Nova is a young hearing-impaired witch of Asian-American heritage, who helps her grandmas run the Black Cat Bookstore in their small New England town. When her childhood friend, Tam, comes back to town, their return sets off a tale of magical adventure, family conflict and sweet romance.
This is a gentle, charming tale that reads as YA despite slightly older characters. Suzanne Walker writes of characters under-represented in YA fantasy with a real grounding in what magic might mean for them. I really appreciated the extra material included in the volume that explores the challenges a hearing-impaired character might have in navigating the setting’s magic system. The romance is queer but chaste, and there’s some magical violence, so it kinda feels like a shojo manga transplanted to American soil. Wendy Xu’s art reflects this, blending the best of Japanese and European comic styles, well suiting the subject matter.
Overall, a cute urban fantasy that centers minority characters, seamlessly integrating non-mainstream American lifestyles and cultures in an affirming manner. I think it would have had a more profound impact on me had I been much younger upon first encountering the book, tho.
This volume was reviewed as part of my voting slate for the Hugo Awards 2020 Best Graphic Story category.