Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Review: Gadget Girl [ by Suzanne Kamata ]

A Book Review by Aspen 
A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review 

Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisiblesynopsis: Aiko Cassidy is fourteen and and lives with her sculptor mother in a small Midwestern Town.  For most of her young life Aiko, who has cerebral palsy, has been her mother's muse.  But now she no longer wants to pose for the sculptures that have made her mother famous and have put food on the table.  Aiko works hard on her own dream of becoming a great manga artist with a secret identity.  
When Aiko's mother invites her to Paris for a major exhibition of her work, Aiko at first resists.  She'd much rather go to Japan, Manga Capital of the World, where she might be able to finally meet her father, the indigo farmer.  When she gets to France, however, a hot waiter with a passion for manga and an interest in Aiko makes her wonder if being invisible is such a great thing after all.  And a side trip to Lourdes, as ridiculous as it seems to her, might just change her life.  
Gadget Girl began as a novella in Cicada.  The story won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in Fiction and was included in an anthology of the best stories published in Cicada over the past ten years.  

review:  Recently I've been really interested in the growing culture of mixed race and the Hapa experience so it was refreshing to read a fiction novel from the perspective of a Hapa protagonist.  Aiko is a half-Japanese, half-Caucasian fourteen-year-old girl with cerebral palsy who is being raised in a single parent home.  And one of the greatest mysteries of her life is who her father is and the history between him and her mother.  Her mother is a well-known sculptor and like her mother, Aiko is also an artist.  She is the face behind a small circulating manga called Gadget Girl.  She is a character who is caught between wanting to be a famous manga artist and wanting to be shrouded in anonymity, letting her work speak for itself.  For years, she has been la muse for her mother's sculptures, however, Aiko is growing tired of being the subject of her mother's art.  But when one of those sculptures wins a grand prize, she and her mother get the chance to take a trip to France and Aiko is initially disappointed.  She would much rather travel to Japan to visit the manga capital and meet her father.  However it is in Paris where she ends up getting a larger dose of perspective than she imagined she would get.  Through the help of her friends, the attractive waiter at a cafe in Paris, her family, and her alter ego, Gadget Girl, Aiko learns the importance of having her voice be heard.

Aiko was written to be a very likable character.  I admired how self aware and how smart she was for a fourteen year old, and she had a sense of humor about her cerebral palsy which struck me as an uncommon characteristic for kids her age. There were certain moments when I would have liked to really feel the effects of Aiko's cerebral palsy on her, instead of just the occasional reminder of her limp or her crippled hand. It's understood that it makes things difficult for her, and causes her to hold a warped perception of herself, but aside from a couple of awkward interactions there weren't any struggles that translated to me in a way such that I could empathize.  Though I liked her character, I wish she would have had a bit more emotional depth.

My only other criticism was how abrupt the ending was.  Similar to stopping suddenly in a car, I reached the end and instead of a smooth transition, it just sort of stopped.  It was not a bad ending by any means, but I think personally, I was expecting a bit more; something that read more like a conclusion.  Instead it was just a compilation of all of the plot conflicts finding their resolution, one after the other and then it just ended.  

But the story was very cute.  I love seeing growth in characters, especially when it's brought on by self-induced epiphanies.  It was easy to read, it wasn't boring and there were cute romantic moments to it.  This book is for those readers who appreciate a plot that is more straightforward and doesn't have any convoluted plot twists.  It is well-written and clean.  I think that Gadget Girl could be popular with and relatable for a lot of young readers.


~ Aspen 

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