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Stephanie Parent, Reader and Writer

Stephanie Parent is a graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts as a piano major. She moved to Los Angeles because of Francesca Lia Block's WEETZIE BAT books, which might give you some idea of how much books mean to her. She also loves dogs, books about dogs, and sugary coffee drinks both hot and cold.
Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible - Suzanne Kamata I knew I would love Gadget Girl from the first page, when the novel’s protagonist and narrator, fourteen-year-old Aiko, tells us she’s named after the indigo plants her father harvests to make blue dye. Aiko has never met her father, who lives on the Japanese island of Shizuko, but she knows all about the indigo plants his family farms, and she’s even trying (not very successfully) to grow her own indigo in Michigan. The loving, careful detail with which Aiko describes the indigo, and its ability to dye fabric “the color of a storm-bruised sky” as well as to possibly cure sicknesses, told me Gadget Girl would be a book rich in culture. And it was, featuring a setting spanning Europe and the U.S., many eclectic details of the art world, and Aiko’s love for modern Japanese culture and her desire to reconnect with that part of her heritage.Aiko was born with cerebral palsy, meaning her left arm and leg don’t always work correctly. She deals with her feelings about her illness, as well as other aspects of her life, in the manga she writes called “Gadget Girl,” which features a very nimble-figured heroine who always saves the day. In real life, Aiko is frustrated by her disability, by her mother’s artwork, much of which is actually inspired by Aiko and her illness, and by the fact that her father doesn’t know about her. She dreams of one day going to Japan to connect with her father and perhaps apprentice with a manga artist. However, when her mother wins a Paris art competition, Aiko ends up spending the summer in Frances instead of Japan…For some reason, I tend to get really tired of books set in Paris, so I was really happy to find that Gadget Girl took a more eclectic approach to the city than most novels I’ve read. My favorite part was the description of a Japanese-inspired garden designed by Isamu Noguchi, which made me want to visit Paris more than countless depictions of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower ever have! I was also fascinated by Aiko’s trip to Lourdes, a place known for its sacred healing waters.However, Aiko’s trip is most important not for the places she goes, but for the people she meets and the truths she learns about her own family…I won’t say too much about that, only that certain moments of the book really made me emotional, and that I loved the way the author tied everything together in the end.Gadget Girl is told in the realistic voice of a fourteen to fifteen-year-old girl, which means that, in a publishing climate where the YA voice keeps getting older and older, this voice is definitely on the younger side of YA, and could be characterized as middle-grade as well. I think middle and high-school readers would really, really respond to this book, and I hope it gets into as many hands as possible. And it’s also sure to please many adult readers, including myself!