Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi Review

Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi (Perfectly Parvin #1)

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin Teen)

Release Date: May 18, 2021

Pages: 320

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Designer: Jasmine Moshiri (Photography) & Samira Iravani

Summary: Parvin has just had her heart broken when she meets the cutest boy at her new high school, Matty Fumero–with an emphasis on fumero, because he might be the smoking hot cure to all of her boy troubles. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to homecoming, she’s positive it will erase all the awful and embarrassing feelings He Who Will Not Be Named left her with after the summer. The only problem is Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself has not worked for her in the past (see aforementioned relationship), she decides that to be the girl who finally gets the guy, she should start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those girls aren’t loud, they certainly don’t cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk. Easy enough, right?

But as Parvin struggles through her parent-mandated Farsi lessons on the weekends, a budding friendship with a boy she can’t help but be her unfiltered self with, and dealing with the ramifications of the Muslim Ban on her family in Iran, she realizes that being herself might just be the perfect thing after all.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Perfectly Parvin was truly a marvelous, funny, and all-around SPECTACULAR YA debut that deserves more hype! Following 14-year-old Parvin Mohammadi, she’s a girl whose starting high school with a broken heart, so she decides to reinvent herself in order to get the ultimate homecoming date!

I’ve realized hyping up my favorite books on social media is a lot harder than it looks. Trying to capture the sheer brilliance of an author’s words and storytelling putting it into your own words (for me anyways) is always difficult. So perhaps my review can convince you to read this fantastic book! If you love a witty protagonist, plots about friendship, romance (of course), but ultimately a journey about accepting yourself as you are, then you MUST pick up Abtahi’s debut!

Iranian-American Parvin thinks everything is going well with her summer boyfriend Wesley, pulling pranks and hanging out at the beach…that is until, he breaks up with her for being “too much.” Now feeling devastated and hurt, Parvin’s gearing up to overcome this obstacle into freshman year by asking out her cute sophomore classmate, Matty Fumero, to homecoming! But when she decides to use romantic heroines from her favorite movies to accomplish her goal, will she accept her new “quiet” self and be willing to sacrifice the true Parvin to find love?

Throughout this journey, she’s not alone! She’s got her supportive best friends Ruth Song and Fabian Castor by her side at ever step of the way. However, when Parvin becomes consumed with her plans on winning over her crush, she doesn’t even realize she’s ignoring and missing the special moments with her bffs, leaving them to the side.

I mentioned this in my June TBR and am still thinking about the amazing friend group that Parvin has, despite its ups downs there’s never a moment when these friends aren’t supporting and sticking by one another!

In addition to her new start at James K. Polk High, she’s also attending Farsi classes and confronting her anxieties about not being “Iranian enough.” Despite her fears though, her parents and favorite aunt Sara especially, help her to juggle it all. Being 1/2 white and Iranian, Abtahi explores the deep bond and connection Parvin has with her parents as she uncovers more about what it means to be the “real Parvin,” who loves hot cheetos, pulling pranks and has a clever sense of humor. Being biracial as well, the story explores the hardship that Parvin’s mom endures as she realizes she can’t always help her daughter connect with her Iranian side, but assures that family (and friends) are always there to assist.

As the fall semester is well underway and prepping for homecoming, Parvin meets Amir in her Farsi class and slowly begins to realize she’s more herself around him. While I won’t spoil how the romantic storyline ends, both of boys are so well developed and I genuinely loved seeing the delightful Parvin navigate her feelings + personal journey with her oh so brilliant and witty humor amid her boy-focused goals (this book is SO funny, adored it being told through her POV). Her character felt incredibly relatable and real because Abtahi builds so much depth, giving Parvin a distinct voice that carries throughout the novel. She’s hilarious both introspectively and outward as well making tons of scenes, even with something as simple as school feel utterly hilarious and charming!

Abtahi built such a distinct voice to her characters, especially for our hilarious protagonist that it was one of my many favorite parts about this book! Parvin felt like such a real character and kind of like a friend too, I genuinely loved reading from her perspective (I’m also not usually a rereader, but this book is one I wouldn’t mind experiencing all over again <3). Despite the story focusing on Parvin’s search for love, friendship and family are just a big (if not bigger) pieces of her story that Abtahi takes her time to develop throughout the novel. She also covers big topics such as the Muslim ban and racism, creating a conversation that Parvin deeply explores through her internal pov.

The setting of Parvin’s Northern Virginia town, home, alongside her high school just come to life on the page. No matter what the setting was, Abtahi’s great writing built Parvin’s world with each and every chapter (though another FUN tidbit here is that the “chapters” are more split up by days / time which adds a unique flow to the story).

This novel also features an incredibly inclusive cast where main characters include: Parvin whose 1/2 Iranian, Fabian is Mexican-American who is gay, Ruth is Korean-American who identifies as pan, Matty is Argentinian-American, and the novel of course follows an Iranian-American family / culture.

Luckily this is the first of a duology, so there’s many more hilarious hijinks with Parvin to come and I could not be more thrilled! The ending, though feels like it does wrap up just a bit too quickly, just has the reader feel joy and hope for Parvin who grows so much over the course of the story. All in all there’s so much love I have for these characters, setting, impactful messages, storytelling, each of which come to life through Parvin’s eyes. Abtahi has crafted a genuine treasure of a book in the span of just 300+ pages leaving me eager to know where Parvin’s high school adventure is headed next!

Perfectly Parvin is a true gem in 2021 YA Contemporary you don’t want to miss! Hilarious hijinks, great storytelling, and lots of meaningful messages make this a fantastic debut that promises more friendship, family, and uplifting Parvin adventures to come!

Donut Feed The Squirrels by Mika Song Review {Graphic Novel}

Donut Feed The Squirrels by Mika Song (Norma & Belly #1)

Publisher: Random House Graphic

Release Date: September 29, 2020

Pages: 112

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Summary: Norma and Belly plan to start the day with some pancakes, but when Norma accidentally burns them, these two best friends set out to find a new treat. Chestnuts might be nice . . . but what is that delicious smell in the distance? A new food truck has parked near their tree, and these two squirrels are going to figure out how to get their hands on these “donuts” that it seems to be selling.

Mika Song gives readers something to laugh at as these squirrels try their hardest to get some donuts while just about everything goes wrong. A fun “donut caper” graphic novel that focuses on madcap action, problem-solving, and the power of working together. 

