Details: After School Nightmare by Setona Mizushiro, 10 volumes, Manga
My Thoughts: This synopsis does not do this series justice at all. Every summary I've found on the Internet doesn't either. It makes the manga series sound like LGBTQ fiction - not that there's anything wrong with that (I've read some wonderful LGBTQ books), but this isn't like that. The main character may be half-boy, half-girl, but he (I'll just call Mashiro that for convenience's sake) is more than that. I can't reveal what it is without revealing Spoilers of Epic Proportions, however, but know that the story is way deeper and symbolic than it seems.
I really didn't expect much of After School Nightmare. I thought it might be an interesting read, a nice journey into manga (I typically watch anime instead), something to relax with. But trust me, this is definitely not the kind of thing you'd bring to the beach. After School Nightmare is riveting, emotional, complex, stark, chilling - practically everything except relaxing. When I got a volume from the library, I pounced on it right away, regardless of what I was reading (I dropped Mockingjay to read the ninth volume), and each one ends with a cliffhanger that leaves me in abject misery for the next few days.
But what wonderful abject misery! I was thrilled whenever the next volume came, and reserved the one after that as soon as possible because I knew there would be a cliffhanger. The plot is full of incredible twists. Just when you're sure of something, or you think something is obvious, everything changes and you realize you're completely wrong. The subplots are rich and detailed, and come in nicely at the end, tying up all loose ends.
Oh, yeah, the ending? It. Was. Amazing. I tore through the tenth volume faster than any of the others, and the ending of the ending of the ending sent me into hysteria because I couldn't believe it ended like that and there'd be no other volume to tell me what would happen next. Somehow, the author managed to give us a cliffhanger ending to the series that wasn't even really a cliffhanger because everything was resolved but it's still enough to drive you completely INSANE.
So the premise might sound sort of weird or off-putting or uninteresting, but trust me when I say the manga isn't, at all. Well, it is kind of weird but in a unique, wonderful way, and even if you've never read manga or watched anime before in your life, you have to read this. Even if you despise graphic novels, you have to read this. Amazing writing is amazing writing no matter what shape or form it's in, and besides, the drawings and layouts are perfect for the beginning manga reader.
And if you're still not sure if you want to read this or not... there is an extremely swoon-worthy male in here. He defies all YA stereotypes in a million different ways, but oh my god, he is amazing. ;)
Plot - 5/5
Characters - 4.5/5
Writing - 5/5
Impact - 4/5
Inability to put it down - 5/5
Overall - 94% = A+