Review of Flamer

by Mike Curato; illus. by the author
Middle School, High School    Godwin/Holt    368 pp.    g
9/20    978-1-62779-641-5    $25.99
Paper ed.  978-1-250-75614-5    $17.99

Aiden is not looking forward to starting public high school in the fall; his Catholic schooling heretofore has had its challenges — “jerks” — but at least it had become familiar. A summer at Boy Scout camp provides a break from his squabbling parents and a chance to breathe (“Everything is so quiet” in the woods) before school starts. Not so fast: camp also has bullies, whose taunts referencing Aiden’s presumed sexual orientation are only exacerbated by Aiden’s growing love for another camper, the athletic and sweet-natured Elias. Grownup LGBTs will know exactly what Aiden is going through, but this book speaks so well to those kids currently undergoing the ordeal. The graphic novel takes its time to fully pull readers into Aiden’s psyche and his setting, which provides the pleasures of summer and friendship and nature along with the rewards of Scout activities. (Orienteering!) The drawing is expertly cartooned, and the palette is black and white with occasional, and then increasing, daubs and splashes of red whenever passions — of many kinds — ride high. The variation of small, storytelling panels and full-page and double-page spreads for big moments is wonderfully effective, and the climax — Aiden in a literal dark night of the soul in the outdoor chapel — is high drama indeed, emotionally powerful, proudly and extravagantly spiritual (and as Catholic as any Graham Greene epiphany). He comes through it to have one perfect day at camp to sustain him going forward. If you will forgive the editorial intrusion, I wish I had had this book fifty years ago.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Roger Sutton
Roger Sutton

Editor Emeritus Roger Sutton was editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc., from 1996-2021. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his MA in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a BA from Pitzer College in 1978.

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Wayne Damon

"Flamer's" art gives it immediacy and force, but never overshadows the story's immense heart. Yes, and I wish I had had it decades ago, too.

Posted : Dec 17, 2020 12:14



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