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Once finishing Donut Feed The Squirrels I knew this would be a kind of joyful comfort read I would absolutely love to revisit again in the future! Song’s graphic novel is an incredibly charming, cute, and hilarious read about two squirrels who plan a heist to get themselves some delicious donuts. This is probably one of the funniest books I’ve read in a while, its very sweet!

While what first drew me to this story originally was the watercolor artwork, little did I know that going into this with the least knowledge as possible, would make this such a delightful and special reading experience.

Norma and Belly are two squirrels who live together in the park going about their average day! But, when a pancake breakfast doesn’t go as planned they set their sights on some delicious donuts from a food truck instead. However, the problem is that a cranky donut seller is keeping them away. So the only option? Plan a HEIST of course! With the help of a couple of squirrels called Gramps and Little Bee they plan the donut heist of the century (with only 8 minutes).

From seeing their first interaction after the breakfast in ruins, to seeing the girls cook up a plan to try the delicious donuts (with teamwork of course), I knew each scene would be filled with mayhem and laughs from one page to the next. There’s not one moment where you won’t be left with a smile on your face reading about this squirrel duo planning an epic, delicious heist!

Well, the humor woven throughout this is really my kind of humor! Its situational, witty, also just written in a clever way that makes it incredibly fun to read (for example): When they turn into floofs after their first attempt at getting donuts, Norma thinking that Belly turned into a donut herself, and lots more little moments!

There’s a soft, graceful art style that shines through the natural color palette of greens, browns, etc. What adds another layer to the soft, comforting quality of this story is through the vivid ink, watercolor, and sumi brush tools used in the artwork. Visually and aesthetically its wonderful to look at.

Probably leaving this at 4.5 stars although the reading experience is an absolute 5! I think all I wanted was just a bit more from this first installment because its truly so much fun and also very CUTE? Loved the dynamics between the characters, the humor especially, and seeing the quirky story come to life through the art style. This book truly was EVERYTHING I needed right now, I adored it so much!

Random House Graphic is probably one of my new favorite graphic novel imprints right now, they’ve released such amazing titles that have become some memorable reads for me such as Séance Tea Party and Suncatcher, I’m beyond thrilled to have finally read this wacky, humorous squirrel tale too!

Donut Feed The Squirrels is an incredibly cute and hilarious graphic novel about squirrels planning a sweet donut heist! The artwork, humor, and storytelling all blend perfectly together, leaving readers eager to read the next Norma and Belly adventure!

Oculta by Maya Motayne Review

Oculta by Maya Motayne (The Nocturna Trilogy #2)

Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Epic Reads)

Release Date: April 6, 2021

Pages: 448

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Artist: Mark van Leeuwen

Summary: After joining forces to save Castallan from an ancient magical evil, Alfie and Finn haven’t seen each other in months. Alfie is finally ready to take on the mantle of crown prince. His first task: preparing for the peace talks with Castallan’s former colonizers, the nation of Englass.

But when the summit coincides with the reemergence of Los Toros, the mysterious syndicate of assassins responsible for Alfie’s brother’s death, and Finn’s unexpected installation as one of the four Thief Lords of Castallan, the two must reunite to discover the hidden link between these events—before it’s too late. 

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

Oculta succeeds as a sequel in so many ways! Not only does it dive deep into the idea of legacy, but also balances it’s page-turning story among the politics and intrigue, while wasting no time to elaborate even more on the unique magic system. But the foundation of the story really is about Alfie and Finn’s own personal journeys, including their own relationship throughout this intense continuation.

If you didn’t know, Nocturna is such a special YA for me because its one of the first Latine epic fantasy series I’d ever read! Seeing Latinx (specifically Dominican) culture represented in this genre means so much to me, also as an aspiring writer myself. I fell in love with Alfie and Finn’s journey, which although ends on a bittersweet note I without a doubt, was eagerly awaiting their reunion. Now 2 years later, the sequel is finally here and wow are there a myriad of thoughts to share!

Set about 4 months after the end of Nocturna, Prince Alfie is taking on more responsibility as the future king and attempting to atone for his mistakes and the effects Sombra’s magic left on many of Castallan’s people. Feeling a guilt weigh heavy on him, he attempts to live up to his brother’ Dez’s legacy as he’s also grappling with his own dilemma: trying to reconnect with his magic again as it’s slowly begun to reject him.

On the other hand, Face-changing thief Finn has been traveling and spending time away from San Cristobal. But when a mysterious organization attacks her, she quickly finds her way back to Castallan to warn Alfie. She also finds herself with a new position as Thief Lord, bringing her both annoyance and help along the way when Los Toros resurface, threatening the international Peace Summit between Castallan and Englass. Soon, Alfie and Finn are once again reunited to solve the case before its too late, especially as Los Toros begin assassinating and instilling fear across San Cristobal!

This is a sequel that not only captivated me as it showed Motayne’s strength as a writer as she tied together so many elements to her fantasy world, but also showed how those layers build on each other in such impactful ways. One of those ways is how the Peace Summit allows for us to get an even deeper look into the setting we were just introduced to in book one. Not just the Dominican-inspired setting, but the magic system, the inner politics of the royals and Castallans’ people, each of these and much more are taken to new heights through the brilliant plotting and structure of the novel.

The plot is such a page-turner! As Alfie and Finn are attempting to piece together the mystery I loved how the story unfolded, how personal each POV felt and just being immersed in this magical world again! The writing shows the humor, secrecy, adventure, and intrigue that build across every chapter. This book is in one word: Cinematic. Not once did I ever feel pulled out of the story, each roadblock or question our trio encounters leads from one adventure to the next as they try to figure out why Los Toros are so preoccupied with the summit. It not delves into themes of legacy, family, but also destiny in a way and

Having followed Alfie and Finn on their journey through Nocturna to now seeing that they’ve spent time apart up until their reunion (which had me sobbing), we understand they are now cemented into the roles they’ve been growing into their whole lives. However, despite their duties pulling them in opposite directions, there’s something keeping them together and while I won’t spoil, the way Motayne establishes their dynamic (slowburn romance) and GROWTH is so exceptionally crafted. There’s a roughness to our witty thief Finn and she learns throughout this novel to confront her feelings, as does Alfie. Alfie and Finn deserve the biggest hugs after this book tbh…one of the highlights was seeing them face their vulnerabilities along the way.

