Photo of "Mooncakes" by Suzanne Walker and illustrated by Wendy Xu
“Mooncakes” by Suzanne Walker and illustrated by Wendy Xu is a young adult graphic novel following a young witch named Nova living with her two aunts. One night when she runs into her childhood crush Tam in the forest, she learns that Tam is a werewolf and has come back to town to investigate and help defeat an evil demon that has been summoned in the forest. The two main characters work together, learn a little more about each other and learn that there are stronger feelings than just friendship between the two of them.
First thing I want to comment on is the art style of this graphic novel. Wendy Xu uses several shades of yellow, orange, brown and burgundy throughout the novel and the combination makes it feel very autumnal. The entire time I was reading, I couldn’t help but feel that this would be a perfect fall read.
I thought Xu was very creative in the way she designed the panels for the story. We do have the traditional square style panels but every once in a while she would experiment with the shape of them such as using curved lines, or making the entire page one giant panel, and she did so in a way that makes sense with what was occurring on the page. For example, during a lot of the magic scenes, that is when Xu would use the curvy panels, emphasizing the whimsical feeling in the story.
The writing did a great job of balancing the adventure of the plot with the romance. Neither felt like it was overpowering the other.
The romance between Nova and Tam felt very natural, it was believable that these two characters loved each other. This was one of the cutest romances I’ve read in young adult literature and the entire time they would interact romantically, I couldn’t help but have a big cheesy smile while reading.
My one minor criticism of the writing is I wish that Walker had done a little more world building in regards to the magic and the setting. While reading I just wanted to learn more about where the story takes place and how the magic operates.
But perhaps what is the most important thing to discuss about this graphic novel is the non-binary representation. We are starting to see an increase in different queer identities being represented in the young adult genre and it emphasizes my belief in the importance of representation.
In the case of Mooncakes, Tam identifies as non-binary and the representation is handled in a way where their identity isn’t the focal point of the story and it’s treated as if it is simply a part of who they are, which I think is a nice change of pace to the lack of acceptance trope that is commonly found in LGBTQ+ fiction. For example, there is a scene in the novel where Nova introduces Tam to her aunts, and one of them accidentally uses the wrong pronoun. When Nova steps up and corrects her aunt, the aunt quickly apologizes and from then in, remembers to use the correct pronouns. I felt this was such an important scene because it shows a willingness to learn and accept Tam for who they are.
It is my belief that a young reader who identifies similarly to Tam will read this and hopefully see that it is ok to be who they are and believe that there is nothing wrong with their identity.
Overall, this is a very cute story with beautiful artwork and I hope that this duo continues to produce more because I definitely will keep a look out for anything they create in the future.