The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat & Joanna Cacao

The Tryout by Christina Soontornvat


Goodreads: The Tryout
Series: None
Age Category: Middle Grade
Source: Library
Published: 2022


As a Thai American, Christina has never really felt like she fits in her small Texas town. Then, she sees the middle school cheerleaders. They are everything she is not, but wishes she were. So, along with her best friend, she decides to join the squad. But that means performing a tryout in front of the entire school! Join Christina as she gives her all to the competition.

Star Divider


Filled with heart and humor, The Tryout chronicles Christina’s attempts to join the middle school cheerleading team, so she can finally feel like she belongs. Although graphic novels dealing with friendship drama and middle school hierarchies have been trending for years, Soontornvat’s story still feels fresh. She brings to her story not only great sympathy and insight into the desire for acceptance, but also a knowing sense that parts of her story were funny (even if they were not at the time) and that her experience helped her grow (even when things did not turn out the way she wanted). The Tryout is a triumph, a title that is on my personal list of the best middle grade graphic novels.

Young Christina’s earnestness is part of what makes the story such a delight. She wants to be a cheerleader very badly, but not just because they are popular. She also genuinely comes to admire their confidence and their skill, and she works hard to achieve the same. The little diamonds and sparkles that appear whenever she sees the cheerleads cutely conveys all the glamour she associates with them, and that she hopes will rub off on her.

Life, however, is never easy, and Soontornvat chronicles her ups and downs with a vividness that suggests just how formative the tryout period was for her. Christina has to not only master the cheers and formations, but also navigate the pressure the tryouts put on her relationship with her best friend Megan. Both girls want to make the team, but Megan does not want to be Christina’s partner, leading to hurt and confusion. A competitive spirit also threatens to come between them. And that is all before the girls realize that the tryouts are really a popularity contest, and their skill might not matter at all.

The Tryout will appeal to readers who love middle school drama, coming-of-ages stories, and contemporary middle grade graphic novels. And it is sure to win them over with its sympathetic, yet humorous depiction of navigating middle school.

5 stars

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