The magic of Propios expands a bit as well, which is super fun and for me, was unexpected. I like how Motayne showed the magic system evolve overtime through the use of Finn’s face-changing abilities. Showing the evolution to her own powers, in a way, symbolized her struggle with trying to keep Ignacio’s ghost out of her head while attempting to avoid going down a similar path, the more her magic grew. Finn’s arc is truly about her overcoming trauma and yet she’s still her snarky, comedic self, I loved that being a thing at every moment of her journey.

Now we cannot forget Luka, Alfie’s cousin who is undergoing his own arc in this story as well. Feeling a deep sense of survivor’s guilt following Sombra’s attacks, he has his own secrets too, but despite it he and Alfie learn to build their dynamic even more, counting on each other to be by their side. The addition of his POV was such a brilliant move for this story! We already know so much about him, but I liked getting into the more hidden depths of his character.

Aside from characters, the other biggest strength of this novel lies in the worldbuilding. Because we are already familiar with the city’s rings, the various quests around San Cristobal cements you into the setting that much more because we as readers are transported to different pockets of the city, making it that much more immersive. With the Summit well underway as Alfie is balancing the various events throughout the week while also traveling across the city with Finn and Luka, there’s lots of opportunity for us to dig deeper into the setting and see it come to life. As Finn tries to find more clues as well when the Toros assassinations begin too, we see how both sides paint a clearer picture to the social divide between the city’s rings.

What Oculta also does which is unique for YA Fantasy is how it tackles conversation around colonization and the consequences of it since its established in the first book that Castallan was colonized in the past. With Castallan’s magic being influenced by language, it shows the important stakes of the summit since Englass still uses a caste system to block certain people from their magic based on status. The discussions around colonization, even systematic oppression are given a lot of focus, especially seen from Alfie’s POV as he and his family try to establish conversation with the Englass royals.

There’s also quite a few new characters too from the introduction of Rodrigo, Emeraude, and Elian, Thief Lords just like Finn. Including the Englass royals such as Prince Marsden, Princess Vesper and a servant named James who befriends Luka and the others along the way. There’s lots of new characters and *secrets along the way!

Some of my favorite scenes include the various events of the Summit (it was such a creative plot point), honestly any scene with Alfie and Finn together, the Alfie, Finn, and Luka trio, the adventures around the city, basically the whole plot. This sequel was SO FANTASTIC! Not only is it the world, but its our main characters, their vibrant personalities and meaningful journeys that make this book an impactful read from beginning to end. I fell in love with these characters even more, if that’s even possible?? The ending is just, WOW I need book 3 how will I wait??

The only reason I’m being so vague in this review is because its a sequel and I think its best to experience this amazing read for yourself. But let me just say this is a phenomenal continuation to the series, so if you love these characters and the world, the magic, and adventure, it gets even better here! It ends as a great sequel should, leaving you wanting to know what happens next.

Oculta succeeds as a political, character-driven sequel in the Nocturna trilogy! With its fantastic storytelling, further development to the world and magic system, in addition to the heart-wrenching journeys of our cast. Filled to the brim with intrigue, adventure, captivating plot threads that will leave you wanting to know more, this is a truly brilliant read!

Keep It Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko Florence Review

Keep It Together, Keiko Carter by Debbi Michiko Florence

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: May 5, 2020

Pages: 293

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Designer: Stephanie Yang & Michael Frost (Photographer)

Summary: Seventh grade is supposed to be a game changer. And Keiko thinks she’s got it covered, especially with Audrey and Jenna by her side to shop for a new look, pick out a prime lunch spot, and even hit up that cute new bubble tea place after school. Her trio is ready to tackle life as they always have…together.

But when Audrey decides they need boyfriends before Fall Ball, it looks like things may be changing in all the wrong ways. Jenna is sick of caving in to Audrey’s demands, and soon Keiko’s besties are barely talking, leaving her caught in the middle. While she’s been dreaming about triple-dates, first kisses, and a boy she really shouldn’t have a crush on, the friendship she’s always thought was rock-solid is beginning to crumble.

Keiko feels pulled in two directions. Should she try to help her friends-even if it means losing one of them-or follow her heart? When it comes to flirting, friendships, and fallouts, how is Keiko supposed to keep it all together?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Keep It Together, Keiko Carter is a great novel with a charming voice! Keiko is tackling so much throughout 7th grade like friendship, family, and love. Despite her fear of change, at its core her story is one about balancing all the things in life while also finding a way to achieve her own happiness. Michiko Florence delivers a delightful middle grade!

Back with another review and quite different than my usual Young Adult reads, I’m so glad I picked this book up earlier in May! This read was definitely everything I needed right now and wow, did I LOVE this. Amid all the busy events in my own life, Keiko’s story was so relatable to me especially with her goal of trying to make sure everything stayed the same, while also meeting her own personal expectations amid all the new changes in her life too.

Keiko is starting 7th grade and she’s ready to tackle what comes her way, as long as she has her friends by her side. Keiko has always been close with Audrey (growing up together, even with Audrey’s brother Connor too) and once her best friend Jenna returns after her summer trip in Texas, the trio is finally reunited. But when Audrey insists they try to find boyfriends before the Fall Ball while Jenna grows tired of following Audrey’s plans all the time, the trio runs into some obstacles along the way. Keiko’s mom is busy with work, her little sister Macy is keeping secrets, while Keiko is trying to please everyone and make sure they are happy. So can she figure it all out?

Jenna is realizing she may have a boyfriend of her own, Elliot, which developed during the summer and Audrey is not happy. Jenna has found her hobby in newspaper, leaving Keiko in the middle. Then Keiko crushes on a new student named Gregor, she hopes at least one of her goals for the new year will work out. But, as Keiko realizes she can rekindle her friendship with Audrey’s older brother Connor, it messes things up while also being the additional support she needs.

Michiko Florence’s writing is what captivated me! Keiko’s voice just leaps off the page and I loved following her journey. There’s lots of chocolate (Keiko’s favorite snack) and humor to her character too. Chocolate represented nice symbolism for the balance Keiko is trying to find during her new year at school and I love how it anchored one of the many important messages of the story.

Audrey’s insistence of her plan for 7th grade alongside her own personal flaws and at times selfishness, leaves Keiko feeling like she has to choose between her friends. Unsure of how to get the group together again. However, along the way she learns she can confide in Connor. She realizes she likes playing basketball and can talk about everything she can’t with her friends. Audrey is not happy, but along the way seeing their relationship grow was so nice and seeing Keiko growth too was very well done!

