Generation Misfits

Farrar. Jun. 2021. 352p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780374313746.
Gr 5 Up–Eleven-year-old Japanese American student Millie Nakakura is starting her first day of school at Brightside Academy, a K–12 magnet school for visual and performing arts. The day gets off to a rough start when Millie, a former homeschooler, is late to several of her classes, spills her lunch on the most popular girl in school, and struggles to make friends. Spotting a flyer in the hallway, Millie shows up to J-Club, a Japanese cultural appreciation group. There, she meets Tina Suzuki (Zuki for short) and the two become fast friends. Hoping to increase membership, Zuki and Millie hold open auditions to turn J-Club into a cover band of their favorite J-pop girl group, Generation Love. Soon they are joined by nonbinary student Ashley Seo, shy theater student Rainbow Chan, and popular dancer Luna Acevedo. The band of self-described misfits sets their sights on trying out for the Pop Showcase, a school talent show, but along the way they form lasting bonds of friendship. Millie struggles to balance schoolwork, J-Club, and practicing the flute for the school band with her parents’ high expectations of excellence. Meanwhile, Zuki begins seeing the school counselor regularly for problems related to her home life, Rainbow is tormented by bullies, and Luna and Ashley must face a tough conversation stemming from a misunderstanding in their past to resolve tension in the present. The novel’s strength lies in writing that respects the emotional lives of adolescents, and in the realistic and honest portrayal of young people supporting one another on their journey to becoming their true selves.
VERDICT This character-centered coming-of-age novel features authentic dialogue with a fully realized cast of diverse characters, and celebrates the power, importance, and value of friendship. Highly recommended for school and public library collections.

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