This exuberant, action-packed YA fantasy graphic novel adds an inventive culinary twist to a magical boarding-school story.
The land of Gourmand "is full of monsters," most of whom "would just as soon eat you as look at you." Hana Ozawa is determined to become a warrior chef--one of Gourmand's "greatest protectors... and its most talented culinary expert." Hana and her best friend, Bobby Binh, follow their dreams to the Gourmand Academy of Culinary Combat, where students learn how to battle monsters and then turn them into five-star meals. Unfortunately, being a warrior chef isn't just about combat and cooking; Hana also must contend with an enigmatic mentor, a bully from her past, and a distractingly attractive rival student.
Author Jordan Alsaqa and illustrator Vivian Truong (The Awakening Storm) celebrate the culinary traditions of immigrant communities through Hana and Bobby, whose parents immigrated to Gourmand from the island countries of Hidaki and Trang, respectively. Gourmand Academy is inhabited by a diverse cast of characters with differing skin tones and body types who create fantastical meals inspired by real cuisine. Truong's dynamic manga-inspired art brings excitement to fight scenes as well as those featuring characters cooking up delectable dishes. Her striking portrayals of different monster species can be menacing, humorous, or adorable, and are as distinct as any Pokémon creature. Cooking with Monsters is a delightful concoction of imaginative, queer normative worldbuilding, thrilling action, and endearing characters. Fans of shōnen manga series like Naruto and My Hero Academia and magical school stories should enjoy this rollicking graphic novel. --Alanna Felton, freelance reviewer