Out There

Little, Brown Ink. Jun. 2023. 232p. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9780316591867. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9780316591874.
Gr 5-8–Julia has always believed her dad, David, when he talks about being abducted by aliens, even when no one else does. After her parents separate, Julia cherishes her time with her dad, joining him on a trip to a UFO festival in Roswell, New Mexico, even though it means passing up a vacation with her best friend. On their trip, she meets Josh, whose parents share David’s UFO obsession. While Julia has always delighted in her father’s interest, Josh resents his parents for depriving him of a normal childhood. Julia begins to doubt her father’s abduction experience and grapples with embarrassment and anger toward him for seemingly abandoning his responsibilities to his family. Miller’s characters are complex and likable. Julia’s growing doubt and disappointment with her father is handled with nuance and without painting him as a villain. His beliefs are handled with respect while also honestly depicting the impact they've had on his relationships. Josh and Julia’s friendship is a great example of finding community with others through shared trauma and life experiences. Julia helps Josh see the good qualities in his parents, while Josh encourages Julia to draw boundaries and not be afraid to question the things her father has told her. Miller’s colorful illustrations and beautiful settings offset the often serious nature of the plot. This is a humorous and compassionate portrayal of the complicated and sometimes painful nature of parental relationships, and could be a powerful conversation starter about differences in beliefs among family members.
VERDICT Recommended for all middle grade graphic novel collections.

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