Roll for Initiative

Mad Cave Studios. (The Last Session: Bk. 1). Jul. 2022. 136p. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781952303197.
Gr 8 Up–The first meeting of a Gender Sexuality Alliance turns into a long-running RPG campaign when the high school club’s president is a no-show and five members fight boredom by playing Dice & Deathtraps. Four years later, the college students reunite to finish the quest and share post-college plans, but an interloper throws off the dynamics, and tensions rise in the game and in life. Lana is jealous of the camaraderie between others and causes drama over newcomer Cassandra, but equal time is allotted to the full cast and their issues—pressures of parents and grades, gender identity and relationships, and college and career choices. These conflicts are mirrored in the D&D game, which makes up half the story, although the RPG scenes seem extraneous. The game is a device used to connect the students, but it would have been plausible for one of the GSA members to take the helm and the intended meeting to proceed. Characters representing diversity of gender, sexuality, body type, and ethnicity are introduced with pronouns and have nuanced discussions about self-discovery. Race is not discussed directly, but all are BIPOC. A second volume is planned, but given the adult characters and resolved conflict, retaining young readers may prove challenging.
VERDICT Although the characters are older than is typical for YA, this graphic novel has middle school appeal; there is one use of a curse word in this otherwise clean but formulaic tale. Recommended where supplements on gender identity are needed and where RPGs are popular.

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