The simplicity of Flamer is deceptive. There is a lot going on within an image driven story. The text is realistic, and could be from the year 1995 (when the book is set) or today. The black and white illustrations help the story stay the main focus, and the use of fire and the color red is telling. Red is a strong plot mover/plot point as the red color and images becomes its own character. There is even the use of fire and it too becomes its own character. In fact, it literally becomes a person at the end.
The interesting thing I found with the book is that though our main character is not completely comfortable with who he is/what they do, at the same time they are mostly themselves. Which includes what the kids consider “too gay.” The action takes place over a week, which can make things feel a bit too fast at times, but also it works by allowing us to have a peek at a “day in the life of an almost high school student dealing with religious beliefs, internal knowledge and denial. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly. Plus, there is an interesting parallel with one of the narrator’s favorite superheroes, Jean Grey/Phoenix. Some of the references are a bit dated, but it did not feel like it would be an issue.
While based on author Mike Curato’s own experience, this book is a work of fiction. There are some trigger warnings: homophobic actions and language, racial slurs and harassment, fighting, lack of discipline towards the actual bully, and an attempted suicide (though more the act is considered, without an actual follow through).