Wholesome and heartwarming.

Two high school cheerleaders learn from each other while falling for one another.

Annie and Bebe were close until Bebe suddenly became popular, a change that happened to coincide with her gender transition. Now uber-academic, anti-social Annie needs some extracurriculars to beef up her college applications, and Bebe advocates to bring her onto the cheerleading team in the face of universal opposition. Brash, assertive Annie learns teamwork from people-pleasing Bebe, who in exchange learns to stand up for herself. Rather than the coming-out process, the story addresses some of the more subtle, everyday challenges of being transgender, and it tackles these themes simply and sweetly. It shows how being a trans girl can mean constant behavior policing, even from one’s closest friends and family. Bebe’s parents are supportive, but they see transitioning as a luxury that can be taken away: They tell her that she is not a “normal girl,” and they fear to let her out of their sight. The cheerleading squad members use Bebe for progressive points, but they don’t always act like real friends. Even Annie, who wants to stick up for Bebe, projects what she thinks is best for her. The art is cute and expressive, with tons of personality in the characters’ faces and bodies. The supporting cast is diverse not only racially, but in body type and gender expression as well. Annie reads as White; Bebe is cued as Latinx.

Wholesome and heartwarming. (Graphic fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 10, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62010-955-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Oni Press

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021


A thoughtful, relationship-driven story.

A high school girl is unhappy about starting over in a new town and school, but she finds solace at the local mall.

It’s 2003, and 15-year-old, proudly out bisexual Liv Holme is struggling after her family’s move. Navigating high school is hard enough, especially since being bullied at her old school after the other girls found out about her crush on Angelina Jolie has left Liv feeling defensive. On top of that, her parents’ marriage is in trouble, and her father is gone a lot. But Liv enjoys hanging out at the mall where her mother works and where she meets some fellow goths who go to her school. Poetry lover Liv also receives attention and support from Mr. Trent, her English teacher: He goes out of his way to compliment her, gives her a copy of Lolita, and chats with her online outside of school hours. Over time, Mr. Trent’s behavior makes Liv increasingly uncomfortable, and she struggles with intense feelings she doesn’t know how to handle. Liv’s emotional struggles, vividly shown in the expressive art, will feel relatable to many readers. Leth’s clean, uncluttered illustrations expertly transport readers back to early 2000s suburbia through details such as technology, fashion, pop-culture references, and mall storefronts. Sousa’s muted color palette adds to the feeling of nostalgia. Liv and most other characters read white.

A thoughtful, relationship-driven story. (Graphic fiction. 12-17)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781534476950

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery.

Time travel brings a girl closer to someone she’s never known.

Sixteen-year-old Kiku, who is Japanese and white, only knows bits and pieces of her family history. While on a trip with her mother to San Francisco from their Seattle home, they search for her grandmother’s childhood home. While waiting for her mother, who goes inside to explore the mall now standing there, a mysterious fog envelops Kiku and displaces her to a theater in the past where a girl is playing the violin. The gifted musician is Ernestina Teranishi, who Kiku later confirms is her late grandmother. To Kiku’s dismay, the fog continues to transport her, eventually dropping her down next door to Ernestina’s family in a World War II Japanese American internment camp. The clean illustrations in soothing browns and blues convey the characters’ intense emotions. Hughes takes inspiration from her own family’s story, deftly balancing complicated national history with explorations of cultural dislocation and biracial identity. As Kiku processes her experiences, Hughes draws parallels to President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and the incarceration of migrant children. The emotional connection between Kiku and her grandmother is underdeveloped; despite their being neighbors, Ernestina appears briefly and feels elusive to both Kiku and readers up to the very end. Despite some loose ends, readers will gain insights to the Japanese American incarceration and feel called to activism.

A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery. (photographs, author’s note, glossary, further reading) (Graphic historical fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-19353-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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