School for Extraterrestrial girls V01 1 Girl on Fire is one of the most amazingly bad and wonderful books I have read in a while. Jeremy Whitley has included all the clichés of high school drama (best friends fighting, not fitting in, being cruel to another (even accidently), roommate issues, protesting “the man” with not-so-subtle rebellions acts, girls on fire, snooty classmates and an almost lovers feud). And it is all tied up in a book about alien girls living on Earth.
You will find humor, adventure, mystery and themes of coming-of-age while learning to accept who you are (there is a not-so-subtle reference to “presenting as you are most comfortable”) so GLBT+ readers get your reading hats on. If you are like me, readers will laugh and see themselves in these characters. So far, there has been little that could be considered “inappropriate,” therefore ages 10 to 14 would be the best readers. It could go younger (as young as 8-9), but not all readers would be ready as there are some elements that could be sensitive (our main character’s race destroyed her best friends people, she does burst into flames, she was kidnapped by her not-parents, some girls at the school are not “pretty looking” for a human eye, a scene at the end is a little intense). But probably nothing that isn’t in a modern Scooby-Doo like cartoon.
Tara Smith (our main character) has lived her 15-year-old life presenting as a black, female, human. She does not fit in with her classmates, books are her friends, she has a strict schedule she sticks to, but knows she is bound for bigger things. During a fluke accident, the equipment that keeps Tara human looking is damaged and that’s when things start to get exciting. After all, not every day you see a classmate spontaneous combust. Waking up in an unground school for aliens (my biggest complaint, they never show how Tara was found and transported), she meets her new roommates and the teen-high-school-world starts with a holler, spilled drink and hurt feelings.
By no stretch of the imagination is this a serious book and it is pure comic book-graphic novel. This is most noticeable with Jamie Noguchi’s illustrations. They are bright, colorful, detailed in a cartoonish, but not cartoony, manner. They just fit the feel of everything the text is giving you perfectly. There is no question who is who, or the action presented. They are nice, relaxing, comfortable and add to the similar enjoyable reading. As an adult I flew through it, and would have reread it, but wanted to pass my copy onto other people. I am disappointed tht book two is not due until Summer 2021 but will have to just wait and see how things turn out when classes start again.