Cover Image: Next Stop

Next Stop

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Member Reviews

A powerful graphic novel of a middle school girl who takes a summer bus trip. Since her dad broke his leg, she’s by herself. Hints are dropped for the backstory as we learn what led this family to their current state. It’s an amazing (and heartbreaking) story, one I’ve never seen done in a graphic novel. Beautiful illustrations and sprinkles of humor lighten the main plot. I enjoyed the personal touch at the end of the book - from the reason for the book to how it came to be. Though the intended audience is middle-grade, I recommend this book for any age.

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After a tragedy, Pia is looking forward to summer trip to Lake Cesarine (where some believe wishes come true) with her father. When her father breaks his leg and can't go, Pia is entrusted to his college friend, the tour guide, and sets off on her own. There are several unusual passengers on the tour and quickly the group becomes close as only one can on a vacation tour with the same group for days on end, in a bus. Each stop brings another quirky roadside attraction and themed motel until, they reach their destination. Pia is traveling among memories that are leading her to the big wish at the Lake, as well as making friends without realizing it.

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This heart-wrenching graphic novel debut made me feel all the feels as I was attached to Pia throughout her journey to heal from the pain. The smooth transitions between the present and past moments in Pia's life, shifting the color palettes from warm to neutral/muted tones, reveals more the complex relationship with Pia and her parents after Ben passed away, adjustments moving to a new place for a fresh start, and the heavy guilt she carries with her. There are lighthearted moments during the desert bus tour as Pia sees interesting artifacts (favorite one was the small corn maze that made me laugh). Also, I love how Pia finds a found family in Sam and the other tourists, who provide comfort and teach Pia that it is okay to not be okay and open up when she is ready. Back matter includes an author's note and concept art.

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This graphic novel was so gut wrenching. It deals with loss, grief, and guilt as well as moving on from painful memories. We follow Pia who is going on a tour to Lake Cessaine. People say that the lake has magical properties, and Pia is hoping that it can help her family after the death of her brother. Overall, this was such a great book. Yes it was sad, but watching Pia struggle with her grief and guilt and seeing her come out the other side was really compelling. The artwork was also really engaging throughout the book. Highly recommend checking this book out!

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I received this book from TBR and Beyond Tours/the publisher in exchange of an honest review.

In this wonderful graphic novel we follow a girl named Pia on a trip with Sunset Tours. This book has been on my TBR for a bit so I am excited that I can review it on my blog (and Instagram) today!

🥰 I really liked Pia, though I wanted to give her a hug so many times. She has been through a lot of things, she lost her younger brother and as the story continues we see how that has affected her life but also see what happened. I loved that she had the courage to go on this tour, that she still wanted to go through with it despite having to do it alone. I loved the big plans she had for when she would reach that special place at the end of the tour. It made me cry. I loved that despite Pia seeking solitude quite often, especially in the beginning, you see her open up more and more. Become friends with people, find a found family (a trope I absolutely love). Pia was a wonderful character!
🥰 The tour! OMG, I just wanted to step in the book myself, armed with a ton of pills though because this girl cannot handle car-rides, haha. But after that? Sign me up! I just loved the sights we saw, the little silly places they visited, the fun hotels (especially the one in the shape of a chicken), everything was just so fun and I am happy I could at least be part of it as a reader!
🥰 Sam was such a fun character and I liked how she and Pia bonded. There were a few moments that Sam could use a bit more tact, but in overall I really enjoyed seeing Pia and her connect and have a great time.
🥰 I also loved the other people in the tour. From the little girl, Lily, who got up to some mischief and always made me laugh, to the older lady Ming/Auntie who always had a fanny pack of snacks/candies for everyone. I really love that we got to meet all these people, got to know them, see their reasons for being part of this tour.
🥰 The art was just A-plus, and I enjoyed it so much!
🥰 That we follow the tour BUT also get to see what happened to Pia’s family. And we don’t just start at the accident/what happened, oh no, we slowly go back in time and see the effects and then what happened that one day. My heart just broke. And yes, I may wanted to slap Pia’s mom for how she was. I can understand where she is coming from, but your daughter didn’t do anything wrong.
🥰 I was so excited by the time we got to Cessarine Lake. There was so much folklore/mystery around it and I was just curious to see what was real or not about this one and see if it really did things people said it was doing.
🥰 The ending was just wonderful, I really loved each and every moment of it.
🥰 Seeing Pia try to get through the loss, the mourning, see her navigate her parents and how hard it is to talk to them after all that happened, it was all very well written. Once again, I was crying quite a bit while reading this one.

