In a color palette like a Venice Beach sunset, Leong makes an ensemble of struggling teens shine in this uplifting and visually explosive graphic novel. Ren, who is androgynous and Black, and Luna, a cheery hapa surfer from Oahu, have two things in common: basketball and families splintered by trauma. The new biology teacher, Marisol Weylan, recruits them for the underfunded school’s first girls’ basketball team, along with Jetta, a rebellious Navajo girl who falls for the advances of the predatory boys’ coach; So-Young, a tall Korean kid who hides behind an online avatar; and Ren’s bestie Anella, a Black teen who is harassed and underestimated because of her weight. Anella observes, “No one out there is rising for me. Whatever, I can live in the dark,” a sentiment that could be true for each girl, until they begin to rise for each other and themselves. Coach Weylan encourages the teammates to identify their own weaknesses so they can support one another with their strengths, and gradually, that’s exactly what happens. Leong elevates the classic ragtag-sports-team narrative by giving her characters grit and gravitas, and rendering their world of malls, convenience stores, and slumping apartment buildings in brilliant reds and purples. In multiple panels, she positions a bright orange basketball like the sun: the thing that pulls them into its orbit and illuminates the group in full electric color. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jennifer Linnan, Linnan Literary Management. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
"The pages’ shifting layout maintains a dynamic pace while the artwork conveys the intenseoften conflictingemotions inherent to adolescence and young adulthood. Leong concludes with a tribute to the inner light of her characters and to the power of friendship."Kirkus
"Extraordinary tension is created just through Leong’s use of color, which shifts between unexpected and often intense color schemes that infuse skin color, backgrounds, and even the gutters with raw emotion."Booklist
"Leong offers an intricate exploration of camaraderie, teamwork, friendship, and expression with a BIPOC cast of characters... A vivid explosion of color, this tale shines."School Library Journal
"Leong elevates the classic ragtag-sports-team narrative by giving her characters grit and gravitas, and rendering their world of malls, convenience stores, and slumping apartment buildings in brilliant reds and purples."Publisher's Weekly
"Leong has a great ear for teen dialogue, but her specialty is creating a mood that puts the reader inside the characters’ heads... Color is Leong’s most powerful tool, and she establishes bold color themes throughout the book that amplify the feeling on the page."AV Club, a grade A review
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Ren and Luna were inseparable after meeting the summer before their first year of high school. Then a family tragedy necessitated a move for Luna, and despite Ren's attempts to reach out, she never got a response from her erstwhile best friend. Fast-forward a couple years and Luna is back, eager to rekindle their friendship. But Ren is dealing with a mountain of trouble: a sister entangled in drugs and abusive relationships, her parents' separation, and her lingering resentment toward Luna for never texting back. Basketball brought Ren and Luna together in the first place, and Luna tries to use their passion for the sport as a path back to their close-knit friendship. A new teacher announces a girls' team tryout, and Ren and Luna both show up, along with some of Ren's friends and a tall girl recruited at a party by an intoxicated and bold Luna. There is a lot going on in this captivating graphic novel—a teacher-student relationship, body shaming, cutting, queer undertones, familial addiction, and regular teen drama. Still, Leong offers an intricate exploration of camaraderie, teamwork, friendship, and expression with a BIPOC cast of characters. The color work is gorgeous, with dreamy greens, purples, and yellows setting a breathtaking, surreal backdrop for the realistic story. The illustrations of the game scenes are captivating, full of movement and power. VERDICT A vivid explosion of color, this tale shines.—Abby Bussen, Muskego P.L., WI
Teen girls chart their paths toward self-discovery and teamwork.
In a palm-fringed seaside city, an intimate friendship between Ren and Luna blossoms as quickly as it withers when Luna moves away and becomes incommunicado. Luna’s return two years later sparks the central conflict that plays out as Ren navigates challenging relationships at home, in high school, and as captain of their brand-new five-person girls basketball team. Confronting blatant misogyny, the team their new biology teacher scrapes together feels as ambitious an undertaking as the narrative scope of this character-driven story. Stark glimpses of domestic discord, abusive adult behavior, smoking, drinking, self-harm, and body-shaming reveal the team members’ variously fraught personal circumstances and suggest compelling backstories that unfortunately remain underdeveloped. Stylistically and structurally similar to a comic book, this graphic novel’s visual vibrancy compensates for its scattered storytelling. From pastels signaling dawn’s promise to deep indigos of despair and energetic tones showing on-court action, the panels and palette assert attitude and grit. The pages’ shifting layout maintains a dynamic pace while the artwork conveys the intense—often conflicting—emotions inherent to adolescence and young adulthood. Leong concludes with a tribute to the inner light of her characters and to the power of friendship. The cast is ethnically diverse; Ren is black, and Luna has Chinese and Native Hawaiian ancestry.
Colorful illustrations highlight episodic narratives: This is a story obscured by its own diffused telling. (character sketches) (Graphic fiction. 14-18)