A charming effort with a positive message about being true to oneself.

Two young artists seize a chance to showcase their talents in the hopes of pursuing their dreams.

High school senior Noah sews and dreams of designing costumes. Already notorious among peers for making his own clothes and costumes for parties, Noah wants to go to art school and perfect his craft, but his parents are opposed. Despite their objections, Noah applies to his dream school along with their approved, traditional universities. One day he bumps into Azarie, a classmate who is the popular lead cheerleader. She secretly nurtures a love of comic books and aspires to be an actress, to the dismay of her strict, status-conscious parents and friends. Azarie ends up proposing that the two of them collaborate to create a cosplay costume she can wear in a contest, thus showing others who they truly are. While working together, they find a wider community of artists, and a friendship grows—but so does others’ animosity toward their bond. The storyline offers a sweet, albeit familiar, narrative. The protagonists’ main conflict—the disapproval of their parents—reads as a not-very-subtle plot device that would have benefited from more development. However, the illustrations bring life to the graphic novel, particularly when it comes to the characters’ sartorial creativity, demonstrating the range of Noah’s talent. Noah is Black; Azarie is White, and background characters are ethnically diverse.

A charming effort with a positive message about being true to oneself. (Graphic fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952303-23-4

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Maverick

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021


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


Although it may not satisfy as a novel, its characters will no doubt resonate with teen readers who share their struggles...

A new group of students join Mr. Ward’s poetry class in the companion novel to Bronx Masquerade (2003).

A group of black, white, Asian, and Latinx high school students in Mr. Ward’s class practice the art of poetry in preparation for a weekly open-mike reading each Friday. Through poetry, the students navigate their concerns and fears about themselves, their families, and their futures. As they prepare for the class’s culminating event—a poetry slam competition—the students bond and grow more comfortable revealing themselves through their poems. Each student’s story is introduced and explored in rotating first-person chapters. There’s brown (not black) Puerto Rican Darrian, an aspiring journalist who lost his mother to cancer; 16-year-old Jenesis, a blue-eyed, blonde, black girl who worries what will happen when she ages out of the foster-care system at 18; Chinese-American Li, who hides her love of poetry from her parents; African-American Marcel, whose father wasn’t the same when he returned home from prison; and several others. Unfortunately, the characters’ personal struggles remain largely static throughout the novel, and there’s no overarching plot or compelling conflict among them. Much of the dialogue feels forced and doesn’t ring true as the voices of present-day teens; aside from a few poignant moments, the students’ poetry tends to be heavy-handed.

Although it may not satisfy as a novel, its characters will no doubt resonate with teen readers who share their struggles and aspirations. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-24688-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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