Sibling dynamics are at the heart of Jose Pimienta’s cleverly titled middle grade graphic novel, Twin Cities. Fraternal “Lu-Lu” twins Louisa Teresa and Luis Fernando Sosa opt to attend different middle schools, on different sides of the U.S. / Mexico border that divides Mexicali and Calexico. Teresa, who is very focused on her education and future opportunities, gets up extra early and spends long hours on homework in order to succeed at her Catholic school in Calexico, California. Fernando prefers the familiarity of his local school in Mexicali. The siblings grow apart as Teresa establishes her own identity with a new set of school friends. Fernando, meanwhile, is befriended by another boy who may lead him down a dangerous path of dealing illegal drugs. Bickering between siblings gets serious when Teresa discovers her brother’s secret, and he accuses her of being a “pocha” (abandoning her culture to assimilate on the U.S. side). Author/illustrator Pimienta employs side-by-side page spreads to portray the daily experiences of each twin. It’s also a great tool for depicting the varying characteristics of a city divided by an international border. Pimienta’s “Notes on a Particular Word” provide background on their decision to use the pejorative term “pocha” in the book.
THOUGHTS: Twin Cities is full of vibrant colors, authentic details, and relatable sibling tension. It’s one of many recent, outstanding graphic novels for middle grade readers that is not to be missed!
Graphic Novel Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD
Twin siblings Fernando and Teresa choose to go to two different schools for 7th grade, with Fernando staying in Mexicali, the Mexican town where the family lives, and Teresa choosing to commute with a classmate across the border each day and attend school in Calexico, California. The new school year does not go as smoothly as the twins hoped; Fernando feels alone without his sister and struggles to find healthy friendships, while Teresa strives for academic excellence but feels like her family doesn’t understand how hard she works to maintain both her American school life and her Mexican home life. Eventually they both realize that the family bond they share is stronger and more important than any individual problems they experience, and they begin to support each other in this new stage of their lives.
THOUGHTS: The twins in this graphic novel cope with all the difficulties of adolescence in middle school throughout this compelling graphic novel. Issues such as making new friends, bullying, exposure to drug use (although neither sibling uses drugs personally), and tensions with parents are all part of the story, but the overarching message is very positive and the twins learn and grow from the problems they face throughout the school year. The illustrations are bright, engaging, and really evoke the range of emotions the characters experience during the story. This is an excellent addition to collections where graphic novels and realistic fiction, especially with Latinx characters, are popular.
Graphic Novel Erin Faulkner, Cumberland Valley SD