Don’t Cosplay with My Heart by Cecil Castellucci
Published by Scholastic, December 26, 2017. Jacketed hardcover of 288 pages at $17.99. Intended for ages 12 and up, grades 7 and up. Also available as an E-book.
Note: I read an advanced copy so anything may have changed by publication.
The cover: The right side of Edan’s face is on the left side of the cover. She’s wearing a purple mask and has pink and red hair: the hallmarks of a cosplayer. She looks at the reader intently, showing the simmering fury that she shares with her favorite comic book character. To the right, in script, is the book’s title, with the author’s name under that. The back of the book features the other side of Edan’s face, though it’s been lightened considerably to allow the premise and the author’s bio to be written. This photograph was taken by Michael Frost and the cover designed by Elizabeth Parisi. This cover gives the reader the perfect introduction to this book. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the back cover, “Gargantua is ten feet tall and so is the size of my being pissed off at everything right now. When Edan Kupferman dresses up like her favorite character, Gargantua, she feels tall and powerful. That’s important right now, because her family is a mess, her best friend is gone for the summer, her crush is confusing, and Edan’s feeling small and not sure which end is up. When she is cosplaying, Edan can be angry, loud, and not the good girl everyone thinks she is. And when she’s at conventions, it’s like she’s found her own Team Tomorrow. But when life starts to spiral out of control, Edan has to figure out whether she needs a sidekick, or if she has the strength to be the hero of her own story.” As someone who’s gone to comic book conventions for decades, I’m interested to see how Castellucci shows these gatherings as well as seeing what her characters are like in and out of them. Overall grade: B
The characters: Edan Kupferman is the protagonist and she’s having the worst of times. Her father is possibly going to jail for embezzlement, her mother has given up on everything, Grandma Jackie has come in to help her and her mother, and her bestie Kasumi is in Japan for summer. Attending a convention in Los Angles, she learns of her favorite comic book being made into a movie. She decides to launch a cosplay club at her high school that year to help her and others create costumes to attend bigger conventions, such as the San Diego Comic-Con. Over the course of the year she attends several conventions, has difficulties with Kasumi, gets her first boyfriend, Yuri Ross, and might have feelings for Kirk Gomez. Edan’s life seems to mirror her favorite character Gargantua, whose exploits motivate her throughout the book. Kasumi helps Edan, until her personal life takes a turn. Yuri is perfect first boyfriend fare: he seems sweet, but is a different person around his friends, who are not the nicest people in the world. Yuri has a a few surprises as well, though Kirk is the wild card of the book. There’s something about him that draws Edan close, but she should be loyal to Yuri, after all, he is her boyfriend. There are also some secrets that Kirk is holding from the Edan and the reader until the very end. As someone who’s been a teacher for over twenty-five years–with six at the high school level, Castellucci has written some honest, authentic characters. Overall grade: A+
The settings: Edan’s house, high school, the costume room a few doors down from the auditorium, and several conventions are the book’s primary settings. Edan’s house slowly deteriorates as her father’s prolonged sequestering continues. It’s a sad location not only how it’s described, but what goes on there. With dad gone, it’s a different place. The high school has the expected feels of any high school, but it’s the costume room where the characters come to life. Freed from the rigmarole of schoolwork, the teens get to talk and make costumes. It’s here that they really shine and joys and pains come to life. The conventions are really well done, from the smallest to the mother of all cons. I’ve been to several conventions of various sizes and Castellucci nails them. Overall grade: A
The action: There’s no physical action, but plenty of drama, and that’s what will make readers turn pages. I appreciated that Edan isn’t a perfect character and that she makes bad choices, some purposely. I can picture readers yelling at the book to tell Edan what to do, especially when it comes to Yuri and Kirk. There’s a major twist in the last forty pages that had me wondering how the protagonist would get herself out of that pickle. Overall grade: A
The conclusion: I don’t know if it’s because I’m the father of two teenage daughters, I’m a huge fan of comic books for over forty years, or that I teach high school students, but I teared up in the end. There’s no other way this could have ended, and Castellucci ends it perfectly. Yeah, it got me. Overall grade: A+
The final line: Perfect reading for teens, fans of comic books, fans of cosplaying, or those who’d like to remember their high school years. I can only hope that Castellucci continues Edan’s exploits in a future book. There are conventions in Japan and Europe…Overall grade: A