cover image Who Is AC?

Who Is AC?

Hope Larson, illus. by Tintin Pantoja. S&S/Atheneum, $14.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-4424-2650-4

Lin, a zine-writing 15-year-old who’s just moved to a small town, becomes an unwitting Sailor Moon–style superhero, activated by mysterious cellphone messages and visited by a “dispatcher” who nags her until she suits up. Her nemesis is a shadowy villain who possesses a glamorous rich girl in order to snare a boy named Trace. Pantoja’s heavily inked lines hew closely to manga conventions (she also illustrated the Manga Math Mysteries series), with action-packed panel sequences, big eyes, and outsize expressions. Oddly, it’s the teens’ relationships with their parents that are most nuanced. Lin has a gentle, academic, stay-at-home father, while Trace’s parents are harsh toward him but loyal to each other (an older brother’s death is hinted at but left unexplored). Larson’s (Mercury) dialogue veers from clichéd (“Relax,” Lin’s dispatcher tells her. “You’ll know what to do. It’s all in your program”) to certifiably clever: “If you noticed any ways I could, like, improve the whole robbery experience,” says a mask-wearing robber, “I’m totally open to feedback.” Boasting a high proportion of strong, independent girl characters, this book is suitable even for younger readers. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)