BookDragon Books for the Multi-Culti Reader

Avatar: The Last Airbender | The Rift (Part One) created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, script by Gene Luen Yang, art by Gurihiru, lettering by Michael Heisler

 

Avatar Rift 1Although our son incessantly watched various versions of the Avatar series on television and even more often on DVD, I had little knowledge for years of who’s who or what’s what. The casting controversy of the 2010 film version disastrously directed by M. Night Shyamalan is what actually made me take close notice (not to mention the ridiculously official email requests for assistance with finding the nameless “Asian-looking” faces for the anonymous large crowd scenes; nasty replies flew back!). And then 2006 and 2013 National Book Award finalist Gene Luen Yang took over the printed storyline in 2012, and I’ve been utterly hooked since!

The third and latest three-part adventure from Yang and company, The Rift, hits shelves mid-March – get your pre-orders in now! To find out how the city of Yu Dao – which both the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom cohabit peacefully – has become “the example” that the other colonies are all trying to emulate, you’ll first have to read The Promise and then The Search to get the full picture – highly encouraged!

While celebrating the announcement of Yu Dao’s new coalition government, Aang is visited by the spirit of Avatar Yangchen, Aang’s predecessor “four Avatars ago.” She’s obviously in distress, but Aang is unable to hear her warnings. He later realizes that he’s being called to observe the Yangchen Festival, “one of the highest holidays on the Air Nomad calendar,” which “hasn’t been celebrated in over a hundred years.”

Gathering Katara, Sokka, metalbending buddy Toph Beifong, and three Air acolytes, Aang flies Appa (their fluffy mode of transport) to “a cliff overlooking the ocean” where the festival traditionally begins. As the motley crew parades down to the meadow, what they see, smell, and experience is not the “sacred place” it should be: “This is what Yangchen was trying to tell me,” Aang comes to understand her silent entreaty. Keeping the newfound peace here is going to be quite the challenge.

Yang makes Rift especially contemporary, adding environmental health to issues of loyalty, power, parent/child filial duties, sacred bonds, gendered expectations, and (of course) much more. Intertwined with all that swashbuckling flying and bending entertainment are always subtle reminders to think and act beyond one’s comfort zones. Lessons to be learned for us all.

Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult

Published: 2014

Discussion

  • http://twitter.com/D3stiny_Sm4sher Eddy Fettig (@D3stiny_Sm4sher)

    I’m a hardcore Avatar fan, and I’ve felt a bit lukewarm toward the series’ more recent efforts with the comics and Book 2 of Korra, especially…but after reading the 8-page preview of The Rift, I’m very excited for this year’s comic series.
    The two main things I’ve wanted from the Avatar series going forward after ATLA: character development and learning more about the world/culture.
    I’m very interested to see what I anticipate will be Aang and Toph having a disagreement that they will have to seek resolution through — they’ll both come out better for it, I would bet, and that’s the kind of storytelling I love most.

    • http://bookdragon.si.edu/ SI BookDragon

      I only really came to Avatar through being an admirer of Gene Yang’s work, so am not nearly the expert you are! And I haven’t read any of the Korra books. Am I missing too much? Should I go back?

      I loved the ‘surprise’ at the end of Rift’s Book 1, as well as learning more about Toph’s past and getting a glimpse of her future. I think Rift’s Book 2 is going to have even more unexpected twists and turns … As I’m not the hardcore expert you are, non-spoiler (possibly stupidly obvious) question for you: do Toph and Sokka have a ‘past’? Do they share something more than both being part of Aang’s inner circle?

      Thanks so much for visiting BookDragon. Hope you find other interesting reads here.

Top