All in all, a very emotional, pretty, gorgeous, wonderful read that I would highly recommend.

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Surprisingly, this graphic novel packs an emotional punch. Debbie Fong expertly handles weighty subjects such as grief and mental health while balancing them with humorous roadside attractions like the Cactus Petting Zoo and the Copycat Geyser. The story follows Pia and her diverse companions on their journey to Cessarine Lake. I found the supporting characters' side stories engaging and helpful in Pia's journey.

I love the illustrations by Debbie Fong. She uses different colors and shading techniques to represent the timeline. The present timeline is depicted with vibrant and colorful illustrations, while the past timeline uses muted and subdued tones. All the illustrations effectively convey not only the emotions but also the action at all the roadside stops.

Don't miss the author's note at the end, where she explains her idea for the story and her process of developing a graphic novel. Overall, the novel is a funny, poignant, and well-written graphic novel suitable for kids of all ages even if you're a kid at heart.

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Next Stop by Debbie Fong is a middle-grade heartfelt read about a girl Pia who suffers from a loss in her family. This is her journey about grief, pain, and finding a way to be whole again.

Top 5 reasons to read Next Stop💞

1. Illustrations. The book is filled with very cute artwork, and the minor detailing is beautiful. The change of colors of the pages, according to the characters' situations, makes the story more alive.

2. Writing. The author's writing style was good, and it kept me engaged throughout the book.

3. Characters. I love how the characters felt so connected, and I started feeling sorry for the main character, Pia, almost after a few pages for how much pain she is going through because of a loss in her life.

4. Found Family. This trope has always been my favorite. When I saw Pia finding love and care from strangers on the summer trip, I knew she would feel better, and she did in the end.

5. Heartwarming. Pia's love for her brother made my heart warm. Even though he wasn't in most of the pages, his presence can be felt through Pia.

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Thoughts and Themes: I was very excited to read this one from the minute that I started it but I did have to put it down because of how heavy it got. I thought I would be okay because the content warnings were just death of a sibling and grief but I didn't expect for grief to show up in that manner. I didn't expect for the mom to play as large a role in this story as she does and I think that's something I would've liked to be prepared for. While I would've liked that warning I do think the impact would be less if I had that so I'll just let you know that mental health plays a large role in this story, and the affects that grief have on mental health is a big role.

Characters: In this story you are introduced to our main character, Pia, her parents, and a few of the other people who are on the bus tour with Pia. While this is a short book, I still found myself getting attached to the characters that are on the bus with Pia. I really enjoyed meeting them and getting to know their stories briefly.

Something else that I liked about this book is that you got to know the mom and dad both with Pia but also separately. I liked that this book showed us the reality of grief and how it affects relationships with others. This was an important aspect of the book because it overshadowed a lot of aspects of Pia's life.

Writing Style/Art Style: I really liked the art style of this story and found that it helped in keeping my attention. I also liked that this book went back and forth from the present time and the past to give us the full story. I like that this book sounds appealing to middle grade students but it also can connect with adults.

