CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 19. . . .January 19, 2018
Don’t Cosplay with My Heart.
New York, NY: Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2018.
273 pp., hardcover, $22.99.
Grades 6-9 / Ages 11-14.
Review by Ann Ketcheson.
It’s no wonder when I see the cheap Gargantua mask I picked up on Free Comic Book Day this past spring on my desk, I put it on and leave it on when I am called down to dinner. Gargantua, my favorite character from Team Tomorrow, is ten feet tall and so is the size of my being pissed off at everything right now.
“Take that mask off, Edan,” my dad says when he sees me.
“No,” I say. “You can’t force me to.”
I make myself comfortable at the table. I feel indestructible. He cannot say anything to me with any authority.
“Edan. It is impossible to eat with that on,” he says.
“No, it’s not, see.” I shove the fork into my mouth and chew big and exaggerated. Truth be told, the plastic does cut into the side of my face a little, and it’s a bit hard to chew, but not enough to make eating impossible.
Nothing is impossible for Gargantua. You don’t have to have read every Team Tomorrow comic book to know that.
Right now in my heart, it is like a classic superhero battle between good and evil. It is every feeling all at once run amok. I could go down either path.
“Let Edan be,” my mom says quietly.
“This is one of my last dinners with my family, Mel,” my dad says. “I want it to be nice.”
No matter how delicious the food is in front of us, no matter how many candles are lit, this is not going to be a nice dinner at all.
Edan’s world seems to be crumbling around her. Her father is under suspicion for some dubious accounting practices at his company, and her mother seems simply unable to pull herself together and cope with reality. Enter Grandma Jackie whose tough love seems necessary for both her daughter and granddaughter. Edan’s method of coping with this chaos is to more and more frequently cosplay her favourite comic book character, Gargantua, and to create a cosplay club at school so that more teens can imitate their favourite superheroes.
Castellucci presents a classic coming-of-age novel, giving Edan a personality which is unsure and insecure, anxious to fit in with those around her. Putting on a mask and becoming Gargantua allows Edan to get out of herself although the results are not always positive. Gargantua can be a villain, and Edan’s emotions can get out of hand, causing her to be rebellious and angry. Whether or not she truly grows by the end of the novel is not certain. On one hand, she is willing to take her superheroes to a children’s hospital in order to entertain young patients. On the other hand, at the end of the novel she is still completely engrossed in her comic book, make-believe world.
The underlying theme of the story seems to be how one event can be reflected or mirrored by another, reality versus fantasy. Edan’s actions and emotions are closely tied to her comic book superhero who is conjured up over and over to help Edan deal with reality This lack of coping is mirrored in Edan’s mother. The financial crimes of her father are mirrored in the fact that someone continues to steal money from the funds of the cosplay club at school. The setting of the novel is Hollywood – the classic backdrop for the fake and superficial world of glamour and stardom. The need for the novel’s characters to continually cosplay various superheroes reflects the costumes and masks which are so important in current movies.
The cast of supporting characters includes a lesbian and a Latino, but the author does not delve into either character in order to enrich the basic plot. In fact, most characters are predictable and one-dimensional. Girlfriend Kasumi is supposedly Edan’s very best friend but is not there to support her when Edan’s life seems to turn upside-down. Boyfriend Yuri and his compatriots, Phil and Tze, are sexist and continually try to test Edan to see if she is truly geeky enough to suit them. Yuri is quite content to attack Edan in social media and make her life miserable once she breaks up with him. Kirk, the third of the love triangle in the story, seems a little more well-rounded, but he, too, is predictable, and readers know almost from the first introduction of the character that he will be the continuing love interest in the book. These one-dimensional characters unfortunately are not particularly interesting, and readers have less empathy for them than they might for characters with more depth and complexity.
Throughout the novel, there are short articles about the fictional comic Team Tomorrow. This is the comic which intrigued Edan as a young girl and from which the cosplay characters in the novel are drawn. These brief interludes from the action of the plot provide commentary on the story and Edan as well as on society in more general terms.
Don’t Cosplay with My Heart seems to be directed to a young audience. The writing style and vocabulary are straightforward and simple. The plotline is easy to follow and predictable. The characters are stereotypical and provide no real surprises for readers. Castellucci makes the point that it is quite okay to be a geek. In fact, teens can be proud of their geekiness. She also clearly states that sexism should never be tolerated, and Edan eventually learns this valuable lesson. The younger readers of the young adult audience may enjoy the simplicity of the book and the use of superheroes, comics and young romance to illustrate the author’s points.
Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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