Thursday, April 23, 2015

YA Book Review: Tomboy by Liz Prince

Prince, Liz. Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir. San Francisco: Zest, 2014. Print. Grades 9+

This brutally honest, funny, and sometimes agonizing graphic memoir provides insight into the raw emotions experienced by Liz Prince, a self-identified tomboy.  As early as the age of two, Prince would cry hysterically when she was forced to wear dresses and, like many girls, became ashamed of her body as she got older, even covering herself with a t-shirt as she went swimming at summer camp.  “I was suddenly aware that I was under-performing in ways I didn’t even know existed. From then on, I always showered in my swimsuit, I changed clothes in the out-house (which defeated the purpose of showering) and worst of all, I developed the habit of SWIMMING IN A T-SHIRT.” Tomboy is also a timeline of Prince’s evolving thoughts about her own sexuality and gender identity as she lived through years of bullying and rejection from boys. “Dear God, I won’t pretend to know what your plan is for me, but please don’t make me be a girl. So, can you make sure I never get boobs or have my period?” Her unique perspective on the gender stereotypes deeply embedded in American culture is refreshing, empowering, and very genuine. Throughout the story, Prince eventually discovers a community of like-minded nonconformists, interested in comics, punk music, and zines, and transforms herself into a strong young woman who is comfortable with her identity as a tomboy.  This message of self-acceptance will likely strike a chord with young adult female readers who have struggled with bullying, body image issues, or concerns about gender-identity. The black and white artwork in Tomboy is very reminiscent of the raw style of Jeffrey Brown (Author of Clumsy and Funny Misshapen Body) and delivers a touch of casual charm.  Prince’s clean trademark artwork is child-like but authentic which perfectly supplements the text that evokes so many emotions.  Prince also exaggerates many of the facial expressions of the characters in her book, making her character one that readers will likely sympathize with. Ultimately, Tomboy is the perfect coming-of-age tale for any teen who considers themselves an “outcast” as it provides an honest message that it is absolutely possible to eventually gain self-acceptance, despite the heart-wrenching agony of childhood traumas.

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