Cloud Town

Abrams/Amulet. Apr. 2022. 224p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781419753114.
Gr 9 Up–Cartoonist McCloskey’s debut YA graphic novel is a girl-centered sci-fi story about friendship, self-acceptance, and hard-earned bravery, set in a world threatened by giant monsters called Hurricanes. When a Hurricane destroys Cloud Town High School, the students must temporarily attend Tinker Town High School. Unfortunately, the much richer and more privileged Tinker Town students are often openly hostile to the Cloud Town teens, and among their frequent targets are audacious skateboarder Penelope (nicknamed Pen) and timid wallflower Olive. Pen has just defended Olive from another incident when they witness a Stormcatcher, one of the giant mechanical suits controlled by psychically linked pilots that were created to mitigate the Hurricanes’ destruction, collapse on a building in front of them. Pen and Olive illegally enter the suit to see if they can help the pilot and save the folks trapped underneath. To their surprise, they are able to pilot the suit and get it back to its laboratory home, Care Corp. Care Corp., going against all existing protocols, decides to bring the girls on board as pilots. Pen and Olive must explore what it means to take on adult responsibility, how to be brave and merciful when one feels the opposite, and to what lengths they will go to ensure their community’s safety. McCloskey’s detailed art does a great job of emphasizing the emotional highs and lows of high school and mech combat. The gritty, textured look makes the characters and settings feel real and helps create a seamless transition between reality and the more fantastical elements of this adventure.
VERDICT The emotional story of two friends overcoming personal obstacles against the backdrop of a rollicking giant monster adventure will be a hit with fans of Hannah Templer’s Cosmoknights and Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam.

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