Character development is such a major element of this novel, which was so fantastic. Not only are all the characters realistic and relatable, but its easy to see that everyone has their own problems in life and its not always one person’s responsibility to deal with it all. At this novel’s core, Keiko’s learning that people grow and change, as she herself realizes that this change isn’t always bad either despite the difficulties in the beginning.

Being an older sister, Keiko is worried about Macy in the beginning, but when she uncovers her plans for being in theatre, their dynamic grows even more, it was wonderful. Despite Keiko’s sadness that her mother was very busy with work, at least she could become even closes with her sister. This novel really is all about the relationships we have in life and the way each of them turned out in the end felt realistic. If anything one that felt difficult to read was Audrey and Keiko’s friendship, they share so much history and this was a major conflict in the story leading up to the end. But despite the conflict, Keiko learns more about prioritizing her own happiness.

Keiko who is biracial, half-Japanese-American and white embraces her culture and I loved how this element was explored throughout the novel. Her best friend Jenna Sakai is Japanese-American.

There was nothing I particularly dislike about this novel, it was so fantastic! Obviously though as an older reader, there were hints and plot points I could predict early on, but the journey getting there was meaningful and full of heart. This was truly a fantastic read!

Keep It Together, Keiko Carter is a phenomenal middle grade novel that tackles friendship, love, family, life, and the concept of change! With such well-developed themes, great characters, heartfelt messages, and a fantastic main character, this is a sweet, charming middle grade! A must read!

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado ARC Review

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Publisher: Holiday House

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Pages: 352

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Cover Artist: Ericka Lugo

Summary: Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is everything I could’ve asked for in a YA rom-com, charming, inspiring, funny, and a true delight! One of my favorite debuts of 2021, do not miss this book, you will love Charlie. Maldonado is a new favorite author, her debut captured me from page 1!

In my absolute MESS of a reading schedule I’ve sadly not been able to read all the arcs on time, however once I started reading Charlie’s story, it was clear from the authenticity and spirit to Charlie’s voice, it would be a shame to rush through. Filled with much heart, inspiring messages, and just great storytelling, Maldonado’s book is a gem! This has become a new favorite!!

Charlie Vega is a 16-year-old living in a small Connecticut town, she’s a fat, biracial Puerto Rican girl who is learning to form better relationships in her life: with her mother, herself, and her body. Always feeling second to her best friend Amelia, she wonders whether anyone can truly see her, so when her long-time crush Cal asks her to prom she it beyond thrilled. However, when she soon learns he just wanted to have a chance at dating her bff, she’s tired of not being truly seen.

Throughout the novel she gets closer to her co-worker Brian, who also happens to be in her art class. When she slowly begins to realize Brian Park genuinely likes her for who she is, while also being supportive (unlike her mother), Charlie quickly starts to embark on and enjoy so many firsts when it comes to relationships. However, along the way she has to confront her own insecurities and self-doubts.

There’s so many layers and discussions Maldonado weaves into the story and its done with so much care, thought, and reflection. Charlie is navigating the dynamic with her mom, herself especially and loving who she is as a fat girl. Themes of self-love, confidence, and above all body positivity, weave their way throughout this delightful story.

Each dynamic Charlie has whether its with her mom, Amelia, Brian, or just her relationship to society, is given the perfect amount of page-time. All of these vital threads to her life are such deep, fundamental pieces of her world and developed so wonderfully.

Charlie’s personality leaps off the page! She has a very funny, reflective voice where I truly felt like she came to life with each chapter. She is learning and its through these relationships in her life where she can reflect on where they can be strengthened.

Her relationship with Brian was just the CUTEST, all their dates (bookstore, museum, dinner) and talks…you can feel Charlie’s happiness as she’s experiencing all the firsts of a relationship! Brian is an artist and she’s a writer, so their banter was always fun to read! Every chapter they had together was so sweet. I liked how their relationship was also a way for Charlie to see from the outside just how unfair and complicated her mom was being. Their relationship also allows her the space to step away when she needed to. Maldonado truly has a gift for allowing the cute romantic moments to just overtake the entire scene. (I’m sorry, but Cal who?? I truly forgot he was in this book once Charlie found happiness with Brian). I think one of the most complicated relationships was with her mom, it can be difficult to read as she’s obsessed with Charlie losing weight and Charlie can’t escape the feeling that her mother isn’t proud of her. You feel Charlie’s sadness, frustration, but you also see the growth there over the course of the story.

Along the way there is something that happens where Charlie feels hurt and needs some time away, but those moments showed the journey of growth over the course of the story, which was a very deeply explored arc to her character.

The writing, through a 1st person POV makes Charlie’s fabulous voice come to life, you can sense her pain, anxieties as a girl who is tackling societal expectations, but also pursuing her and dreams as a writer. There’s also the connection Charlie has to her late father, who also inspired her love of stories and seeing that relationship juxtaposed with her mother, which she does improve throughout the story just added even more layers to the incredible cast of characters. The small-town feel was written in such a realistic way, the little details about the used bookstore, high school life, Jake’s coffee shop, and Charlie’s narrative voice made the setting of the story even more authentic!

If anything, I would have just loved more (?). Charlie, the cast, and her world felt too real I just was not ready to say goodbye when those last few chapters came. Perhaps also a couple more details about the town and page-time with her and other characters, because the setting Maldonado crafted was just a joy to explore. Also that ending, I LOVED it but it came too quick and then honestly I was feeling sad that this delightful story was over.

Truly I am filled with so many emotions about this book, its everything I wanted from a YA Contemporary and can’t wait to read what Maldonado writes next.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega is a phenomenal YA Contemporary debut filled with heart, inspiring messages, and a delightful protagonist who will capture your heart! Charlie’s journey to find love and the confidence within herself is the foundation of this charming book. Navigating family, self-love, friendship, romance, and body positivity, Maldonado’s debut is a MUST READ!

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 7 by Kamome Shirahama {Manga Review}

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 7 by Kamome Shirahama (Witch Hat Atelier #7)

Publisher: Kodansha Comics

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Pages: 176

Available Through The Book Depository and Bookshop

Summary: As the new trial comes to an end, one of Coco’s rewards from Beldaruit the Wise is the story of Qifrey’s past and how he came to desire the mysteries of magic. Feeling a connection with her own desire to save her mother, Coco departs for the source of all answers: the Tower Of Tomes. But it is a perilous journey to make on her own, and the secrets held within could sway even the most virtuous of witches…

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Witch Hat Atelier is a profound masterpiece in the making and each volume is proof of it! With breathtaking artwork, thoughtful messages, and a compelling story delving deeper into my favorite character Qifrey, Shirahama has crafted something truly special! Volume 7 reveals that the true magic lies not just within the epic fantasy world, but it’s deeply profound cast of characters. This series captivates with every installment!

