I am always on the lookout for new fiction with neurodivergent representation. Often, I find it in the least expected places, which is why I wasn’t super surprised to find it in Artist’s Alley in CONvergence this year.
After chatting briefly with Katy Rex, I decided to give the comic a try.
The main characters all attend a school reminiscent of a modern, Americanized Hogwarts, but with a sort of X-Men-ish spin to it. It has a definite Sailor Moon feel to it, too, because there are quite a bit of Magical Girl elements thrown in. There’s more cultural and neurological diversity within these five girls than in most mainstream comics I’ve seen to date, but it’s well done enough not to feel forced.
For me, the characters make or break a comic.
The main character, Emma, is autistic and nonverbal. She narrates the book, but doesn’t speak at all, save for text messaging. The writers and artists include her stimming in certain scenes throughout the book, and include a scene demonstrating some of the bullying so many nonverbal folks deal with in public settings.
However, they also demonstrate how wonderful it is when peers step up and actively include Emma in their shenanigans.
As a quick aside, I’ve also found that texting is a lifesaver on days where words don’t want to word for me. Others with language problems have shared similar experiences with me, as well. Thank you, autofill!
As great as Emma and the rest of the characters are, the one who really resonated with me is Saba. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but I’m 99.9% sure Saba has ADHD. She does so many of the same things that I’ve done long before my diagnosis of ADHD-I this year.
I’m not exactly hyperactive, which is why I have that Inattentive tagged on at the end, but being completely unable to shut up about needless details when I’m feeling discombobulated continues to be a problem. Saba demonstrates it perfectly in the below panel.
I did the same thing when I was younger, and I find myself doing it to this day. I also abuse emoticons like Saba does in the second picture.
The fact Saba adopted a bug and named it elsewhere in the comic had me laughing, because I have a habit of naming things. When it comes to insects, for example, I’ve named all the spiders in and around our house Lloyd. My houseplants are named after Addam’s Family characters.
Another thing I heartily appreciated was the fact that romance had an extremely minimal role in the book. One of my pet peeves is when female characters are reduced to a yearning for marriage and babies. Although this aspect did play a part in the developing story line, it’s not done in the way most writers do for female-led books.
While I won’t expand on that, I will note that one of the main characters was established as gay early on. Most importantly, this aspect of who she is isn’t the main differentiating element of her character.
The only thing I didn’t care for was the general aesthetic, but that’s just a personal taste thing. Despite the fact I wore a pink robe most of the weekend*, I tend to prefer a darker look. Jessica Jones is a good example of my tastes. However, I know that’s not a general preference for the intended audience, so I understand why the bright, sparkly look was adopted.
That said, the story and characters vastly outweigh the conflict in predilection.
Of course, like all good continuing stories, it ended on a cliffhanger. I would like more, please and thank you. I’m already following Katy on twitter, so hopefully I’ll catch any updates.
If you’d like to read this book, contact your local comic shop, or buy directly from the publisher’s web page, here.
*It was a gift! I would have chosen a different color, but it’s fuzzy! And comfy! And it’s DESERT ROSE, not pink. And it has POCKETS! And did I mention it’s fuzzy?