Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible

Suzanne Kamata has a biracial daughter and lives in Tokushima, Japan. As I am also the mother of a biracial Japanese/Midwest white daughter growing up in the USA, I opened this book wanting to find a story that explores the sometimes tricky emotional experience of biculturalism.

I was not disappointed. Aiko Cassidy lives in a small Michigan town with her artist mom. She never knew her father, and only knows him as an indigo farmer from shikoku through stories from her mom. She doesn’t sit with the jocks and cheerleaders at school– not only is she one of only a few visible Asians at her school she also has a lame leg– and her best friend is a girl obsessed with movies and old Hollywood.

But now her mom has a new boyfriend, one who is a decent cook and doesn’t seem freaked out by Aiko’s disability, and her manga, Gadget Girl, about a girl who saves a cute looking boy over and over is getting more fans, and her mom has just won an art prize off of sculptures featuring Aiko as the model and is taking them to Paris for a month.

Aiko is not overjoyed to go. Not only because of leaving her friend, but also because she doesn’t actually enjoy the role of cute daughter with a disability that she must play whenever she goes to her mom’s art events.

Despite her reluctance, she does like Paris, not least of all becasue of a cute waiter at a local cafe who also seems to like her Gadget Girl manga.

Aiko reads a little on the naive side as a 15 year old for me. The problem with writing about 15 year olds is of course realistically depicting their social media use without being boring. This story gets around some of that by putting her best friend in a media black out, but sometimes references to her website visitor count come off as a bit oldfashioned (what about Instagram, etc?) There’s also all her daydreams about meeting her father and farming indigo with him, as well as her desire to visit the famously healing waters of Lourdes.

But despite this naivete and innocence, the story’s depiction of how Aiko handles her mother’s boyfriends, and her wondering about her own background and chagrin at the way her body betrays her etc ring true. There’s alot of emphasis placed on how she looks (her lame leg, her differences from her mom). There’s also alot of Aiko thinking about being invisible…something I’m wondering if the author’s experience with teens in Japan colored too much her approach to depicting an American High School experience.

Still, a worthy addition to bicultural/biracial teen literature.