Review of Alterations

Alterations Alterations
by Ray Xu; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School    Union Square    240 pp.
1/24    9781454945840    $24.99
Paper ed.  9781454945857    $14.99

Kevin Lee, a 1990s Chinese Canadian boy, struggles with being invisible among his peers, but somehow lands in the spotlight at the most embarrassing moments. When he brings preserved eggs to middle school for lunch, he becomes a laughingstock and gains the nickname “Egg Boy.” Then in gym class he throws a basketball and accidentally hits the substitute teacher, knocking out a tooth. His parents’ divorce doesn’t make his life any easier: his older sister resents taking on extra responsibilities as she prepares for college, while his mother barely makes ends meet running an alterations shop. When Popo, his maternal grandmother, arrives from China, she reminds him that “today’s pain is tomorrow’s strength.” Xu’s coming-of-age graphic novel follows Kevin’s ups and downs as he strives to fit in at school, get along with his sister, and help his mom. He takes refuge in a fantasy world of comics depicted by lively, action-packed panels—a world that later comes to life at an amusement park. Amusing facial expressions and gestures capture the distinctive persona of each character and their interactions. Themes of sacrifice, survival, and love abound in a multidimensional story of navigating the bumpy terrain of family tensions and resilience across generations.

From the January/February 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jerry Dear

Jerry Dear, information strategist at the San Francisco Public Library, also teaches in the Library Information Technology program at City College of San Francisco. He contributes to the blogs for APALA, Hyphen Magazine, and No Flying No Tights.

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