Saturday, August 22, 2020

Book Review: Flamer by Mike Curato

Aiden is at boy scout camp for the summer. It's not perfect, but he likes it well enough. It's a heck of a lot better than school, and even though he's a little afraid for his younger siblings back home, he's glad to be out of the house and away from his dad's volatile temper. This summer is especially fraught as he's 14, hormones are raging, he's switching from Catholic school to public school for 9th grade, and while he doesn't consciously realize it yet, it seems he might be gay.

He wants to concentrate on being part of his scout troop, The Flaming Arrows, learning archery and orienteering, building fires and canoeing. His bunkmate, Elias, is especially cool--a football player but one with long hair who listens to Alternative music. Oh, and he's really attractive. Aiden feels bad about his own body (pudgy) and really, really hates being called "faggot" (who wouldn't!?) He detests the communal showers (WHERE DO YOU LOOK?!?!) He misses his best friend and pen pal when he doesn't get letters from her. He makes some friends but that doesn't always make up for the racist remarks (he's half Filipino) and bullying. And the bullying and name calling just makes him worry that high school could be even worse than junior high.

With vivid illustrations, this graphic novel deftly uses just one color (orange) to make its point. I really was reminded of summer camp, of the out-of-school friendships that can save you, of that time to be a different person, to reinvent yourself in a way, even if you can't escape who you are. I really hope there's another book as I want to know if Aiden makes it through okay. I understand this is heavily based on Mr. Curato's own experiences, so I assume he does, but I still would love to follow him further along his path.

This book is published by Henry Holt BYR, a division of Macmillan, my employer.

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