I Am Not Starfire

DC Comics. Jul. 2021. 184p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781779501264.
Gr 7 Up–Short, chubby, white high school student Mandy feels like the opposite of her mom, Starfire, a superhero from the planet Tamaran who frequently graces magazine covers; Mandy’s powers consist of making it through the school day, alongside her best friend Lincoln, the son of Vietnamese immigrants. When deadpan, goth Mandy is paired with her crush, popular Claire, for a project, she wonders if Claire might return her feelings—or if she’s only being friendly to meet Starfire in person. But Mandy’s problems enter the life-and-death realm when her mother’s sister arrives, intent on wiping out any rivals to her power. Tamaki uses a superhero fantasy tale to tell a universal story of growing up and finding one’s identity. Lincoln and Mandy face similar challenges; they’re both the children of immigrants, technically. Yoshitani keeps the visual narrative lively with creative use of perspective and color; scenes from Mandy’s childhood are framed in pink, while important characters are associated with signature colors (Lincoln’s teal-framed glasses, Claire’s orange fingernails and barrettes). One bold double-page spread appears ripped down the middle, with Mandy and her mother on opposing sides, heightening the conflict.
VERDICT Filled with coming-of-age themes such as first crushes (and kisses), identity building, and fear of failure, this comic deserves a place on every teen graphic novel shelf alongside contemporary classics like Noelle Stevenson’s Nimona.

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