[Review] Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Laura Dean, the most popular girl in high school, was Frederica Riley’s dream girl: charming, confident, and SO cute. There’s just one problem: Laura Dean is maybe not the greatest girlfriend.

Reeling from her latest break up, Freddy’s best friend, Doodle, introduces her to the Seek-Her, a mysterious medium, who leaves Freddy some cryptic parting words: break up with her. But Laura Dean keeps coming back, and as their relationship spirals further out of her control, Freddy has to wonder if it’s really Laura Dean that’s the problem. Maybe it’s Freddy, who is rapidly losing her friends, including Doodle, who needs her now more than ever.

Fortunately for Freddy, there are new friends, and the insight of advice columnists like Anna Vice to help her through being a teenager in love.



Teenager Romance

In contrast to other comics, I was immediately intrigued by the style of this one. The characters were simply beautiful in their own individual way, no matter if high school favorite Laura Dean or nerdy Doodle. Their emotional and moving expressions caught me by surprise and drew me into the story. At least after I was over my confusion. I should have known that the friend who recommended this book to me only goes for queer love stories, if for love stories at all. But given the narrator’s name, that is Freddy, and the girlfriend’s name, Laura Jean, I got confused at first. I assumed that Freddy was a guy and was positively surprised it not to be the case. Once I got a hang on the main plotline, I was immensely engaged.


Friends and girl/boyfriends

Addressing a relationship consulter about her messed-up relationship, Freddy narrates her way through her first encounter with Laura up till their current situation. It does not take much for the readers to realize how Laura is playing with Freddy—even though most-likely a bit unintentionally. We unfortunately never get to know Laura’s thoughts but from guessing from her outer appearance and behavior. Nevertheless, this is not her but Freddy’s story. She relapses several times although she realizes her own misery, which illustrates the difficulty of cutting all strings to another person. We understand her feelings and her admiration for Laura, but I unfortunately stayed quite distanced from her deeper emotions. Instead, I even felt more with Doodle, who retreats from Freddy due to her falsely set priorities.



I am not sure if the creators of this stories intended for us to not like Freddy at some point to make her catharsis more convincing. I wouldn’t even go that far to say I didn’t like her. Nonetheless, I felt more with Doodle and her storyline, although it seemed a bit thrown in. This was not the case for other minor storylines that were solely hinted at. Freddy’s friends struggle with different conflicts like bullying, their queerness and coming-out, their family’s expectations, and some more. These issues were only hinted at, but I appreciated it that way. The story focuses on Freddy and her way out of a toxic relationship. Nevertheless, we get to see some of her closest friends’ problems and strength as well. I would wish for another comic about some of them for sure!


In conclusion,

I immediately fell for the style of this comic and gradually also for the characters. The creators gifted us with some great emotions and interesting sub-stories, while focusing on a toxic relationship to be quit. In this way, they also emphasize the importance of friends over romantic relationships. For an adolescent audience, this book surely offers some important topics but could also have done more.



The author:

Mariko Tamaki is the author of the YA novel Saving Montgomery Sole and the co-creator of award-winning comics This One Summer and Skim (with Jillian Tamaki), and Emiko Superstar (Steve Rolston). In 2015, This One Summer received Printz and Caldecott Honors, the Eisner for Best Graphic Album–New, Canada’s Governor General’s award, and 4 starred reviews. Her 2019 Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me is the recipient of 5 starred reviews, including Kirkus and Horn Book, and was named a Printz Honor Book and as the “Best Children’s or Young Adult Book” at the Harvey Awards  – as well as receiving the 2020 Walter Dean Myers Award. Mariko maintains a solid fascination with the complex process by which teenagers become, or try to become, grown-ups. Source

The illustrator:

Rosemary Valero-O’Connell is a cartoonist and illustrator born in Minneapolis, raised in Zaragoza, and currently residing in Brooklyn, New York. She received her BFA in Comic Art from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2016, and has been making comics full time ever since. Her work has received 2 Eisner awards, 4 Ignatz awards (including “Outstanding Artist” two consecutive years), a Harvey, a Prism, a Society of Illustrators Gold Medal, and a Printz Honor. Source

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