Always Human

Yellow Jacket. Jun. 2020. 256p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781499811100; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781499811094.
Gr 9 Up–This adorable Sapphic romance brings the first “season” of a beloved webcomic to the printed page. In 24th-century Australia, advances in nanobot technology have revolutionized every aspect of corporeal being. Since body modifications, or “mods,” are immediate and painless, those who maintain a static appearance tend to stand out. This is why Sunati, a twentysomething virtual reality designer, first notices Austen, an 18-year-old chemistry student who was born with Egan’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that prevents her from using mods. Together, the duo learn how to love and support each other—and realize that presenting a composed exterior isn’t the same as cultivating genuine self-confidence. North explores the emotional infrastructure of a wildly imaginative future. Though there’s very little text, resulting in a few narrative bumps (much is left up to inference), lovely artwork washed in pink and blue watercolors flows across pages, ensuring a seamless shift from pixel to paper. Despite a limited cast, readers will delight in diasporic diversity being an unremarkable norm. Sunati is of mixed South Asian descent, and her best friend Rae is an asexual Black woman; Austen’s Latinx family features two fathers and a gender-nonconforming younger sibling. Those seeking breakdowns and blowups should look elsewhere, as this wholesome plot focuses on building understanding, offering mutual support, and budding self-acceptance, as well as the importance of asking rather than making assumptions; avoiding othering; and regarding all those in one’s orbit with compassion.
VERDICT A charming, sensitive story of love and acceptance.

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