cover image Flamer


Mike Curato. Holt/Godwin, $25.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-2507-5614-5

Before transitioning from a private Catholic middle school to a public high school, Aiden Navarro, 14, wants to enjoy Boy Scout summer camp. As in school, however, Aiden can’t escape the things he’s so often been bullied for: his weight, his Filipino heritage, and his effeminate voice. He endures relentless taunts rooted in toxic masculinity from his camp peers for these things and the way he always seems to act differently than others—in one memorable moment, Aiden spontaneously riffs a Valley girl rendition of a campfire song. As Aiden feels true friendship with pen pal Violet and explores his growing feelings for tentmate Elias (“Gay boys like other boys. I HATE boys. They’re mean,” Aiden asserts) and his religious upbringing, his sense of isolation compounds. Through straightforward, thick-lined art, Curato interweaves surrealistic, emotionally charged moments, as when Aiden’s emotionally abusive father assails his family as a large talking head. Throughout the story, the color red coalesces around fires literal and figurative, as when a camper pushes Aiden to a point of volcanic rage. Emotional and raw, Curato’s story plummets Aiden deep into despair, including suicidal ideation, juxtaposing powerful moments of burning, fiery hope. Ages 14–up. [em]Agent: Brenda Bowen, the Book Group. (Sept.) [/em]