Shirahama’s Witch Hat has swiftly cemented itself as a beloved series in my eyes, no matter what adventure befalls Coco, her fellow apprentices, alongside master’s Qifrey and Olruggio. Witch Hat Atelier reads like a love letter to good fantasy stories― the whimsy, and magic continue within each volume.

Volume 7 is everything you want from a sequel or continuation, the poetic exploration of characters pasts, heroes facing trials, plus a myriad of twists and secrets that leave you unable to put the book down for a second.

It opens up on a deeply metaphorical backstory to who could probably be best described as my “comfort character” Qifrey and his best friend Olruggio when they were young apprentice magicians discussing opposing elements: fire and water. Olruggio teaches him there is power in embracing what scares you and knowing those fears can help you to rest easier.

Now back in the present at the Great Hall after Qifrey has healed, the two childhood friends delve more into Qifrey’s mysterious past involving his memories, his (missing) eye, and much more. While elsewhere, Coco learns more about master Qifrey from Beldaruit, leaving her fearful of the future if her current magic can’t provide the answers she’s looking for.

Filled with nothing but dread and uneasiness, Coco is convinced she can find what she needs to save her mother in the Tower Of Tomes and runs away. However, at the same time Olruggio continues his much needed chat which reveals more to Qifrey’s obsession with locating the Brimmed Caps and how it relates to Coco.

As the group reunites and a monster close by, Qifrey reminds her how far she’s come and there is always a solution. Being the true teacher he is, he offers his young apprentice a choice…allowing her to choose whether to pursue the cryptic tower or return home, instead she chooses a different way leading her straight towards Qifrey. That was easily one of the most heartfelt moments in this surprisingly dark installment because, Coco is eager to learn more about magic and this scene is a reminder of how she wants Qifrey at her side, every step of the way, enthusiastic to keep on improving her skills no matter how long it takes. What she’s learned, the friends she’s made, and the adventures still ahead keep her anchored, allowing her to shake off any temptation to use dark magic, even if seems like the quicker solution.

With Beldaruit being Qifrey’s former master, he also learns how much he’s grown into a teacher and wonders whether he will be wise to not tear down the home he’s built for himself and his apprentices.

The last chapter though, WOW it kept me on edge. Never has Shirahama delved so deeply into the intricate past of a character like Qifrey in previous volumes. It was filled with so much pain, tension, surprise…I still cannot believe what I just read. Although I adore all of the characters in this series, Qifrey has a special place in my heart. Learning more about the lengths he’s willing to go to to protect his past and defend his future (both for himself, friends, and students) you feel for him, but also left so shaken.

Reading Qifrey’s past, being buried alive by certain magicians, losing his memories, and his former role in the rise of dark magic, Shirahama handles his story with so much care, but isn’t afraid to show us the sinister thread he still faithfully clings to making him one intriguing character I cannot wait to learn more about.

At its core though, this volume reflected on such profound themes like that of family, home, and where home truly is. As the Great Witch Beldaruit mentioned, “the mighty Silverwood, it is said, it only takes root in places it knows it will find true comfort…” (105). Much like Qifrey, the atelier is his home and despite his insistence on finding the Brimmed Caps, Beldaruit hopes he will make the wise choice in not tearing it all down.

There’s even a deeply explored concept that’s made evidently clear in this volume, that magic can be seen as both a kind of hope and despair. Coco is naïve and enthusiastic to learn everything there is to know, where Qifrey has experienced the more hostile sides of magic, both ideas co-exist and are fundamental to the superb magic system that’s been introduced thus far.

As with each volume, the story is elevated by the expert artwork. The varying shapes of panels guide the pace of the action scenes so perfectly. The specific focus to backgrounds and set details, heighten the focus of scenes as well. For example on page 21, when Beldaruit reflects on finding a younger Qifrey being buried, the page specifically splits him from the magicians with the lid of a casket acting as a divide between the scenes. Or another one of my favorite types of paneling involves Shirahama’s use of a scene as she breaks it out of a traditional panel square, it adds dimension and focus to the specific elements, which is always fantastic.

Despite Volume 7 most likely tied with 1 as my favorite in the series thus far, I did have an interesting critique once I reread this in preparation of my review. Olruggio’s side chapter in the Hall as he’s tasked with helping a royal in preparation for a banquet, in my opinion, would have fit much better in a different volume. Although it delves into a lot of great elements like introducing me to Heihart and Jujy, history surrounding the pairing of monarchs and witches, plus details into the dynamic of masters and apprentices, I believe this chapter ultimately broke up the pacing of the Qifrey-focused story.

Above all though, I truly enjoyed how there was such a character-focus to this volume, intriguing backstory, new characters as well. However, while there are quite a few dark moments in this volume, it left on a hopeful note hinting at a fun new adventure awaiting the witches of the atelier.

Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 7 is a stellar installment in Shirahama’s brilliant series! From the detailed artwork, charming cast of characters, and compelling story that gets even more interesting, this series is something truly special. This series slowly unravels the deep mysteries of a phenomenal character. Each volume, as always, leaves you eager to see what happens next!

Ophiuchus by Ali Leriger De La Plante and Natasha Tara Petrović Review {Graphic Novel}

Ophiuchus by Alexis Leriger de la Plante and Natasha Tara Petrović

Publisher: Image Comics

Release Date: August 27, 2019

Pages: 144

Available Through The Book Depository: Ophiuchus

Summary: OPHIUCHUS follows the story of the lone sentry of an ancient, inactive gate, until one day, a strange being breaks through and infects her with a virus.

Shortly after, she is approached by two machines, who implore her to follow them to the center of the universe to put an end to the virus, a malevolent being which rots all worlds.

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Ophiuchus is a stunningly illustrated graphic novel following a lonely sentry who joins two machines in brining an end to a strange virus infecting the worlds! Presenting a unique color palette and art style, among a page-turning story, this standalone blew me away!

