cover image Virtually Me

Virtually Me

Chad Morris and Shelly Brown, illus. by Garth Bruner. Shadow Mountain, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-63993-053-1

Three seventh graders attending a virtual-reality school amid the Covid-19 pandemic reinvent themselves through their avatars in this thought-provoking read from previous collaborators Morris and Brown (Squint). Bradley Horvath, a white-cued kid who endured fatphobic bullying during in-person schooling, channels his private obsession with K-pop to present himself as pink-haired dancing Daebak (Korean for awesome) upon starting at Balderstein Virtual Junior High. Popular half-white and half-Palestinian Edelsabeth “Edelle” Dahan-Miller is an unwilling student, forced by her mother to use a plain-looking persona after an obsession with her placement on a prettiness-rating website at her former school eroded her mental health. Blond charismatic jock Hunter Athanasopoulos’s avatar is based on his appearance before a recent onset of alopecia. The three students previously knew each other IRL, but now they don’t recognize one another beyond their assumed identities. This discerning examination of middle school social dynamics provides emotional and insightful throughways to difficult conversations surrounding mental health, friendship, and perception of self via three empathetic protagonists striving to fit in and learning that it’s okay to be oneself. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–11. (Feb.)