Banned Book Club is a graphic novel following Kim Hyun Sook as she starts her first year of college in 1983 South Korea. This was during South Korea’s Fifth Republic, a military regime that entrenched its power through censorship, torture, and the murder of protestors. And Hyun Sook finds herself pulled into it all because of her love of books.
I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I first want to highlight the art style. It is authentic Manhwa art, which is the traditional comic art styling of Korean. A true Korean story with authentic Korean art is worth celebrating.
It is a fast-paced comic, so it is full of action and something happening. I do wish there was moments of rest between action so that the reading this didn’t get overwhelming at times. The fast-paced also made character development of Hyun Sook feel a little disjointed so I didn’t really see how she got from timid literature student to full-on protester. But I also think the fast-paced nature reflects the ever-evolving scenarios of protesting and backlash.
While the specific story of Kim Hyun Sook is fiction, it is created through true stories of individuals who were students and protesters in 1983. It is a memoir told through a collection of stories through this group of banned book club students. Knowing that the atrocities they depict are true accounts makes this graphic novel even more impactful.
This is also a very timely read with the state of the world, and particularly the United States, as of late. People are still protesting atrocities caused by people in power. Banned Book Club offers some hope, as we see the protests succeed and cause the downfall of multiple regimes in it’s pages. This is not a doom-and-gloom story, despite the terrible things that do occur, but one with lighthearted moments and the power of friendship at it’s core.
Overall, Banned Book Club is a fascinating read, especially with how times currently are quite similar to what happened in 1983. You learn a lot about the history of the era and civil rights, and you leave with a feeling of hope rather than dread. If historical stories interest you, take a look at Banned Book Club.
Have you read any historical graphic novels? Share them in a comment below.