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Emiko Superstar: 05/28/09
Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Steve Rolston won the YA Graphic Novel category of the Cybils earlier this year.
Emiko is a geeky and awkward teenager who wants to find her place in the world. She's an Asian Canadian growing up in Toronto. The book covers her summer vacation where she is baby sitting for a dysfunctional family and spending her nights as a performance artist in a club that draws its influence from Andy Warhol's Factory.
Emiko Superstar drew me into the story with the very first scene where she arrives home dressed like an escape from the Factory. She's minus a shoe and completely disheveled. She stumbles home and passes out on her messy bed. The rest of novel explains how she got to this point.
The story is about taking risks and the consequences that come with taking the wrong ones. Emiko risks arrest from attending the late night events at the Factory where any number of illegal things are going on. She also risks her personal health from the lech who runs the place. She also risks grounding from her parents if they find out about her late nights.
What the book does well is show a teenager's view of how the world works and the mistakes she makes with her assumptions. She's caught up with the phenomena of being popular and famous but is afraid at first to take the necessary risks to hone her skills. She's also taken in with showy attitude, being swept away with the obnoxious husband's bragging about his toys and possessions instead of seeing how manipulative he's being.
Emiko though isn't a perfect angel in an imperfect world. She gets her moment of fame through lying and stealing. She gets her source material from a diary she had no business reading and certainly no business copying from. The diary though does give the novel the chance to introduce a more adult lesbian story than Skim (also by Mariko Tamaki and also a Cybils nominee). By making the lesbian side plot strictly between two adults, it gives more room to show the risks, consequences and rewards of coming out.