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This was such a moving graphic novel to read. Grief is a topic that is still not prevalent in a lot of children’s literature but is so important to talk about. This book handles how a family deals with grief in such a beautiful way. It showcases how each member has dealt with the loss of loved one, and how it’s not the same for everyone. There’s a lot of emotions that are wrapped up in this book. Some are very obvious and will cause the reader to want to cry and hurt along with the characters. Others are subtle with no words needed and the illustrations clearly capture those feelings. This is such a beautiful read and I have already recommended it several times to folks as a graphic novel they need to read in 2024.

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✨ Review ✨ Next Stop by Debbie Fong

Thanks to Random House Graphic, TBR and Beyond Tours, and #netgalley for the gifted advanced copy/ies of this book!

This fabulous middle grades graphic novel blends together a mix of laughter and sadness throughout its pages. The book follows Pia on a bus tour through a series of wacky stops to an underground lake that's purported to make wishes come true and magic happen.

A diverse cast of characters of all ages sets out on the bus, and Pia's off on her own for the first time after her dad can't join because he broke his leg. Pia's grappling with a range of feelings after her little brother died last year and her family moved to get a fresh start. The grief often feels subtly woven into the story, more through her family dynamics and parent's mental health and a just general sadness through Pia's moods.

From the world's smallest corn maze to a cactus park and a chicken hotel, the bus stops at increasingly stranger stops. Pia finds laughs as she becomes part of this bigger family on the tour together. There are definite highs and lows in the story, especially as Pia's backstory is revealed. The book definitely finds some catharsis in the end, and the end left me feeling satisfied.

Genre: middle grades graphic novel
Setting: "out west" in the desert
Pub Date: March 19, 2024

Playlist (lolol - play at your own risk)
1. Don't Hug a Cactus - Badanamu
2. Rubber Bands, Rubber Balls - Phineas and Ferb
3. Chicken Song - J.Geco
4. It's Corn - Songify This ft. Tariq and Recess Therapy
5. Underground Lake by Lorne Balfe

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Road trip! It should be fun for Pia, as she's always wanted to go. Her dad was supposed to take her, but a broken leg has left him at home. Pia goes anyway, hoping to use the trip to find closure with a personal tragedy. And it promises to be a. fun trip with cacti rollercoaster, giant watermelons, and interesting people on the bus.

Asian parenting guilt is no joke. Pia's mother blames her for the tragedy and barely speaks to her, while a move to a new town separated her from her friends. Even during the trip, the tour guide's daughter notices how quiet Pia gets at times. A little girl latches onto her, and Pia decides to protect this girl where she can.

The art is gorgeous, and heartbreaking at times. We find out what broke Pia's family apart, and the visuals that show a great loss. I hope this comic gets at least an Eisner nomination this year, as it deserves.

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This is a gorgeous graphic novel that will stay with the reader long after they've finished reading it.

Pia is adventuring on a bus tour to not only see strange and amazing roadside attractions, but also to visit an underground lake rumored to harbor magical properties. Pia's little brother drowned a year ago, and her family is crippled with grief. Pia's mother, especially, is suffering with her mental health and eventually needs to seek treatment. Pia meets some incredible people on her solo bus ride, and through this journey, Pia comes to terms with her grief and heals in a beautiful way.

I think this book so beautifully captures what grief really looks look. The world moves on, while you feel anchored to a moment when everything went wrong and your life will never be the same. The vibrancy of the adventurous current day is reflected in bright colors, while Pia's memories of the last year are a very dull gray/green pastel color. Debbie Fong did an incredible job representing how it feels to be stuck in a moment in time, and what all of the moments that follow feel like. I so appreciated this graphic novel and I know that there are young and older people alike who will be able to heal in their own ways from having read it. I know I have.

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Next Stop by Debbie Fong initially seems like a lighthearted graphic novel, but readers will quickly realize that there is something more going on. Pia embarks on a solo bus tour road trip, which she had hoped she had hoped would be a father/daughter trip. Along the way, she sees lots of fun attractions, reflects on the past, and makes some unexpected connections. However, there is always something more lingering beneath the surface. When the big reveal finally happens, everything finally makes sense and it is devastating. Although this book was a bit of a heavier read than I expected based on the cover, I would still absolutely recommend it to middle grade readers! This book covers important topics that are more regularly covered in full-length novels, but I love the way the author was able to address the same topics in a graphic novel.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children's for the opportunity to review an eARC of this title.

