Emiko Superstar

Title: Emiko Superstar
Author: Mariko Tamaki & Steve Rolston
Pub Date: 2008
Pages: 150
Genre: Young Adult, Graphic Novel
Challenge: Graphic Novel

I absolutely love how this book opens.

First, rather than chapters, there are "scenes", as if you were reading this script, this visual script. There are notations like, "If you want, you can kick on the rock and roll soundtrack here." as the young Emi, in her rockin' clothes, comes sneaking home passed curfew. Immediately I am drawn in.

From the opening scene we are introduced to Emi as the Emi of the beginning of the summer. She's a bit of a wallflower working as a babysitter. Life seems pretty repetitive and unexciting. And then, while blowing her first paycheck at the mall, this super cool hipster hippie chick begins twirling around in the center pavillion tossing flyers up in the air. Like fate, a flyer falls miraculousy into Emi's hands. It reads: "Freak Show at the Factory" on Friday night.

Of course Emi is interested and excited and nervous. Should she go?? It takes a couple of attempts, but she finally submerses herself into the Freak Show. There, she meets Henry, a photographer who gives her the ins and outs of Factory life. He encourages Emi to find the artistic voice within herself and audition at the Gong. Performers who make the Gong join the acts in Friday Night's Freak Show.

Soon, the quiet Emi has a new group of friends, including Poppy (the cool chick from the mall) and begins to undergo a physical and personal transformation.

Emotional Response

From this point on, I am going to try to make this spoiler free, but just in case I don't you might not want to read further than: Read this book. You'll love it (!)(!)(!). OKAY. So, I really dig Minx publishing. Some of you might remember they are the same publications as The Plain Janes, Good as Lily, and Re-Gifters. I like them for various reasons, but in particular because the stories include POC, artistic merit, and quirky characters that I would have liked to have hung out with in high school for sure. Emi initially began as one of those characters. I loved her enterance and her ability to find herself *and* use her heritage to do just that. Even when she snubbed Henry, I got it. Of course I was totally bummed and thought, "man, don't do that. Here's this cool guy and you're going to ruin it because you wanna be popular and accepted." But I GOT IT. What I had a hard time accepting, however, was the material that she used to perform her pieces. I won't say exactly what it is because that would DEFINITELY be a spoiler...but when I saw where the story was going I lost TOTAL and COMPLETE respect for Emi. Especially because it seemed like she just didn't get what she was doing. Even in the end, I think that she felt guilty but still didn't fully understand it. Henry made a comment about writing her story and owning her words, and maybe we can assume that she was going to use this summer's lesson to realize that the best art comes from our own lives? Who knows?

I did really like Poppy. She made me sad and even though she was a minor character, everytime she took the page, she really took the page. Think of that saying: There are no small parts, only small actors...well, Poppy was surely not an insignificant character even though she was a small one. I could see myself falling for Poppy in the same way that Emi did. She radiated creativity and arts, life, love and blood. And I sort of saw her as embracing the total definition of "Superstar". I expect to hear Elton John's Candle in the Wind playing in the background. So many people would want to surround themselves around Poppy, but no one really got to know her? I mean, all of this was implied. Or those who she wanted to know her only used her.

There's another side story with the family that Emi babysits. It was a good story; I just wasn't terribly emotionally involved. No comment there. Suffice to say, this is hands down one of my favorites. It's a quick fun read, for sure!


  1. This has been on my wishlist for some time. I need to actually buy it next time!!

  2. Definitely want to read this one now. Great review.


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