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This latest volume opens with an intriguing graphic of characters captured in a two-page spread of bubbles and dots, labelled “The Wandering Son Board Game”: “Don’t be so fresh. 1 space back,” a sample bubble intones.
‘Fresh’ is exactly the right word to describe this gentle gender-bender series. The spotlight here belongs to “girly-boy” Shuichi, with whom everyone seems to fall in love – from his older sister Maho’s new model friends to the boy she has a crush on, to the class beauty queen whom other boys can’t help but fight over. Not quite aware of his charm, Shuichi is experiencing his own amorous agony, suddenly awed by his powerful new feelings for Yoshino, his girl-who-wants-to-be-a-boy-best buddy.
Amidst the emotional turbulence that is adolescence, Shuichi and Yoshino have an especially difficult time trying to understand their transforming, burgeoning identities, unprepared for their unpredictable moods and reactions. All rules of ‘shoulda-woulda-coulda’ are off as children morph into young adults, dealing with an onslaught of physical and emotional challenges. ‘It’s complicated,’ as my teens regularly quip.
Creator Shimura Takako is a compassionate, empathetic storyteller without judgment or guile. Her young characters face their inescapable maturity as best as they can in a brave new world of ‘gender-fluid’ (my kids taught me that from their last ‘free to be me’-annual assembly). Adulthood looms … and ready or not, here it comes!
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Published: 2012 (United States)