Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

illus. by Rosemary Valero-O'Connell. 304p. First Second. May 2019. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781250312846; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781626722590.
Gr 9 Up—Frederica Riley's tall, confident, and effortlessly cool girlfriend Laura Dean is the most popular girl in school. Laura breaks Freddy's heart over and over again, but Freddy still takes her back each time. Doodle, Freddy's BFF, introduces her to Seek-Her, a mysterious medium who echoes what Freddy's friends have been saying: stay away from Laura. But Freddy continues to sacrifice friendships for the sake of a destructive relationship, and consulting advice columnist Anna Vice may be the teen's last chance to listen to reason. Valero-O'Connell's artwork is the best part of this graphic novel. Soft, sweeping lines emphasize Freddy's emotional torment, the unconventional paneling lending itself to the tone of the story. It's not easy for someone in a toxic relationship to be objective, but Freddy manages not only to help herself but also to be there for Doodle, who arguably has the biggest problems of the entire novel. In fact, teenage Doodle's relationship with an adult is glossed over and should have been addressed. However, Tamaki and Valero-O'Connell do bring to life an artful narrative of relationships—old, new, harmful, and healing—and what happens when you learn to navigate them.
VERDICT It's frustrating to watch Freddy flounder, making bad decision after bad decision, but there's something endearingly vulnerable about her beautifully drawn experiences that will resonate with teenagers. Consider for medium and large collections.

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