cover image Alterations


Ray Xu. Union Square, $24.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-454-94584-0; $14.99 paper ISBN 978-1-4549-4585-7

In 1990s Toronto, life for Chinese Canadian, comic book–loving middle schooler Kevin Lee is as tumultuous as the roller coaster at his favorite theme park, Thrill Planet. Kevin’s father recently left the family, his mother works long hours as a tailor, and Popo, his grandmother, is “too loud, says weird things, and smells like old people.” At school, Kevin hangs out with a group of boys known as “the Asians” and resents feeling invisible—until he becomes infamous as “Egg Boy” after bringing an egg dish to school for lunch. Even his crush seems to dislike him. Popo advises him to “take ownership” of the situation, but it’s not as easy as simply claiming the name Egg Boy; it requires taking risks and being as brave as the characters in his favorite comic, Star Odysseys. A school trip to Thrill Planet is exactly the chance he needs. In this cathartic graphic novel debut, Xu renders Kevin and his family with lighthearted flair, depicting them as abundantly expressive characters who each sport giant specs. Much of the protagonists’ charm stems from the fact that they all complain loudly (and legitimately) about their own plight while tending to one another’s woes with humor and tenderness. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)