The New Girl

Scholastic/Graphix. (The New Girl: Bk. 1). Jun. 2024. 272p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781338762464.
Gr 4-9–An enchanting, adorable, immersive story of Lia’s emigration from Romania to Montreal, and her first months as “the new kid,” inspired by Calin’s own experiences. Lia turns 13 and navigates learning French, forming friendships, dealing with crushes, and the monthly struggles of her period in a new country. Placed in an international immersion class, Lia befriends “the bilingual girls” from Sri Lanka, China, and New York. Lia loves to draw and joins the school magazine, finding artistic inspiration by the end of the story. Throughout the graphic novel, menstruation-related topics, such as Lia’s first period, dealing with heavy periods, getting a period in class, having a friend check the back of your pants, PE excuse notes from her mom, and mind-numbing cramps, are rendered with nuance and authenticity. Calin’s many artistic strengths are evident in her illustrations of embarrassment, mortification, irritation, and surprise in mangalike panels featuring characters with large, sparkly eyes, blushing cheeks, and freak-out lines. Various languages are portrayed in color-coded speech bubbles, and readers will enjoy Lia and her friends’ evolution in understanding and speaking French and English at school and together. Lia’s changing use of Romanian with her family is also notable. Calin masterfully weaves variation throughout the panels to show full experiences with incredible details in scenery, facial expressions, and color that flow easily. The book is engrossing and spectacular, and Calin perfectly portrays the awe, excitement, awkwardness, and confusion of middle school. Back matter includes a note to readers, glossaries of translations, and acknowledgements.
VERDICT A must-purchase for any and all tweens and teens who are ravenous for lighthearted, absorbing, and authentic coming-of-age, realistic graphic fiction.

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