Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me
Tamaki, Mariko. (2019). Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me. New York, NY: First Second. 289 pages.
Audience: Grades 9+, High School
Kayla Hlad (she/her)
MLIS Student, Kent State University iSchool
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me (2020 Michael L. Printz Honor Book) is an engaging, beautifully illustrated graphic novel that tells the story of a teenage girl named Freddy and her experience in a tumultuous relationship with Laura Dean. As we learn from Freddy’s emails to an advice columnist, no matter how many times Laura Dean breaks Freddy’s heart, Freddy can’t help but take her back. But when Freddy realizes that her attachment and Laura Dean’s inconsiderate behavior is starting to affect Freddy’s friendships and her sense of self, she realizes that she needs to consider making some difficult choices.
Teens can easily identify with Freddy and her conflicted feelings, as well as the well-developed supporting characters. The clothing styles and word choices depicted feel so authentically in the moment that the graphic novel reads like a film captured in a real high school. Mariko Tamaki’s illustrations are dynamic, stunning, and thrust this narrative forward with their uncanny ability to portray complex sentiments. The format of the pages are varied, keeping the reader engaged and exposing them to new layers of meaning and experience. The author’s artistic decision to bring selected moments and details alive with pink ink is fun, but also serves as a powerful tool to highlight elements that create strong affective reactions. The quality of the illustrations, character development, and dialogue is exceptionally high. What’s more, the relatable characters, much-needed representation of LGBTQ+ relationships, and theme of first love is sure to be popular with teens.