On those rare occasions do you ever find yourself stumbling upon a sf/f read both unique and one-of-a-kind, you find yourself whisked away becoming familiar with this fascinating world only to wonder how it connects with you on some deep level you were never expecting? That’s what it felt like reading Ophiuchus with it’s vibrant colors of pinks, purples, and blues which at it’s heart is about friendship and fighting for a better world.

A lonely sentry guards her Gate among the Mountain Folk keeping it safe from all trespassers. However, when she gets infected with a virus that’s found it’s way through, she meets two other machines who are eager to stop this serpent-like creature that’s attacking and infecting worlds, plus those within them. Hesitant at first, she feels it’s rather reckless to leave her post, but after being convinced by Saggita, one of the machines, she doesn’t hesitate to learn more about what’s beyond.

It takes a leisurely pace despite how fast the story actually goes, but it gives much opportunity to examine the world in peculiar way that actually says quite a lot about the expansive universe as a whole. There’s an array of sub-units and models of machines, tradition, and culture that we barely scratch the surface of due to the virus known as Serpentis that’s infecting the galaxy and taking it away.

Though Saggita and Pyx are close friends at the start of the story, it isn’t until they meet Sentry that we see the distinct personality to each of them shine through as they travel to contain the virus. They build this beautiful friendship and although the story is contained within this single volume, I would not hesitate to buy 100’s more with even more of their adventures. Sentry is very much the awkward misfit in the beginning, but learns to take risks for her friends, especially as she learns she is inherently unaffected by the virus. Saggita is the serious, focused leader of the group whose life has really been impacted because of the serpent. Then there’s Pyx, he’s the quiet, loving, comedic one of the group who you can’t help but love. But all together, these 3 make a phenomenal team and you see their personality shine through even more during the tight-knit moments and even the dynamic action scenes, which are so well done!

What also makes this such a charming read is despite the dark undertones of the story, there’s a humor woven throughout that just adds more depth to who these characters are, I loved them! There’s a scene in particular that’s so memorable because it’s a surprisingly funny moment early on in the story where Sentry is getting ready to leave, says goodbye, and her fellow Mountain Folk never knew she could talk! It’s in those quiet moments that added even more depth to the story.

There’s even motifs that delve into Greek mythology if I’m not mistaken and seeing how it melds with this futuristic space setting was fascinating to see. After revisiting the book again on a reread, I can see how the mythological elements present this story as a sort of Epic, which so clever and made for an even more unique layer to the adventure.

Now the artwork which is utterly stunning, get ready to be wowed! I honestly feel like I could write an entire essay about the art alone. The color palette is composed of subtle pastels such as pink, purples, blues, but as you read further along you notice how they darken or lose saturation, which hints at the more serious moments of the story. There’s a clear focus on geometry throughout the various shapes of the architecture, characters, and scenery that give a gritty sci-fi look despite the mix of warm and cool colors. Where the geometric design stuck out to me, was when I noticed it especially as Saggita talked about the tradition involving a unique square-shaped flower with a neon color to it.

Overall it’s just done in such a unique style making it such a joy to see across each page! Visually stunning in every way. The paneling also varies across every moment of the story, bringing your attention to all these different parts that never fail to stand out.

If anything, I just wish there were more to this story! It ends on a mysterious, but hopeful note and I just was not ready to say goodbye to this delightful trio I was just getting to know. It feels like there a lot more that can be explored about this fascinating space-opera esque/fantasy world. I would literally read an entire series about the many adventures that Saggita, Pyx, and Sentry have (who does in fact have a name). They captured my entire heart even though I’ve met them in this single volume.

This is very much a distinct kind of story that may not meld with everyone, but I utterly adored it from the artwork to the journey and how everything came together, there’s a mysterious quality to this compact story, and with each page it captivated me.

Ophiuchus is a fast-paced science fiction graphic novel that’s about friendship and saving the world! Filled with mystery, a great cast of characters, and gorgeous artwork, it’s a wholly unique story. With humor, action, adventure, and much more, this is a fantastic read!

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 2 by Makoto Hagino {Manga Review}

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow by Matoko Hagino (Tropical Fish #2)

Publisher: Viz Media

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 2

Summary: From the moment they met at the Aquarium Club’s open house, Konatsu has admired Koyuki and treated her like she wasn’t a distant figure on a pedestal. In turn, Koyuki has been open and welcoming to the new girl who stirs her heart.

When the time comes to pick a club, Konatsu chooses the Aquarium Club with Koyuki. And even though it’s just the two of them, they manage to host a successful open house. What’s next for Koyuki and Konatsu, now that the shared experience has deepened the bond between them?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 2 follows Konatsu and Koyuki as the story builds on their wholesome friendship and navigates their introspective feelings as they continue to deepen their bond! This character-driven, page-turning story is propelled by the girls start to summer vacation with much on their minds. A quiet, slice-of-life manga sure to captivate!

Without a doubt after falling completely in love with Tropical Fish Vol. 1 I had to continue this series! There’s a poetic beauty to it as new girl in town Konatsu and aquarium club leader Koyuki find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other, like a wave upon a shore. They both are navigating this underlying loneliness, their feelings for one another and in this volume, keep each other in their thoughts.

As the aquarium open house comes to a close, Konatsu worries about her well-being as Koyuki, in reality, is trying to keep her feelings hidden. Konatsu, in her pursuit to help during the open house, is told from Koyuki’s father that the best she can do is just be there for her (the frog/salamander bread scene was too wholesome).

Unsure of how to communicate her complex feelings about Konatsu, Koyuki seems to struggle to further strengthen their friendship in the beginning, which leads to some moments of miscommunication between them. However, Koyuki takes the chance to invite Konatsu during their summer break to Aoshima (aka Nekojima / Cat Island) for a club trip, with much anxiety about asking for her number too! That led to this very funny line that I just have to share from Konatsu: “I’d call her anytime…but I don’t actually know her number!!!” (52).

During the trip, they go fishing, get caught in the rain, have some longing glances, and run into lots of cats! It was a very sweet chapter seeing them together and it just warmed my heart. I was very much just along for the ride in this volume and loved how every moment they have together (or apart), carries so much depth to each scene.

As the Summer Festival approaches, Koyuki struggles with the guilt of trying to ask Konatsu while not wanting to be unfair to those she turned down before. This leads to her assuming that because Konatsu and Kaede hung out, she’s no longer available. Although this volume leaned towards some miscommunication, this series adds more to it by navigating their girls reflections or inner dialogue as their feelings drive a particular scene.

