Anna and the French Kiss meets Stoner & Spaz in a contemporary young adult coming-of-age novel about a girl, her struggles, and her art.
Aiko Cassidy is fourteen and lives with her sculptor mother in a small Midwestern town. For most of her young life Aiko, who has cerebral palsy, has been her mother's muse. But now, she no longer wants to pose for the sculptures that have made her mother famous. Aiko works hard on her own dream of becoming a great manga artist with a secret identity. When Aiko's mother invites her to Paris for a major exhibition of her work, Aiko at first resists. She'd much rather go to Japan, Manga Capital of the World, where she might be able to finally meet her father, the indigo farmer. When she gets to France, however, a hot waiter with a passion for manga and an interest in Aiko makes her wonder if being invisible is such a great thing after all.
Gadget Girl began as a novella published in Cicada. The story won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in Fiction and was included in an anthology of the best stories published in Cicada over the past ten years.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Suzanne Kamata is the author of the novel Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008), a short story collection, The Beautiful One Has Come (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2011) which was longlisted for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award and was honored with a 2012 Silver Nautlilus Award; and editor of three anthologies including Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs (Beacon Press, May 2008). Her short stories and essays have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and she is a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/Wingspan Fiction Contest.
Suzanne is Fiction Co-editor of literarymama.com and Fiction Editor of Kyoto Journal. Her fiction for young adults also appears in the current edition of Hunger Mountain and is forthcoming in Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction - An Anthology of Japan Teen Stories (Stone Bridge Press, March 2012) edited by Holly Thompson.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In GADGET GIRL: THE ART OF BEING INVISIBLE Suzanne Kamata skillfully spans three continents and cultures--Japan, United States (Michigan), France--as the main character goes on a search for her identity, the truth about father, and a quest for love, great food and manga. It's rare that I read a book where there are so many likable realistic characters, yet the plot is so compelling that I was willing to walk in Aiko Cassidy's sensible shoes (she has cerebral palsy) and let her take me anywhere on her adventure. And O la la, what an adventure in Paris and Lourdes! I can't say enough good things about this literary muli-cultural story. But I don't want to give away any spoilers.
I don't normally read books aimed at the younger YA audience, but while we were at the library my one year old picked this off the shelf and wouldn't be parted with it. I can't blame her; that's one lovely cover. Yes, I know, don't judge a book by its cover, and all that. But we all do now and then, so I might as well own up. At any rate, I read the synopsis and while I'm not a fan of whirlwind romances in Paris (seriously? at fourteen?), I decided to give this novel a shot--because not only do I like to read books with a multicultural aspect, but this book also features a heroine with a disability, which is far too unusual to pass up. Aiko has a lot to contend with in this novel. Cerebral palsy has left her with a serious limp and her left hand curled into "a claw." She lives with her mother, a sculptor, who uses Aiko as her muse--something Aiko has mixed feelings about. Further, Aiko's father purportedly knows nothing of her existence, and she wants nothing more than to meet him and make him proud. He's an indigo farmer in Japan, so throughout the story we hear about Aiko's attempt to nurture a single indigo plant in their home in Michigan. These storylines: her disability, her relationship with her mother and her mother's art, and her missing father, develop over the course of the story, taking turns, making leaps, and--eventually--bringing Aiko to a single, cathartic moment. This is the meat of the story, so to speak, and I was profoundly impressed at the depth of the storylines, and with Aiko's final development at the end (especially because I had my doubts along the way). Aiko is also a manga artist, though her stories sounded...superficial at best. They so very clearly reflected herself and the people around her, as well as her own pent up desires, it made me wonder if she really had much of an imagination. Per her descriptions, until her trip to Paris, they all had essentially the same storyline of Gadget Girl saving her crush from some dangerous situation. I don't think Kamata intended for Aiko's art to sound so shallow, but as a writer myself, I was surprised