Review of The Tryout

The Tryout
by Christina Soontornvat; illus. by Joanna Cacao; color by Amanda Lafrenais
Middle School    Graphix/Scholastic    272 pp.    g
11/22    978-1-338-74130-8    $24.99
Paper ed.  978-1-338-74126-1    $12.99

Soontornvat shares an intimate glimpse into her youth in this coming-of-age graphic memoir. As one of the only Asian American students in her small-town Texas middle school, she endures the typical experiences of children of immigrants in a white, homogenous town: mispronunciation of a “foreign” name; teasing and disgust around “smelly” packed lunches; the reduction of one’s identity to “rice girl.” Fortunately, Christina has a best friend in fellow outsider Megan, whose father is from Iran. Christina and Megan both want desperately to be chosen for the school’s cheerleading squad, and Soontornvat immerses readers in their months of intense practice, shown in the dynamic cartoony illustrations. Both girls ace the tryout, but neither makes it; as a heartbroken Christina muses, maybe everyone saw them as just “too different.” By pushing herself to try new activities such as Impromptu Speaking (and with support from family, friends, and the “uncles” at her parents’ Thai restaurant), she begins to grow more confident, deriving strength from her community. Here, she shares her story: a “story that needed to be told” for a “young person who needed to read it.”

From the November/December 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Gabi Kim Huesca

Gabi Kim Huesca is a librarian at the Fairfax County Public Library. She holds a master's degree in library and information science from the University of Maryland.

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