Kaede is another character who gets a little more development too which I loved! In fact, I adore this main girl squad and can’t wait to see their friendship continue to grow. She’s very bubbly, outgoing, a bit blunt at times, however she’s always there to lend an ear. When Konatsu can’t stop thinking about Koyuki during their afternoon together, Kaede steps in to offer advice as Konatsu expresses she feels like she’s annoying Koyuki with her texts. Kaede is incredibly supportive, taking her right to Koykui’s house to solve it.

Once everything is cleared up, Koykui and Konatsu agree to go together (with both their dads joining too). But one scene that further presented the loneliness the girls are navigating throughout the series was when Koyuki shares that she admires Konatsu’s strength. However, Konatsu begins to sink back into that quiet, empty space thinking their isn’t anything particularly special about herself. As the two of them get split up because of an upcoming fireworks display, Konatsu can’t get a certain question off her mind: Why did Koyuki speak to Konatsu randomly at the open house the day they met? [More context is given early on in this volume, but seeing that come full circle finally in the end was nice and I’m hoping Koyuki will finally say (or even hint) at how she feels].

Hagino’s quiet, slice of life atmosphere really gives a calm, simplicity to the series that’s also very thought-provoking too. It’s seen especially in the personal moments that Koyuki or Konatsu reflect on their feelings or internal loneliness.

As with the first volume, I just love the artwork and how it really allows those quiet moments to stay with the reader through every page. The frog/salamander symbolism makes a return, but it’s definitely a little more in the background as the metaphorical elements are more hinted at throughout this volume. Honestly, every close scene they have together is very emotional, moving, and I just can’t wait to see their relationship develop throughout the series (though I’ve seen that it is *very slowburn).

There’s nothing I didn’t like about this volume honestly, it’s more about the plot and it just feels like a 4.5 rating! Although, this series has truly captured my heart and made a mess of my life only two volumes in, Koyuki and Konatsu are just very much in need of some hugs!! ❤

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow is a fantastic, but also underrated manga series with lots of depth, two very complex protagonists, and a slow-burn romance that will keep you reading! As Koyuki and Konatsu spend more time together, they continue to navigate their feelings for each other! An absolute gem of a manga series!

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 1 by Makoto Hagino {Manga Review}

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 1 by Makoto Hagino

Publisher: Viz Media

Release Date: November 12, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Volume 1

Summary: When her dad gets a job overseas, Konatsu Amano has to leave the Tokyo life she’s always known and relocate to a small seaside town to stay with her aunt. The move also means starting a new school surrounded by complete strangers, and it’s a lot to handle for a girl who has trouble with change. But on her first day in her new town, Konatsu is instantly drawn to Koyuki, an older girl who is the sole member of the Aquarium Club. Konatsu’s introverted tendencies are hard for her to overcome, but maybe she’s found something worth coming out of her shell for?

Konatsu is doing her best to adapt to her new school, but being required to join a club has introduced additional pressures. Her friendly classmate Kaede invites her to join the Home Ec Club, but Konatsu hasn’t even had time to consider which club she’s interested in. Meanwhile, Koyuki is like a ray of sunshine in Konatsu’s cloudy world. Will Konatsu join the Aquarium Club?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow is a charming, slice-of-life manga debut that follows the bond between two girls who go to the same school in a seaside town! Their instant connection makes for a wholesome, sweet story as the relationship grows with each page! Featuring much SLOWBURN and YEARNING, this is a fantastic start to a new series!

A quiet, seaside town, a chance encounter at a school aquarium, and two girls who are in their own ways…lonely. This is the beginning of A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow, easily one of my new favorite manga series!!

Konatsu Amano moves to Nagahama to live with her aunt after her father gets a job overseas. However, Konatsu can’t let go of this loneliness that’s buried within her. But, when she sees her new high school with an open house for its aquarium, she finds herself instantly drawn to Koyuki Honatsu, the club’s leader and only member.

There’s a comforting, almost delicate, gentle bond that forms between these two girls and that exact feeling unfurls throughout the various layers of this story from its art style, character dynamics, themes, and underlying romance. It’s beautiful & although it seems like a very simple story, Hagino’s masterful execution is anything but that.

As Konatsu tries to drift among the current of her new life at school, she can’t help but feel those tides shift whenever she sees or hears about Koyuki! There’s such intense emotion that’s woven throughout the entirety of this first volume and it’s in a way, poetic?

The reader is left with a sense of melancholy, but also bountiful feeling of joy seeing these two girls continue to bond and navigate the emotions they feel for each other.

As each student is required to join a club, Konatsu wonders whether joining Koyuki’s Aquarium Club is a good idea (with her feelings for Koyuki only continuing to build) as her other classmate Hirose, recommends the Home Ec. club. The author brilliantly delves into the inner complexities of our heroines, the complicated emotions they have for one another, and the underlying sense of loneliness.

Konatsu instantly finds a friend in Hirose, the bubbly, extroverted classmate who gets her to see the aquarium in the first place! She’s just a really fun character and seeing Konatsu’s inner conflict with wondering whether to accept or decline her offer to join Hirose in the Home Ec club turned out to be very funny. I can’t wait to see all 3 of these girls bond even more over the next volumes!

Hagino builds such a fascinating, unique slice-of-life school atmosphere through Nanahama High School, not only through its minimal details, but also by emphasizing the importance of clubs! The inclusion of having club involvement be mandatory for students just added to the distinct atmosphere of Nanahama.

Now the ROMANCE is very slowburn, but also achingly soft and sweet. The tiniest moments really capture an entire scene whether its small hand holds, sharing food, or just the longing gazes. This SAPPHIC romance has really gone under the radar and hopefully my review inspires you to pick up this series!

There’s such wonderful imagery and metaphors woven throughout Vol. 1, especially when it comes to salamanders, which becomes the foundation for the girls’ dynamic! Masuji Ibuse’s “Salamander” to a salamander in the aquarium club from the very first pages, even to Konatsu calling it by Koyuki’s name, represents the desire for these two to escape the cold, loneliness they feel.

At its heart, its such a beautiful message about the two allowing each other to escape when they feel trapped and isolated. Though Koyuki feels more of a weight from expectations from those around her and in turn, she never really feels understood. All the details about marine life are beautifully woven in as well, very much looking forward to see how the author develops it!

