cover image The Tryout

The Tryout

Christina Soontornvat, illus. by Joanna Cacao. Graphix, $12.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-338-74126-1

Soontornvat (The Last Mapmaker) and illustrator Cacao artfully depict cheerleading drama and middle school woes in this moving graphic memoir. Christina lives with her Thailand-born father and white mother in a small Texan town, where they own the first Asian restaurant in the county. Her gregarious father, “always the center of attention,” makes self-deprecating jokes in order to fit in, humor that Christina replicates to score points with white classmates, infuriating her Iranian American best friend, Megan. Auditioning together for the cheerleading squad, Christina and Megan face racist remarks from classmates (a bully repeatedly calls Christina “rice girl”). Nevertheless, the tweens endure a long and difficult training, finding a true passion for the sport leading up to their final tryout: performing a routine in front of the entire seventh grade, which votes to determine who makes the squad. Soontornvat’s denouement is genuinely nail-biting, and the girls’ earnest love for cheerleading is infectious, despite their experiences with outward prejudice. Via emotive close-ups, Cacao confidently conveys the girls’ persistence, fluidly injecting their athletic pursuits with lively energy using bright color palettes and varied character design. An author’s note and photographs conclude. Ages 8–12. Agent: (for Soontornvat) Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, Red Fox Literary; (for Cacao) Tara Gilbert, Jennifer De Chiara Literary. (Sept.)