A cautionary tale about male sexual entitlement.
Filipina Mariam’s mother moves them to Calgary after an incident that started with Mariam and a friend being catcalled and ended with the friend’s rape. At her new school, Mariam quickly bonds with Jamaican Tya over their nerdy hobbies—they share a love of comics, and Tya introduces Mariam to Japanese anime and manga. Mariam and Tya plan on going to a local anime convention dressed up as favorite characters. But when a family wedding prevents Tya from going, she pressures conservative Mariam to wear the skimpy costume Tya made for herself. Worse, Mariam’s overprotective mother has given permission for Mariam to go only if Tya is with her. Mariam digs herself in deep with lies but has a great time and meets a lot of nice people—until one of them turns manipulative, controlling, and sexually aggressive. The text waffles on motive—do his actions stem from a cosplay delusion, or is this his manipulation technique—but condemns his actions all the same. While there’s an unmistakable after-school–special quality to the plot, the messages are solid: gifts don’t come with obligations, and clothing doesn’t justify attacks. Despite the extended setup, the book moves briskly to a tidy conclusion.
Uneven though worthy in message. (Fiction. 12-18)