My Riot

Oni. Sept. 2020. 184p. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781620107768.
Gr 9 Up–Seventeen-year-old Val, who is white, is losing her passion for ballet, and pressure from her instructor to lose weight in unhealthy ways only makes things worse. One evening a riot erupts near the ice cream shop where Val works. Her store is vandalized; as she’s showered with broken glass, the chaos ignites something inside of her. With help from new friends, she breaks out of her regimented life performing classical ballet and finds happiness in the boisterous world of punk rock. The art is solid; the linework, strong facial expressions, and spare use of color convey both the exacting ballet settings and the energetic punk rock scenes. However, Val’s journey feels out of step, especially given the context of real-life current protests. The demonstrations (defined as “gangs of Latino kids…[taking] to the streets”) were sparked by a Black female police officer shooting a Salvadoran man at a Cinco de Mayo fest, but the larger racial context is glossed over as the protests are framed merely as a way to propel a white teen into a journey of self-discovery. Val finds the events magical and exciting—as shards of glass fly, she thinks, “Suddenly Tinkerbell is sprinkling me with fairy dust.... I’ll be able to fly soon, and I’ll never have to grow up.” The plot contains other bumps. Val and her friends are shocked to meet a Black person who doesn’t fit their preconceptions; Val’s mother initially has no connection to Val, then inexplicably understands her deeply.
VERDICT Narrative missteps detract from a story of making bold moves to find one’s place in the world.

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