Huda F are You?

Identity crises have long been a staple of teen stories and Huda Fahmy’s debut YA graphic novel gives us a fresh take on trying to find out who you are and where you fit in. While fans of Fahmy’s autobiographical webcomics and previous books, Yes, I’m Hot in This and That Can be Arranged, will recognize some of her family members, this story is fiction inspired by her high school years.

Huda’s family moves to Deerborn, Michigan, an area with a large Muslim population to get beyond the troubles one of Huda’s older sisters encountered in school. Huda realizes she can’t rely on her identity as “hijabi girl” anymore. As she takes stock of her interests, tries new things, and examines the teens she hangs out with in school, an easy identity continues to evade her. When the school overreacts to a student bringing a homemade clock to school Huda is reminded that in addition to finding herself she has to fight off the prejudice heaped on Muslims in America. 

Fahmy’s writing brings her usual brand of zippy humor tinged with self deprecation and candid vulnerability, perfect for tackling teen subjects from getting your period in class to asking out a boy to facing bigotry from a teacher. She reminds readers in the beginning that she’s telling the story of one Muslim teenage girl, not all Muslim teenage girls. As she moves among her academic-focused family full of sisters, Muslim girl classmates with a variety of interests, and begins going to halaqa, a group focusing on Islamic studies, she shows readers a diverse world of Muslim women and their ideals, a subject too many people have too narrow a view of. Current and past teens (like myself) will laugh or cringe in familiarity with Huda throughout the story. Her mother’s constant support and suspicion are a great running thread. 

The visual format of Huda F Are You? makes it immediately clear that Huda cannot be contained. It’s a messy story about finding your identity and the vibrant, cartoonish art often takes up the whole page, no panels, no margins. There’s a complete break with the webcomic strip format daily Fahmy readers are familiar with. Her complex visual play with panel size and placement introduces a great sense of energy and motion. It feels like the jumble of high school life. Full page splashes often establish settings with comparatively lush backgrounds to carry over for paneled scenes that follow with mostly blank backgrounds. The use of color is spare and flat in most character interactions but features splashes of brightness and texture at just the right moments to land a gross event, such as a wave of menstrual blood. Huda’s family and school feature a wide variety of skin tones. Every graphic tool is used for maximum expressive impact, giving a lot of life to the simple drawing style. It fits in next to Raina Telgemeier’s style but is its own thing. 

I am unfortunately writing this review when a vocal minority of people are trying to get stories that show the diverse experiences of American youth thrown out of schools. I haven’t seen Huda F Are You? join this list, but since it makes clear the impact of Islamophobia in a high school I wouldn’t be surprised to see it targeted. Teens (and tweens) should read this because it’s hilarious and true to what many teens experience as they test out their identities, and also because it centers strong, smart Muslim girls. It shows the prejudice they face in everyday casual situations and in bigger institutions. 

Huda’s age and concerns in the story will place this in the teen section over juvenile, but most middle school readers can enjoy it as well and it should have a place in middle school library collections. I’ve had girls that young coming to the info desk for Fahmy’s other collections for the last couple of years. Readers who’ve aged up from middle grade realistic school stories will love this book, in particular there are a lot of parallels to New Kid. I’d really just like to hand this one to everyone that walks into the library, it’s a fun read and it makes you think about high school from a perspective that doesn’t have a lot of representation in the media in general. 

Huda F are You?
By Huda Fahmy
Dial Books, 2021
ISBN: 9780593324301

Publisher Age Rating: YA

NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation:  Muslim,  Character Representation: Muslim ,

Cookie & Broccoli, vol 1: Ready for School!

What a fun adventure in starting a brand new school as seen through the eyes of a veggie, and a cookie, two highly unlikely friends. This is the first in what should be an adorable series for students in kindergarten to grade three. 

Author McMahon starts this story off with the backstory of how Broccoli and Cookie meet each other with a hilarious emphasis on the difference in personalities that we see in Broccoli, the extreme introvert and Cookie, the extreme extrovert. We follow these two through the same experience of starting school, but from these very much opposing perspectives. Cookie is full of excitement and optimism. He can’t wait for the social times of day like recess and lunch but does acknowledge that he can be too silly sometimes. Versus Broccoli who worries about these social times of the day, stresses that he won’t be able to make new friends, and acknowledges that he can be too serious. Both have their strengths and weaknesses which are highlighted, so the reader knows that, everyone no matter their personality, has things to offer the world and also has aspects of themselves they can strengthen and improve. 

This book is a very fast and satisfying read. Youngsters can feel accomplished that they’ve finished an entire book after a very short amount of time. Chapter divisions, which aren’t always present in graphic novels, make it easy for reluctant readers to have an additional sense of accomplishment as they finish up sections. The artwork is adorable and simple. There isn’t a lot of detail in these panels, instead the focus is on the characters and their humorous dialogue. Backgrounds are mostly simple white and grey. There’s a lot of emphasis on loud and fun fonts. Dramatic scenes and outbursts pop off the page with patterns and colors that heighten the excitement of the conversation between characters. 

Overall, this is such a cute series. It’s a colorful, quick, and fun read. The characters are very relatable with lessons of the differences that exist in personalities, extroverted versus introverted, and how these differences are a strength in friendships. This book also shares helpful insights into the stresses of starting school. The author emphasizes the normalcy of these types of feelings and lets the reader know that many others experience this too and it’s okay. This would be a fantastic series to add to any elementary library collection. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the second installment, Cookie and Broccolli: Play it Cool.

Cookie & Broccoli, vol 1: Ready for School!
By Bob McMahon
Dial, 2021
ISBN: 9780593109076
Publisher Age Rating: 5-8

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)

Dancing at the Pity Party

Part poignant cancer memoir and part humorous reflection on a motherless life, this debut graphic novel is extraordinarily comforting and engaging.

From before her mother’s first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and afterward, when she must try to make sense of her life as a motherless daughter, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing–but also often funny–details. She shares the important post-death firsts, such as celebrating holidays without her mom, the utter despair of cleaning out her mom’s closet, ending old traditions and starting new ones, and the sting of having the “I’ve got to tell Mom about this” instinct and not being able to act on it. This memoir, bracingly candid and sweetly humorous, is for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to get it.

(Publisher Description)

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.

Dancing at the Pity Party
By Tyler Feder
ISBN: 9780525553021
Dial Books, 2020
NFNT Age Recommdnation: Teen (13-16)

Roller Girl

For most of her twelve years, Astrid has done everything with her best friend Nicole. But after Astrid falls in love with roller derby and signs up for derby camp, Nicole decides to go to dance camp instead. And so begins the most difficult summer of Astrid’s life as she struggles to keep up with the older girls at camp, hang on to the friend she feels slipping away, and cautiously embark on a new friendship. As the end of summer nears and her first roller derby bout (and junior high!) draws closer, Astrid realizes that maybe she is strong enough to handle the bout, a lost friendship, and middle school… in short, strong enough to be a roller girl.

(Publisher description)

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.

Roller Girl
By Victoria Jamieson
ISBN: 9780803740167
Dial Books, 2015
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)