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Pia is in a new town and struggling to adjust after her little brother’s death. Her family is also struggling to adjust to their new life. Pia longs to go on a bus trip to see quirky roadside attractions. But at the last minute she gets sent on the trip of her dreams with a family friend. The final destination is a magical lake that she secretly hopes can make things better. But she soon finds out that it’s always the journey that makes the destination. Can Pia learn to live again? Can her family find peace?
The images of this graphic novel are perfect in their simplicity and the color pallets add to the mood of the scenes. Readers will empathize with Pia while they process her experiences with her. Recommended for both school and public library collections as well as readers of realistic fiction graphic novels. 4 stars, Gr 3-7.

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I really enjoyed going on this journey with Pia. I laughed, I cried, and I really felt for her. I loved the bus tour and all of the different people Pia met. They were all also unique and really added to the story. I loved the quirkiness of all the different tour destinations.

The illustrations are really beautifully done. I like how the author used muted colors for the flashbacks and bright vibrant colors for the present time. Each page has so much to look at.

As the graphic novel progresses, the grief of Pia’s brother’s death becomes very real. I feel like it would be a lot for a middle schooler to read, but maybe middle schoolers are more mature these days. I think the story does have a good message for young readers though.

If you enjoy roadtrips, finding yourself, and graphic novels then I recommend checking this book out!

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This is a book/graphic novel who's target audience is middle-grade readers, but once you start reading, you will soon realize how important this book is to every age and will speak to ALL those who choose to read it.

This is the story of Pia [and her family] and how she tries to navigate life through the new lens of grief [and to some degree, shame]. The author brilliantly illustrates this when she shows Pia's life in flashbacks - she illustrates these frames in both black and white and very muted colors and you can really feel her emotions and the emotions of those around her this way and it is very effective.

Pia is convinced that a trip to a "magical" lake will be the answer to her grief, so she embarks on a journey to get there and what she finds along the way may just be what she needs to heal.

There is a note from the author at the end, that is fun to read, along with with some interesting notes on just how she made the illustrations [blocked them out and such] and how the story and characters evolved from the beginning to end. That was very cool to read as well.

Very well done - I highly recommend this.

Thank you to NetGalley, Debbie Fong, and Random House Children's/Random House Graphic for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This book is so good! It was really cute and also really sad and emotional and heartbreaking and dark. I love it. I especially love the epilogue and the extra notes in the back. I love that this book was inspired by a trip to ruby falls. I don’t know if this book is appropriate for little kids, it has some extremely mature and dark parts, but as an adult I love it very much!

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Such a sweet, magical story that is also surprisingly heartbreaking. A beautiful journey of grief and friendship and rediscovery told with whimsical illustrations and fantastic characters. Really loved this one!

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Next Stop is an absolutely beautiful and magical graphic novel. After the devastating loss of Pia’s little brother, her family is mourning and her mom is having an especially difficult time. Perhaps a bus tour for Pia with friends will help the healing process. How could anyone not smile at the world’s smallest corn maze?!? At the end of these seamlessly silly attractions is a sign of hope in a famed magical lake. Next Stop normalizes the grief process, moving through stops, feeling the pendulum of sorrow and finding joy in silly things in life.

Review is on the tbr and beyond book tour and will be posted with favorite quotes on March 23rd.

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Thank you NetGalley for an ARC of this book.

4.5 ⭐️

This debut graphic novel is quite brilliant and captivating. I really felt the intensity of the emotions of the characters and the way the story flashes back in time to reveal what’s happened to Pia and her family is so engaging. I recommend this to anyone, not just middle graders!

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