The Tryout: A Graphic Novel

Scholastic/Graphix. Sept. 2022. 272p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781338741308. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781338741261.
Gr 5-8–Christina Soontornvat starts 7th grade without any classes alongside her best friend, Megan. With a dad who’s Thai and a mom who’s white American, she feels like an outsider in many ways, whether due to fashion, Thai lunches, love of fantasy fiction, or having a last name that teachers fumble. The school malcontent, Tobin, calls her “rice girl” among other racist jabs. Christina and Megan still hang out, though, and find shared purpose in cheerleader tryouts. Megan becomes a quick star with the cheerleading squad, leading Christina to feel insecure about their friendship. Soontornvat’s lived and emotional experiences come through loud and clear across several characters in this graphic memoir, including Megan’s backstory growing up Iranian American and both girls’ family histories of immigration to America. Thai customs are demonstrated during a scene at a Thai Buddhist temple, and Christina’s parents run a Chinese-style restaurant. Christina is eventually able to see the upsides of growing up in Texas despite setbacks from those who stereotype her. Cacao’s manga-inspired artwork captures every nuanced emotion, from the nauseating stress of tryouts to lingering regret over hurtful words that can’t be unsaid. The student body of Christina’s middle school appears to be mostly white, with some racial diversity in crowd scenes. An afterword by Soontornvat includes reflections on her youth and how she decided her story was worth telling.
VERDICT Readers of this empowering graphic memoir will want to invite Christina to sit at their table to share food, stories, and the secrets to self-confidence.

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