cover image Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms

Cheer Up: Love and Pompoms

Crystal Frasier, illus. by Val Wise. Oni, $14.99 paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-620-10955-7

This sharply observed graphic novel overturns high school archetypes to present a nuanced portrait of queer cheerleaders. Frasier seamlessly integrates the backstories of Annie, a chubby, white, sarcastic brainiac, and Beatrice (known as Bebe), a Latinx-cued teen who rose to school popularity as the state’s first trans cheerleader and who worries about putting people out. The former childhood friends reacquaint when Annie, needing extracurriculars, reluctantly tries out for cheerleading. The team tries to support Bebe, but as Annie notes, “they’re treating you like a mascot, not a person.” Meanwhile, Bebe’s overprotective parents make their support of her transition contingent on getting good grades. Bebe admits she feels pressure to be perfect to avoid conflict; she’d rather brush off passes from creepy schoolmate Jonah than confront him. As Bebe schools Annie in being a team player, and Annie tutors Bebe in history and self-advocacy, their friendship evolves into a romance and leads to a memorable homecoming night. Wise’s fine-lined illustrations add to the novel’s specificity of character, from the rose tattoo emblazoned on Annie’s mother’s shoulder to Bebe’s koala-shaped phone case. Sweet without being saccharine, this short work is a wise, funny look at the distance between queer rights and real acceptance. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)