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“I thought coming back here would make things right. And it did, but not because of the place. . . Home is where you are, okay?” Tam. –Mooncakes
by Wendy Xu & Suzanne Walker
AR Test, Graphic Novel, LGBTQ
Teen witch, Nova, hears rumors of strange lights in the forest. When she goes to investigate, she sees a white wolf and discovers her childhood crush—werewolf Tam Lang. Tam is trying to outrun a cult of witches, who want to use his werewolf magic to unleash a demon. With the help of Nova’s Nanas, Tam and Nova try to stop the dark forces that want to claim Tam’s magic for evil.
Mooncakes’ illustrations use darker fall colors to beautifully show a world where magic exists. One of the best aspects of Mooncakes is its large cast of diverse characters. Both Nova and Tam are Chinese American, and Tam is non-binary and uses the pronoun “they.” Nova’s family is completely accepting of Nova and Tam’s romantic relationship. Nova’s two Nana’s are charming, accepting, and support both Nova and Tam. In addition, Nova relies on hearing aids and even uses them as part of her magic.
Mooncakes is a story of friendship, family, and romance. One of the best aspects of the story is the characters who accept and support each other. Despite this, the character development and the weak plot leave a lot to be desired. While the story shows some of Nova’s and Tam’s backstory, the plot moves too quickly for readers to really care about the two main characters. They fall in love quickly, and predictably. It is this love that allows Tam to overcome the demon.
The story revolves around magic, and the characters are seen making potions several times. However, the magic is mostly represented through bright lights, and the scenes that rely on magic are often confusing. Likewise, when Tam is introduced to Nova’s family, their celebration is too short and leaves too many questions. For example, why are Nova’s parents ghosts? Why do Nova’s parents want her to move away from her Nanas? Why does her uncle have the head of a bird?
Mooncakes will appeal to a large audience and is a good choice for reluctant readers. The pages are broken up into panels and have 2 to 7 simple sentences on each page. The illustrations show the characters’ emotions and use colors to switch from the warm feelings of Nova’s house to darker colors for the creepy, dangerous scenes. Readers interested in magic and romance will enjoy Mooncakes’ fast pace; however, the characters will quickly fade from their memory.
- Nova and Tam kiss on two separate occasions.
- Nova goes to investigate strange lights in the forest, and sees a white wolf. A large horse attacks the wolf and a bloody fight ensures. Nova uses magic to chase the horse away. The fight is illustrated over four pages.
Drugs and Alcohol
- When Nova’s friend shows up unexpectedly, Nova tells her, “You’re an asshole, you know that?”
- Nova says both damn and crap one time.
- When Nova sees a horse attacking a wolf, she says, “Screw horses.”
- Nova introduces her friend to Tam, saying, “this is Tatyana royal pain in my ass.”
- “Oh my God” is used as an exclamation twice.
- Most of the characters are witches who study magic and make magic potions. For example, when Nova’s friend is injured, she makes them a healing potion.
- A book of magic tries to bite Nova.
- A cult wants to use Tam’s magic to release a bound demon. Tam says, “There’s a bound demon buried in the forest. Legend says that only the power of a wolf can raise it.” However, Tam doesn’t understand wolf magic enough to know how the cult will use him.
- One of the Nana’s tells Nova to be careful when trying new spells because once Nana tried a spell and “was stuck in a jar for a week.”
- The two Nanas use magic to bind a demon and put him in a cage. Most of the spell is shown through different colored lights. The scene is illustrated over four pages. Once the demon is put in a cage, spirit animals come out.
- When Nova’s relatives come to visit, an uncle has the head of a bird. Her dead parents also appear as ghosts.
- Nova uses stones “that allow witches to enter each other’s minds. It’s meant to strengthen connections, get new perspectives.” Nova uses the stones on herself and Tam. Six pages show both Nova’s and Tam’s past and thoughts.
- When a witch tries to uncage the demon, Nova steps in and uses magic to stop the witch, who is seen lying on the ground.
- When Tam tries to banish the demon, a witch stops him. The witch tells him, “you are the creature’s vessel child. It was meant to take hold of you.” The witch captures Tam and puts him in a cage until she and others can perform the ritual.
- Nova and the Nanas use a location spell to find Tam. “The smoke from the cauldron rises and points to the place on the map where Tam is being held captive.” With the aid of animal spirits, Nova and the Nanas try to help Tam.
- During the battle, the demon and Tam begin to meld. However, when the demon and Tam connect, Tam realizes that “I guess we’re not so different after all. . . But see, there’s someone out there who believes in me. Loves me even. I have to go back to her.” The demon releases Tam’s body and Tam uses magic to change the demon back into spirit form.