Fearless – by Kenny Porter, illustrated by Zach Wilcox

Fearless – by Kenny Porter, illustrated by Zach Wilcox. Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, 2021. 9781338355871 

Format: Uncorrected proof / graphic novel

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

 Genre: realistic fiction

What did you like about the book?  It is the summer before middle school for childhood best friends Kara and Alice.  The pair spend their days reenacting scenes from their favorite show, Shinpi Rider, about a masked cyclist who always shows up to help people in distress.  Whenever Alice tries to express some of her own interests and concerns about the upcoming school year, Kara shifts focus back to the imaginative play.  Right before school is to start, Alice’s mother gets promoted and they move two towns away.  Despite promises to stay in touch, Kara’s letters and messages to Alice go unanswered.  So she steals a page from her TV heroine’s book, and decides to skip the first day of school to ride her bike (accompanied by Gidget, her pet ferret) to find Alice and make sure their friendship is intact.  

On her journey, Kara encounters many folks who need her help, and is waylaid at a ranger station during a thunderstorm, all while her parents are frantically searching for her.  When she finally catches up with Alice, reality sinks in that her friend may have moved on from their childhood game.  Kara has to decide how she is going to go forward – whether she should give up her fangirl ways or use her interest in the costumes and action to find a new niche at her new school. 

A standard-issue middle school friendship story told in graphic panels that pay homage to the anime style of Shinpi Rider, Fearless is a quick read for comic book fans and realistic fiction readers alike. Kara learns a lot about herself on her adventure, and returns home ready to start fresh.  No real new ground is covered here, but it does provide some reassurance for those entering middle school that they don’t have to completely abandon their childhood passions – they may just need to transform them a bit.

Anything you did not like about the book?  Kara’s trek to find Alice included several different encounters with strangers, (mostly kids); readers might be uncomfortable with how many people she interacted with and offered to help.  

 To whom would you recommend this book? It will fit right on the shelf with books like Cardboard Kingdom, Shannon Hale’s Real Friends series – and will no doubt be popular with those who gravitate toward those upper elementary comics about quirky middle school friendships.

Who should buy this book? Public and elementary school libraries

Where would you shelve it?  Graphic novels, 741.5

 Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  no

 Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Leigh Russell King, Lincoln Street School, Northborough, Massachusetts.

Date of review: 6/22/2021

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