So sometimes they fight. They fight as if they have something to prove, to their fathers, to their friends or to themselves. When their lives don't turn out exactly as planned and they end up pulling some stupid stuff. Enlisting themselves might be the only way for them to save themselves. But then, who is left?

This was a gut-wrenching depiction of war-torn families. The title comes from these boys constantly refreshing their e-mail inboxes trying to get word from their fathers. Boys pounding on each other to vent their frustrations on having life not be the way they want it. Not that everyone gets the life of their dreams, but most don't have to face their parents' mortality so suddenly. This was a good graphic novel, with matching illustrations. It was very brief but powerful nonetheless. If you have a chance to pick this up, I suggest you do. Enjoy.

First Line:
"Hit him in the face!"

Favorite Line:
"Hit him in the face!"
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