Review of Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me
by Mariko Tamaki; illus. by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell
High School    First Second/Roaring Brook    298 pp.
5/19    978-1-250-31284-6    $24.99
Paper ed.  978-1-62672-259-0    $17.99

This relatable, heart-wrenching, and often funny graphic novel opens with seventeen-year-old Frederica (“Freddy”) Riley’s email to advice columnist Anna Vice. “For almost the past year I’ve been in love with a girl named Laura Dean. Which is the hardest thing I’ve ever been. Because…Laura Dean…keeps breaking up with me.” That self-absorbed, thoughtless Laura Dean is an utterly unsuitable partner for our tender-hearted protagonist is apparent four pages in — but so is Laura Dean’s charismatic appeal. Freddy is so consumed with seeking answers (from Anna Vice; from new potential crush Vi; even from a fortuneteller) as to why Laura Dean keeps breaking up with her and what to do about it that she completely misses what’s been happening in best friend Doodle’s life, at a time when Doodle needs her most. Freddy’s insightful and painfully honest first-person narration, in the form of her journal entry–like emails to Anna, is balanced by dialogue full of witty banter and warm moments of friendship among Freddy’s supportive, queer-centric Berkeley community of friends and mentors (all of whom urge Freddy to forget Laura Dean and find someone who deserves her). Black-and-white panel illustrations with pink accents provide additional characterization and feature a cast diverse in race, gender expression, and body type. By the time Anna Vice writes back near the story’s end, Freddy is well on her way to finding her own solution — one readers will cheer.

From the July/August 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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