Manuel witnesses an act of gun violence that leaves him with panic attacks. With the help of his therapist, he finds out cell phone photography anchors him. Manuel makes some new friends and learns to confront his fears throughout this young adult/middle grade graphic novel.

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The summary, from Amazon:

From the author of The Deep & Dark Blue comes a tender graphic novel, perfect for our time, that gently explores themes of self-discovery, friendship, healing from tragedy, and hope for a better tomorrow.

Struggling with anxiety after witnessing a harrowing instance of gun violence, Manuel Soto copes through photography, using his cell-phone camera to find anchors that keep him grounded. His days are a lonely, latchkey monotony until he’s teamed with his classmates, Sebastian and Caysha, for a group project.

Sebastian lives on a grass-fed cattle farm outside of town, and Manuel finds solace in the open fields and in the antics of the newborn calf Sebastian is hand-raising. As Manuel aides his new friends in their preparations for the local county fair, he learns to open up, confronts his deepest fears, and even finds first love.

Buy The Golden Hour here.

I immediately loved the art and the storyline of Niki Smith’s The Golden Hour. As someone who experiences panic attacks, this graphic novel represented what they feel like so accurately and beautifully. I also adored Manuel’s friendships with Sebastian and Caysha. These two are so supportive of him, and Manuel is supportive in return.

The Golden Hour handles mental illness so wonderfully. Manuel witnesses a student shoot his art teacher. She survives, but both are shaken by the incident. Manuel helped by pulling a fire alarm, but he still feels guilty, as if he could have done more. Manuel has PTSD and experiences panic attacked and derealization. Manuel is able to anchor himself when he experiences anxiety by taking photos with his cell phone.

The budding romance between Sebastian and Manuel is so cute. It’s very light, appropriate for middle grade readers, but touching and sweet.

All in all, this is an absolutely fantastic 5 star read!

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The Golden HourThe Golden Hour by Niki Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonderful story and art. The way the author represented panic attacks was so spot-on and well done.

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Book Club Questions

  1. If you feel comfortable sharing, was any part of this book relatable for you?
  2.  What are some anchoring techniques or calming activities you could use?

Interested? Buy The Golden Hour.
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