The Tryout

Two-time Newbery Honoree Christina Soontornvat (All Thirteen; A Wish in the Dark) authors the heartfelt and hilarious graphic memoir The Tryout, illustrated by Joanna Cacao.

Starting middle school can be confusing--new faces, older kids and a new set of social rules everyone else seems to know. Christina, a Thai American girl growing up in Grangeview, Tex., has friends but yearns for popularity. She believes being popular would mean she is the same as everyone else--no one would make fun of her lunches or mispronounce her last name. Her best friend, Iranian American Megan, agrees. Megan is getting serious enough about her love of gymnastics and tumbling to consider competing. As a natural outgrowth of this passion--for Megan, that is--the girls decide to try out for the cheerleading team. Perhaps, if they make it, their popularity dreams will come true.

Soontornvat's memoir is cringe-worthy in the best possible way. She excels at lightheartedly and earnestly recalling all those awkward, embarrassing middle school moments. The Tryout is brought to life with gorgeous illustration from self-taught comic artist Joanna Cacao. Cacao's layout of consistent, unbroken panels and occasional squiggly-lined dream/flashback panels keeps the story flowing and well-paced. Soontornvat juxtaposes humor and fun with scenes of racism and microaggressions, showing how Christina's friendship with Megan is successful in part because the girls understand one another through shared experiences. The Tryout is an inspiring and insightful graphic memoir for anyone who simply wants to fit in. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer

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