that Kamata didn't endow Aiko with an ability to imagine more for her characters to begin with. That said, following Aiko's trip to Paris...Gadget Girl develops slightly, though it is still very grounded in real people and experiences. I kind of wanted to see Aiko's work take off, unfettered by her tendency to tie her characters and their stories to real people. But that's just me. I found myself grinding my teeth at Aiko's actions a few times, from some of the things she says to her mother, to her tendency to sound whiny. She was also a bit--naive? Her obsession with going to Lourdes to see if she could be healed struck me as strange as best. I understood what it represented, but I didn't quite believe it for Aiko. So, between Lourdes and her regularly childish behavior, I began to wonder if she could redeem herself by the end of the story--but, in fact, she does. I chalk my frustration up to not normally reading books aimed at the younger spectrum of YA; no doubt, this is very well-suited to her age and traditional readership. I loved the more complex understanding she developed of her relationship with both her mother and father. I was a bit taken aback by her mother's choice to share the truth about Aiko's father on Aiko's birthday--as a mother, I went, what? If you think your daughter's old enough, then let her celebrate her birthday one day, and tell her the next. But I guess it was more dramatic this way. How Aiko handled this information over the next few weeks was both realistic and telling of her development over the course of the novel, and wonderfully done. By far my favorite character was Raoul, Aiko's mother's boyfriend: radio DJ of international music, gourmet cook, and a man both caring and sensitive. I looked forward to his scenes, and was sorry he didn't feature more. While I liked Aiko, I felt somewhat emotionally distant from her, and was not as engaged as I would have liked. Again, this may have to do with her slightly younger age. I expect young readers will connect more easily (especially over Aiko's crushing on boys!). Overall, an engaging and quick read with a lot packed in.
I knew I would love Gadget Girl from the first page, when the novel’s protagonist and narrator, fourteen-year-old Aiko, tells us she’s named after the indigo plants her father harvests to make blue dye. Aiko has never met her father, who lives on the Japanese island of Shizuko, but she knows all about the indigo plants his family farms, and she’s even trying (not very successfully) to grow her own indigo in Michigan. The loving, careful detail with which Aiko describes the indigo, and its ability to dye fabric “the color of a storm-bruised sky” as well as to possibly cure sicknesses, told me Gadget Girl would be a book rich in culture. And it was, featuring a setting spanning Europe and the U.S., many eclectic details of the art world, and Aiko’s love for modern Japanese culture and her desire to reconnect with that part of her heritage. Aiko was born with cerebral palsy, meaning her left arm and leg don’t always work correctly. She deals with her feelings about her illness, as well as other aspects of her life, in the manga she writes called “Gadget Girl,” which features a very nimble-figured heroine who always saves the day. In real life, Aiko is frustrated by her disability, by her mother’s artwork, much of which is actually inspired by Aiko and her illness, and by the fact that her father doesn’t know about her. She dreams of one day going to Japan to connect with her father and perhaps apprentice with a manga artist. However, when her mother wins a Paris art competition, Aiko ends up spending the summer in Frances instead of Japan… For some reason, I tend to get really tired of books set in Paris, so I was really happy to find that Gadget Girl took a more eclectic approach to the city than most novels I’ve read. My favorite part was the description of a Japanese-inspired garden designed by Isamu Noguchi, which made me want to visit Paris more than countless depictions of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower ever have! I was also fascinated by Aiko’s trip to Lourdes, a place known for its sacred healing waters. However, Aiko’s trip is most important not for the places she goes, but for the people she meets and the truths she learns about her own family…I won’t say too much about that, only that certain moments of the book really made me emotional, and that I loved the way the author tied everything together in the end. Gadget Girl is told in the realistic voice of a fourteen to fifteen-year-old girl, which means that, in a publishing climate where the YA voice keeps getting older and older, this voice is definitely on the younger side of YA, and could be characterized as middle-grade as well. I think middle and high-school readers would really, really respond to this book, and I hope it gets into as many hands as possible. And it’s also sure to please many adult readers, including myself!