Cheer Up! Love and Pom Poms
Cheer Up! Love and Pom Poms is the perfect graphic novel for fans of the cult classic movie But I’m a Cheerleader.
As written by Crystal Fraiser and illustrated by Val Wise, Cheer Up! is a sweet teen romance. The outcome isn’t a surprise; don’t worry, there’s the expected happy ending. Only now, thank goodness, it’s not the only story around about a lesbian cheerleader. Or the only one featuring a trans character. We’ve come a long way, particularly in comics.
Annie is a genius loner whose mother puts her on the cheerleading team to improve her college applications. She needs to learn to work with with others. Her friend Beatrice (Bebe) is a trans girl struggling with her parents’ high expectations and the pressure she feels to be a perfect representative of her gender. She needs to learn to stand up for herself.
There are several idealized conversations, as those with the wrong attitude are corrected, most often by Bebe. Even Annie’s mother gives a speech about not stereotyping cheerleaders. A lot of this comic is telling, not showing, as the art simply portrays characters talking. For a comic about an active sport, there are a surprising number of pages that are nothing but conversation.
I also wish we had more idea about how Bebe feels. She talks about her fears, once she’s wound up enough, but I never got a sense of what was really going on in her head. The reader is positioned as an observer, as though watching a film. Everything moves so fast that there’s not much time for quieter, reflective, insightful moments.
That leads into my biggest complaint about the book: it isn’t long enough. At 120-ish pages, there isn’t enough space far things to develop gradually. Lots goes on, but I wanted to spend more time with these characters. Still, this is a book that will definitely find its audience, those who will enjoy a fluffy coming-of-age where everything always works out for the best. Cheerleading is a great subject choice for that reason, as it’s about encouragement and positivity (in spite of what might be happening elsewhere on the field).
Cheer Up! Love and Pom Poms is due out August 10 in print (and can be preordered now from your local comic shop with Diamond code APR21 1831). There’s a set of preview pages posted at the Comics Beat. (The publisher provided an advance digital review copy.)