Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki

Published: 2008

Genre: middle grade graphic novel

Length: 150 pages

Setting: stereotypical suburbs in the U.S., present day

Interest: I’m always on the lookout for graphic novels. Bonus when they have a non-white protagonist.

Summary: Emiko is your average 16-year-old (or thereabouts. Her age is never stated, but she’s old enough to get a job). She gets fired from her summer job as a whip girl at the local coffee shop, and ends up babysitting for a nearby family. It looks like her summer will be the worst one ever. But then she finds a flyer for a local Freak Show. After working up her courage, she goes in and is mesmerized, especially by Poppy. Eventually, she decides to be a part of the show, as soon as she can come up with something worthwhile to perform. Her chance comes when she finds a diary at her babysitting written by the wife, who seems to be having second thoughts about marrying her husband.

Final thoughts: A very intriguing story that includes provides a glimpse into several aspects of non-mainstream American culture. First off there’s Emiko, a mixed Japanese/American girl. She’s babysitting for a woman trying to live a straight life, but ends up going back to her girlfriend in NYC. She also becomes part of the Freak scene, which is so far from mainstream that most people don’t know it exists. This is definitely a book aimed at a middle grade or YA audience. It is full of mature themes, like sexuality, peer pressure, drug and alcohol use, and discovering yourself, but there are no mature scenes (nothing worse than a kiss or people holding bottles of beer). So, a younger kid could read it and enjoy it (like Miss Adventure who read the book several times), but they won’t get much of the message of the book.

The art is black and white and realistically portrays the characters and the environment. Most of the backgrounds of the panels are pretty plain, until Emiko gets to the Factory where the Freak Show is held. There you see lots of craziness in the background, which is only appropriate for the setting.

Title comes from: Emiko is the main character and she becomes a superstar of sorts on the stage at the Freak Show

If you’re interested in purchasing the book, you can click on the cover image to follow an Amazon affiliate link to the book and thanks for supporting my blog!


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