Through the thousands of books I've now sorted, I've noticed a popular trend among the fiction variety. Most mass paperback novels I've run across have the following things in common:

1) They're part of a series (even though I never find any other book in said "series")
2) They have a female protagonist
3) Said female protagonist is a massive Mary Sue with an attitude who wields weapons, fires off karate kicks, and has every lead male fall for her instantly
3) They contain supernatural elements, usually garden-variety cliches dressed up by calling them different names. For example, if there are fairies, they won't call them fairies, they'll call them "Fae." At the very least, they'll spell "magic" with a K
4) They all (without exception, they ALL) have a subtitle like "A Kit Gunwielder Mystery!" or "A Sasha Spunkmeyer Adventure!"

I already showed you a good example ("A Tess Noncoire Adventure" from Part 3), but I found an even better one. A concept that sums up the worst of the whole gimmick. Ready for this?

Read it again. A demon-hunting soccer mom. Someone was watching Buffy and thought, "You know what would make this show ten times as good? If Sarah Michelle Gellar was replaced with Rosie O'Donnell." And again, it's the second book. There's already another one of these!

The events of the book are what you'd expect. When no one else is around to discover her secret, she gets attacked by a monstrous beast, but she beats it back with a rolling pin, or a diaper pail, or a thick Ann Coulter book. No one is the wiser! As for the one-liners, they're what you'd expect too:

"Infiltrating a nest of vampires at dusk might be a tad on the treacherous side, but it's nothing compared to telling a fourteen-year-old that she's not ready to wear eyeshadow!"

"I'd changed a lot of nasty Pull-Ups in my day, but the idea of patting down a dead demon still left me cringing."

"What sounds like fun on a Nintendo Gamecube loses a lot of its appeal in the harsh light of reality!"

"An eternity in Hell," I said thoughtfully. "Somehow that makes my filthy bathrooms not seem like that much of a burden."

She makes remarks like this all the time. The next time someone tells you the comic continuation of Buffy is bad, inform them how much worse it could be.

I loved Wayside School is Falling Down. I once drew an "ad" for the book where a man is trapped in a corner by the world's deadliest terrorists until he pulls his Wayside School book out of his pocket. The terrorists laugh so hard at the book's contents that he escapes easily. That's the power of Sachar!

In between the time I left elementary school and now, the book switched publishers and was reprinted with different illustrations. Remember how cute the drawings were in Falling Down? Well, forget that. Times have....changed.

Eeyugh! Whose idea was this? This isn't what you call fixing something that isn't broken, it's the equivalent of taking the Mona Lisa and drawing a Groucho mustache on it! Of course, I remember the illustrations in Sideways Stories, its predecessor, being pretty ugly -- maybe they wanted them to match up?

This isn't even the worst childhood-rape I've borne witness to lately. There was also this....

I still love Cricket. No one escapes the hold of Cricket completely. It's just that good. My subscription ended years ago, but I still have dreams where I receive another issue and it's just as awesome as it was before. I'll always have that monkey on my back.

You can imagine my dismay when I found a Cricket published not long after I left it, and discovered that, sadly, I had quit at the right time and missed nothing. It was in 2004 that Jean Gralley, the staff artist, finally hung up her pen and was replaced. Gralley herself was a replacement for the original strip creator, legendary illustrator Trina Schart Hyman (RIP). The transition between Hyman and Gralley was nearly seamless -- their drawing styles were identical, and Gralley was, dare I say, even funnier than Hyman was. Now Gralley had been replaced....with THIS.

AGH! THIS PURRY SUCKS! It looks like a five-year-old drew it!

Don't think it looks that bad? No, it IS that bad. How bad is it?

This is Zoot.


The rest of it is still the spellbinding showcase of human talent that it's always been....but the bug strip was the life, it was the center, it was the source....and now with that source ruined, it doesn't feel the same.

This is one of the most depressing discoveries I've ever made. As just about the only magazine in circulation that "got" my weird tastes, Cricket was pretty close to my heart, and for nine years I always thought I could go back. But I can't. I'm so sad I feel like putting on some Adele and gorging on ice cream. We gotta move on, and fast.