Whitetopper Staff Picks: Week One

What We Watched

“If you’ve heard of Julie and the Phantoms, you might be wondering why a college student is reviewing a G-rated Netflix show that features a ghost boy band. While the show was clearly made for a younger generation, fans of early 2000s children’s television should check it out. When a boy band from the 90s dies – yes, they die, but it is handled in a kid friendly way – and comes back in 2020 as ghosts, our main character Julie is shocked to find that she is the only one who can see them. Over the course of nine, thirty-minute episodes Julie and the boys form a band and experience troubling plot twists in ways that will take you right back to the shows you loved as a kid. The show is also a musical of sorts. Kenny Ortega, director of High School Musical and Descendents, is the director of the show. Just as in the two aforementioned films, Ortega works musical breaks into Julie in ways you will hate to love when you are humming the show’s songs in your head for days. Many college students today are filled with nostalgia for the types of shows they watched as kids, but they find that new children’s shows simply aren’t as good. Julie is the perfect solution. The show is cheesy in all the right ways, but as a Netflix show it discusses things like death and LGBTQ+ representation that many main children’s networks will not. If a college student was looking for a show reminiscent of what they grew up on but with a little added maturity, Julie and the Phantoms is the perfect choice.”
ーAlexa Shockley, Managing Editor

What We Listened To

“I have been listening to podcasts for awhile now, but the one I tune into the most is the Last Podcast on the Left. The show started in 2011 and has been running consistently for nine years. The show is hosted by Henry Zabrowski, Marcus Parks, and Ben Kissel, who have created the Last Podcast network that has 14 more shows in its roster. Last Podcast on the Left covers true crime, mysteries, aliens, cryptids, and just about everything spooky. There are over 400 episodes available to listen to, so you can start just about anywhere. Some episodes I recommend are the Bonny and Clyde three part series and the Belle Gunness two part series. It’s the perfect podcast to listen to since we’re gearing up for Halloween in the next month. If true crime is not your thing, the Last Podcast network has plenty of other shows not centered around crime for you to listen to. The show is a Spotify exclusive, but you can listen to it for free on the app.”
ーMadison Brown, Arts & Life Section Editor

“This month, I had a chance to listen to an EP entitled “Write Out Loud.” It was created by Taylor Louderman, a musical theater actress; John, a piano accompanist; and Matt Rodin, a music producer, in 2019. While these three handled the production aspect of the music, the songs were all actually written by five separate young musical theater artists who submitted their work into the “Write Out Loud” contest and won! Additionally, each song is sung by a different Broadway performer. I listened to one of the songs, “Android Ashley,” a while ago when it was first released. I kept meaning to get around to listening to the full EP, but just recently was able to finish all of the songs. All of them were amazing; I was very impressed! The lyrics have such depth and really portray an accurate description of what life is like for a young person in today’s society. I have to say, “Android Ashley” is still my favorite; it’s just so catchy! It’s very inspiring to see people around my age create such wonderful songs, and I really hope another version of this project is released sometime in the future. I highly recommend everyone go check it out!”
一Katie Bolling, News and Arts & Life Writer

What We Read

“Some might think it’s counterproductive for a news editor to be a lover of YA (Young Adult) science-fiction/fantasy, since the two worlds don’t neatly mesh. To those people I say, “No *insert heart emoji*.” Ever since I was in the sixth grade I’ve thrived in worlds filled with magic, strange creatures, and betrayals, and fortunately, Blood & Honey by Shelby Mahurin ticks most of those boxes. It’s the New York Times and Indie Bestselling sequel to Serpent & Dove (which also earned those same honors), that was released earlier this month. Without spoilers (because I’m many things, but unspeakably evil isn’t one of them), the series follows Louise le Blanc, a young witch on the run from her mother, who’s the witch-queen-incredibly-sadistic-ruler of the Dames Blanches, a sect of witches in the French/Creole-inspired nation of Belterra. Louise and her friend, Cosette Monvoisin, aspire to rob an aristocrat’s townhouse in the beginning of Serpent & Dove, where the pair narrowly escape from the country’s zealous witch-hunting guards, the Chasseurs. Through events I can’t quite get into, Louise finds herself in a complicated situation that forces her to marry one of the Chasseurs, Reid Diggory, in order to hide from her powerful mother. From there, the story becomes the epitome of an escapist fantasy novel, with characters so well-developed that they could actually leap from the page at any given moment; Louise is a fan of singing raunchy tavern songs, much to Reid’s dismay, for example. Blood & Honey opens in the typical precarious situations of a YA sequel, and our gang of a Dames Blanche, Dames Rouge (blood witch), and Chasseurs (among others, but spoilers) find themselves trapped in an expanding world of unforgiving, methodical magic, and new allies that could kill them as quickly as aid them. Even if someone isn’t a fan of fantasy, or reading in general, I am convinced that at least one element of this series will make them smile (complex female character(s), LGBTQ+ inclusion, classic “cinnamon roll” characters, etc.), give them hope, or maybe an insurmountable level of anxiety. It’s all relative, anway. Serpent & Dove and Blood & Honey are the first two books in a trilogy that is set to end sometime next year, and readers can order them from www.bookshop.org, a bookselling site that benefits independent bookstores with every online purchase.” 一Logan Greear, Campus & Community News Section Editor

“For anyone looking for a mostly-feel-good-but-will-also-rip-your-heart-out-in-a-few-scenes kind of story, I’ve found your next read. A bit older than all the aforementioned options, Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian was written in 1981 and earned the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, an annual award given to British children’s authors. Why am I, a college senior, gushing over a children’s book that’s a fourth-grade reading level? Because it’s been my favorite book for almost ten years now, and I may or may not be extremely biased towards it. Good Night, Mr. Tom tells the story of Willie Beech who is evacuated from London and his abusive mother to the English countryside during World War II. There, he is left with Thomas Oakley, a gruff but kind old man who lives alone on the outskirts of the village. While the story is pretty much a slice-of-life story without too high stakes (please note the “pretty much”—it’s there for a reason), the daily adventures of Tom, Willie, and all of Willie’s new friends will keep you completely engrossed. Learning to read, a girl getting into high school, and making new friends are all read as monumental achievements. However, it does have several scenes that will punch you in the gut out of nowhere. I cried when I read this in fourth grade, and I teared up reading it this week. Despite being aimed at upper-elementary through middle school aged children, it is horribly tragic in two scenes in particular (you’ll know what I’m talking about if you read it). Regardless, it overall has a very wholesome and optimistic tone, especially at the very end. Like Serpent & Dove and Blood & Honey, Good Night, Mr. Tom can also be found on www.bookshop.org.”
—Ryleigh Clukey, Website Editor & Copyeditor