Flamer cover
Flamer by Mike Curato

by Mike Curato

Henry Holt, 2020
366 pages

Ages 13 and older

Aiden Navarro (Filipino/white) is nervous about transferring from Catholic to public school in fall when he starts high school. For now, he’s happy to be at Boy Scout camp. He loves scout camp for the activities and camaraderie, and as a chance to be away from his unhappy home. Generally well-liked by other campers, Aiden takes some teasing in stride but meaner comments—racist and homophobic taunts he’s sadly familiar with—are hard. Despite an obvious crush on fellow camper Elias, Catholic Aiden is in denial about being gay. Elias, who’s been a terrific friend at camp, distances himself after Aiden—surprising them both—kisses him. The recent firing of a counselor because he’s gay, and the silence of Aiden’s best friend Violet, a devout Christian who hasn’t written back since Aiden hinted in a letter he might be gay, compound Aiden’s suddenly dark feelings and he seriously contemplates suicide. The “flamer” of this graphic novel’s title has obvious literal and symbolic meaning, but one of the enduring ones is “light,” not only because Aiden realizes that he is loved, cared for, and accepted for who he is when Elias, other campers, and Violet all come through, but because of the brightness of Aiden’s personality, which makes his deep sadness and feeling of hopelessness before he finds light all the more aching by contrast. This honest, ultimately affirming work features black-and-white illustrations punctuated with bursts of orange to great effect. ©2020 Cooperative Children’s Book Center