MG – The Tryout

Soontornvat, Christina, and Cacao, Joanna. The Tryout. Graphix, 2022.  978-1-338-74126-1. 255 p. $12.99. Grades 5-7.

Christina and her best friend Megan are about to embark on a journey that will be certain to change their middle school years for the better: cheerleading tryouts! As two of the only students of color in their school, they are desperate to fit in – and what better way than to join the squad? Christina and Megan know it is not always easy to be different in suburban Texas, but cheerleading will change that. After all, the cheerleaders are the face of the school and being in the squad is sure to boost their popularity. When Megan decides to pair with someone else for the first round of tryouts, Christina tries not to let it bother her, especially after they both make it to the next round. Unfortunately, the second round of tryouts means performing in front of the entire seventh grade! As Christina practices for the big day, she thinks back to some of the comments others have said that made her feel like an outsider. Some teachers refuse to learn how to pronounce her last name. Classmates ask her if she is worried about going to heaven since she is Buddhist and not a baptized Christian. Tobin, the school bully, calls Christina  “rice girl.” To perform her best at the tryouts, Christina must block out all of the negativity and focus on what is most important to her, although she is about to find out that cheerleading is not what is most important to her after all. 

THOUGHTS: Based on the author’s own experiences as a teenager, The Tryout is a heartwarming story that will resonate with anyone that has ever been a middle school student, no matter what color their skin. This graphic novel will circulate well in libraries where The Babysitters Club and Click series fly off the shelves.

Graphic Novel          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

YA – Why We Fly

Jones, Kimberly, and Gilly Segal. Why We Fly. Sourcebooks Fire, 2021. 978-1-492-67892-2. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

With a shared love for cheerleading, Eleanor (“Leni”) and Chanel (“Nelly”) have been long time best friends. Continuing to recover from a bad fall and concussion, Leni attends physical therapy in preparation for senior season. When Leni, a White, Jewish girl, is named captain over the more deserving Nelly, a Black girl who has stepped up during Leni’s injury, the friendship begins to splinter. Since she’s become interested in star quarterback Three, Leni doesn’t seem to notice how hurt Nelly feels. Nelly, meanwhile, has her own pressures to cope with and does so by making some questionable choices. Leni struggles to reign in the team and feel like a true captain. Then in support of a professional football player who is from their Atlanta, Georgia high school, Leni convinces the cheer team to take a knee during a game. The repercussions ripple through their community, impacting each character differently. Told in alternating voices by author team Jones and Segal (I’m Not Dying with You Tonight, 2019), this novel tackles social issues in a new perspective from those who are on the sidelines. 

THOUGHTS: This novel addresses how friends, despite similar interests and history, may grow apart. Told amongst a contemporary backdrop with racial justice at the center, Why We Fly will be popular where similar books are enjoyed.

Realistic Fiction           Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

YA – Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms

Frasier, Crystal, and Val Wise, illustrator. Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms. Oni Press, 2021. 978-1-620-10955-7. 128 p. $14.99. Grades 7-10.

Annie Ginter is a stand-out student, but her “lopsided” transcript lacks clubs, sports, and other extracurriculars. In an effort to improve Annie’s teamwork skills, her mom encourages her to go out for cheerleading. Beatrice (“Bebe”) is a very popular, people-pleasing trans girl. Her parents only will allow her to continue her transition if she maintains excellent grades. The two girls, who were close friends as children, become reluctant allies as they realize that they can help each other with their respective problems. Annie tutors Bebe in history, while Bebe assists with Annie’s physical conditioning and interpersonal skills. As they spend more time together, a romance blossoms. This impressive graphic novel delivers a fresh spin on an opposites-attract story arc, and illustrator Val Wise depicts each character in the diverse ensemble cast with unique details and a distinct personality. Cheer Up also addresses issues such as consent, boundaries, agency, and microaggressions organically within the storyline

THOUGHTS: A sports angle, a very Gen Z romance, and a Homecoming Day to remember make this a widely appealing graphic novel!

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD