The rules: “Do not draw too much attention.” And “always look bored.”
Using spare, well-chosen words and muted primary colors, Maclear and Eggenschwiler cleverly weave together story, visual art, and music. Charlotte “Charlie” Noguchi, one of three Asian girls in her school, navigates the everyday, hormonal-driven drama of middle school by these rules until a new, white transfer student, Luka, joins their music class and she is introduced to the opera diva María Callas. As she observes and learns more about these individuals, Charlie is forced to question if it is better to be a nobody or to face criticism and rejection for standing out. The primary colors not only deliberately separate storylines (yellow for spring, blue for the previous fall, and red for María Callas’ time), but also serve as visual cues to highlight things left unsaid in text, such as an empty blue desk or a choice of red lipstick. Quite a bit of music history is explored here as well, as the students learn about different music genres while gearing up for the year-end performance showcase. Other than explicitly pointing out Charlie and her friends as Asian, race and ethnicity are not central to this story. Casual homophobia, however, is touched upon as Luka boldly draws attention and slurs with his long hair, outré fashion, and unselfconscious singing.
Clever and contemplative, with music history readers might find unexpectedly fun. (bibliography) (Graphic fiction. 10-14)