One of my favorite moments between them was on page 36 when the aquatic background takes over the scene as they hold hands at the beach! We see how much Konatsu and Koyuki mean to each other with every moment their on page together (or even just thinking about one another), its very cute!! ❤

The budding relationship between Konatsu and Koyuki is not only delicate and gentle, but also brilliantly captivating in how it navigates emotion, yearning, just…all those layered feelings!

Story-wise although its definitely slower-paced, its very character-driven, which in turn draws you into all these other captivating elements of the story because of how wonderfully developed they are. The writing is also very good and I can count many beautiful lines that show the deep, inner feelings the girls had for each other.

The artwork is wonderful, allowing for a slow, introspective view of the story. Its in the detail of the characters, expressions, alongside the backgrounds, that bring so much to each scene. The inclusion of the aquatic elements like the ocean, marine animals, etc., all add to that special world that these two have carved for themselves and its really beautiful. I’d even say through moments where the animals around them seem more animated or a salamander appears on their shoulders/near by, uses an element of magical realism/fabulism to convey the importance of their inner voices.

If you take anything away from this review, its that you should definitely pick up this series and get carried away by its remarkable story! Tropical Fish has easily become one of my new favorite manga series, Konatsu and Koyuki have captured my heart!!

Despite the 4.5 star rating, this is a 5-star series ABSOLUTELY!! I think its just wanting a bit more to our characters in this first volume, but despite that I adored it so much!

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow is a fantastic yuri manga series filled with a slow-burn, heartwarming romance, wonderful main heroines, unique school setting, gorgeous symbolism, and an immersive story you won’t be able to put down!

Satoko And Nada Vol. 3 by Yupechika {Manga Review}

Satoko And Nada Vol. 3 by Yupechika (Satoko & Nada #3)

Publisher: Seven Seas

Release Date: June 16, 2020

Pages: 128

Available Through The Book Depository: Satoko And Nada Vol. 3

Summary: Abdullah, the mysterious young man who might marry Nada one day, is suddenly in America?! Satoko and her friends (not to mention Nada’s broter are in a panic, unsure if they should tell Nada or just stall the guy until he leaves. When it comes to Nada’s future, the people who love her will do whatever it takes to make her happy!

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: Satoko And Nada continues to be one of the best contemporary manga series out there! Following the adventures of 2 women who continue their university studies in the US, this series is told through 4-panel pages that delve into the daily lives of two best friends and as they learn more about each other’s cultures! Satoko And Nada is a must-read series!

I think Satoko And Nada is one of those manga’s that’s gone under the radar and more people should be reading it! Where this series absolutely excels is how it delves deep into the topic of friendship and balancing the character relationships/dynamics. If you have yet to read these fantastic books, my recent tweet sums up why its so great!

For those who haven’t had the chance to read this series it follows two university students (Satoko who’s Japanese and Nada who’s Saudi Arabian) as they study abroad in the US and after becoming roommates, they instantly click and become the best of friends. Every volume explores new adventures and features wholesome moments as they learn more about not only American culture, but each others!

As with previous volumes, this series continues its 4-panel style storytelling that presents tons of slice of life moments that happen in Satoko and Nada’s day to day schedules. The main plot for this volume follows Nada’s husband-to-be, Abdullah, who comes for a visit as Satoko attempts to stall and protect Nada, unsure of how to bring up the conversation while knowing how focused she is on her studies.

What made this story arc one of the best was seeing how it not only delves into discussing how Nada and Abdullah have their own busy schedules outside of their arrangement, getting both of their perspectives on it. Also how they are respectful of each other’s personal goals and despite being distant, still find ways to stay in touch. In addition, this really highlights the deep bond both ladies have for each other when Nada learns Satoko was only trying to protect her and respect her space before introducing her to her fiance Abdullah.

Another highlight of this series is that each volume continuously shows that each of them are still learning about each other’s cultures and having fun doing so. Focusing more on Nada’s culture we learn more about abaya care, hijabs, agals, henna, and much more!

I also enjoyed that this volume had a variety of different adventures that they get into: shopping together, being part of Miracle’s volunteer fair, having a snow day, however nearing the end Satoko has her own page time for solo adventures too.

Friendship is a core piece of this series that makes for such heartfelt and memorable moments in this volume specifically, especially as its leading up to the final volume (*sob 😭💞). I had tons of favorite pages from Volume 3: ‘Someone To Rely On’ was one the most impactful and wholesome pages, ‘Did I Pray?,’ ‘Snow,’ ‘Luck,’ and ‘Second Home.’ These were just some of the pages that showcased their lovely dynamic and the wonderful friendship that they share.

What definitely stood out to me was because its also prepping for the finale, I just found myself remembering more of these pages and appreciating the heartfelt moments where they specifically state how much their friendship means to each of them. Despite being from different countries, they’ve really made a new home for themselves in the US and cherish their relationship so much. Page 82 summed it up perfectly: “You know this is our second homeland. If you couldn’t go back to Japan for some reason, I would come here to get you…”

The 4-panel manga gives the story a unique opportunity to place our main characters in tons of different situations and moments that make for really well-timed humor. Because we get to know Satoko, Nada, Miracle, Kevin, Rahman, and Abdullah fairly quickly, it allows this novel to focus more on the plot and various 1-page acts. The dialogue is great and the distinct art-style really sets the series apart.

There’s definitely more cohesive story arcs that build over Volume 3 and its more impactful, which is why I rated this one a 4.5 compared to the last volume. However, I did want even more Satoko and Nada page time together, especially with their friends Kevin and Miracle (because these two did feel a bit distant).

This series could go on for 100 volumes and I wouldn’t mind. I’m still emotionally preparing myself for the last volume because, you know that feeling when a book just connects with you on a deep level and you can’t really explain why? That’s what reading this series is like! I’m right there with Satoko and Nada on all their adventures and every volume just leaves you smiling and full of joy!!

If I were to pitch this series and explain why it needs more attention, I’d say it follows the fantastic adventures of Japanese and Saudi Arabian hijabi Muslim exchange students who become the best of friends! It feels like the book community is also usually on the lookout for more college-set YA stories that focus on FRIENDSHIP and I definitely believe this series deserves so much love and support (PLEASE read it if you get the chance, its so wonderful) ❤❤

Satoko And Nada Vol. 3 focuses more on the slice-of-life moments as it balances humor, deeply interwoven theme of friendship, and features many vignette-style plot points that keep you reading! Delving into the beauty of deep friendship bonds and exploration of culture, Satoko And Nada is an utterly brilliant manga series that will capture your heart from page 1!