Gadget Girl by Suzanne Kamata
My Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
Age Group: Young Adult
Release Date: May 17th 2013
Synopsis: Aiko Cassidy is fourteen 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, ridiculous as it seems to her, might just change her life.
Gadget Girl began as a novella published 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.
Awhile this book could have had a little bit more ‘oomph’, Gadget Girl is a quiet, mellow read with dashes of both sadness and sweetness. A reader may find it hard to get through the less-than-enjoyable but necessary beginning, but afterwards, the reader will want to read until the end.
Aiko, the protagonist, is a girl who has lived with cerebral palsy for her whole life and is also her artist mother’s muse. But even with her mother’s attempts of showing that Aiko is beautiful through art, Aiko still has self-esteem issues from being mocked by her classmates.
Her solace, though, is her creation: the Gadget Girl manga, and her hopes of travelling to Japan and meeting her father the indigo farmer for the first time.
Unfortunately her future plans are interrupted when her mother finds a new man she loves, Raoul, and wins the grand prize on an art show, thus allowing her to go to Paris (instead of Japan). But Aiko will learn that Paris might be better than Japan as she unwittingly finds herself on a but of a journey, learning to accept herself for who she is , to forgive, and maybe even what first love is like.
When reading this book, I felt myself really enjoying the time I was having with Aiko. She is a bit of a killjoy and understandably so, but there was something very strong about her. And the fact that we had common interest like manga was a pretty good thing too 🙂 I was very engaged in her story of self-acceptance and learning to forgive.
The relationships that Aiko builds with the people that she meets in France, with her mother, and Raoul are what made the story, for me. The kind-of romance is done pretty well, the love and conflict between Aiko and her mother is done amazingly well, and Raoul’s relationship with Aiko is more of a comforting one. I could really feel the feelings that Aiko had toward these people and how they were affecting her. That is no easy feat.
And the art element! I love it! Gadget Girl gives a lot of information about famous artist and their works, including manga, of course. So if you love art and are looking for a book that has many references, this might just be for you 😉
The prose and dialogue could have had more life put into them. The writing isn’t remarkable in any way for the most part except for its readability. But in the times Kamata really needed to, she wrote with passion and I could really feel the emotion flooding me.
Despite my overall enjoyment of this book, though, I do have one major quibble. And that is how boring the beginning is. It was a necessary beginning, but I feel that there could have been something down that could have made it more than a bland but necessary part of a story.
Gadget Girl is just a well-written story that does a great job depicting a teenage girl’s troubles in life and how she learns to overcome them. This isn’t a story for everyone since it isn’t overly emotional or exciting, but Gadget Girl will find an audience that will appreciate it.
This post is part of the Gadget Girl Blog Tour. An advanced copy was provided in exchange for a honest review.