Graphic Novel Review: Flamer by Mike Curato

Flamer by Mike Curato. Henry Holt and Company, 2020. 9781250756145.

Fourteen-year-old Aiden Navarro is at camp with his Boy Scout troop. He’s looking forward to starting a new public high school after years of being teased at Catholic school. Right now he’s enjoying the silence of the woods when he can (it’s a break from his loud, abusive father), the structure of camp life, and spending time with his friend and tent-mate Elias. It quickly becomes clear (if not to Aiden) that he has more-than-friend feelings for Elias. The homophobic jokes the others boys make don’t seem to bother him, but at some point he becomes the target of quite a bit of bullying. As camp life continues, Aiden worries that the truth about what’s going on inside him will come out, though it seems inevitable; he feels like everyone will reject him, including his friend Violet (they exchange letters every week), and (minor spoiler) that life isn’t worth living after he feels like everyone knows.

I love the art in this book, which is simple and mostly black and white but, like the cover, has flames on some pages in full color. This is used to great effect throughout the book — my favorite moment is when Aiden is reading some X-men comics (he wishes he was Jean Grey and loves the Phoenix Saga storyline). It’s probably worth noting, if you’re thinking of picking this graphic novel up, that the end won’t leave you bummed out. I put it up there with the great camp graphic novels, all of which I enjoyed more than outdoor camp itself: the Lumberjanes series, Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared, and Mike Dawson’s Troop 142.


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