What would you do for a lifetime pass to your favorite theme park? Maybe come up with a seemingly foolproof plan to ensure you and your friends get such passes? Jackie Chavez concocts a brilliant scheme to do exactly that in Lifetime Passes, written by Terry Blas with art by Claudia Aguirre.
Jackie lives with her tía Gina, working alongside her at the Valley Care Living Retirement Home. Ever since Jackie’s parents were deported, her relationship with her aunt has been her constant. The retirement home isn’t glamorous, but luckily Jackie has an escape: Kingdom Adventure. She and her friends spend all their free time at the theme park, a world of fantasy and magic. It was where Jackie’s parents took her as a child and told her that she could be anything, be anyone.
But theme parks are expensive and Kingdom Adventure is no exception. Jackie’s aunt can no longer afford to renew her season pass, leaving her with no way to get in and no place to go once the summer is over. She’s devastated until she overhears some of the park employees one afternoon. If a member of your party dies while you’re in the park, everyone else in the party receives a free lifetime pass, a way for the company to avoid any legal troubles. How convenient that Jackie works at a place full of elderly people!
Jackie creates a new program to use the residents of the home for their advantage. Senior Time Outreach Program, or S.T.O.P., gives the group of friends a chance to take different members of the home to Kingdom Adventure for a day outing. It’s a hit! The seniors love getting out and Jackie finds herself bonding with Phyllis, who has a lifetime of stories from her years working in the entertainment industry and a special connection to the theme park itself.
As readers spend the summer with Jackie and her friends, both old and new, more about Jackie’s parents and her struggles to fit in come out as her relationship with Phyllis blossoms. Phyllis encourages Jackie to embrace her adversity, to become stronger, and to force herself to grow. A girlfriend won’t necessarily be what makes Jackie happy, it will be herself and all the relationships she values in her life.
The book also tackles the often uncomfortable subject of elder care, through the retirement home and Jackie’s relationships with its residents. For readers watching older folks in their life move onto the next stage of life, this book helps them deal and understand those very feelings.
Lifetime Passes features characters with a number of different backgrounds, so there are multiple characters readers might find themselves relating with. Aguirre’s art matches the tone of the story and its shifts throughout. The characters are expressive, the colors are vibrant, and the world of Kingdom Adventure jumps off the pages. There is a lot of heart in the story being told and readers will root against S.T.O.P.’s goal. Readers who like stories of those who don’t exactly fit in or how you can change after making a mistake will be drawn into Jackie’s world and Kingdom Adventure.
By Terry Blas
Art by Claudia Aguirre
Abrams ComicArts, 2021
Publisher Age Rating: 14+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Mexican, Mexican-American, Queer
Character Representation: Mexican-American, Queer