Levine Querido. Apr. 2023. 224p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781646142552; pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781646142569.
Gr 8 Up–Sixteen-year-old Raquel is growing up in a small town in Portugal, and her divorced parents always seem to be focused on anything except her. But Raquel has her boyfriend of six months, Miguel; her friends Luisa and Fred; and the high school classmate and object of her increasing fascination, Pardalita. When a community theater production brings Pardalita and Raquel more squarely into each other’s lives, the two strike up a friendship that helps Raquel to untangle her thoughts about her sexuality. Raquel’s story is told in a hybrid format, presented largely in comic form interspersed with short prose passages, with memories from throughout Raquel’s life offered as evidence of how Raquel started questioning certain facets of her identity. Narration is provided by Raquel to, and often about, Pardalita, and prose sections often revolve around a particular verb (conjugated via school grammar lessons), creatively serving as the theme for that passage. The story utilizes minimalist, high-contrast, black-and-white illustrations that are loose and imprecise in their execution. Concrete images often transform on the pages until they’re nothing more than abstract shapes and lines, giving the impression of Raquel getting lost in thought. A powerful use of white space helps to draw focus to the here-and-now feelings of the moments on page. Characters are assumed white and lack notable body diversity.
VERDICT Highly recommended for collections where readers are looking for a leisurely, emotional stroll through a slice-of-life story that explores identity and sexuality in an authentically sweet and subtle way.

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