Mandy Anders seems like a pretty standard teen with a chip on her shoulder and a heavy helping of "you don't understand me, no one understands me" attitude. But when you factor in that her mother is a famous superhero—the Starfire—her angst makes a little more sense.
The latest book in DC's YA graphic novel line—I Am Not Starfire, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani—imagines a world in which a superhero has a completely normal daughter and said daughter wants nothing to do with her mother's career or fame.
Want to get to know Mandy and learn more about what it's like to be Starfire's daughter? Read on for a breakdown of the book.
I'm getting major odd couple vibes from this fantastic cover, which says a lot about how Mandy feels about being Starfire's daughter. The sneer on her face, the aggressive stance, the fact that their backs are turned to each other and it seems like Starfire has no idea she's even there. (I mean, she's literally in Starfire's shadow…) There's a lot of tension going on here. But Mandy also looks amazingly fierce, and I immediately want to get to know her better.
Tell Me a Story:
Mandy's mom doesn't know that Mandy skipped out on the SATs and isn't planning on going to college. Mandy's mom doesn't know that Mandy plans on moving to France after graduating. Mandy's mom doesn't know a lot of things, and that's mostly because she's frequently off-planet, saving the citizens of galaxy from harm. Mandy's mom is Starfire, a member of the Titans, a group of superheroes who spend most of their time doing superhero things. But Mandy, who has no superpowers and only one friend, knows that she wants nothing to do with that life.
Let’s Talk Art:
Yoshitani's art is extremely cute, even when drawing a very angsty Mandy. (Don't tell her I said so! Mandy would not appreciate me calling her cute.) I love how much color there is in this book, and the juxtaposition of Mandy's coloring—pale, dark hair, dark clothing—and Starfire's—orange skin, multicolored red hair, purple outfits—is a really brilliant way to show how "different" they are. (Even their rooms are opposites.) But the best detail Yoshitani includes throughout the book is Mandy and Starfire’s eye color. It's the same bright, iconic green. And it reveals that even though Mandy thinks she's the complete opposite of her mother (she actually calls herself the Anti-Starfire), there's something that they share.
Having once been a chubby teen girl named Mandy, I connected immediately with this book. I wasn't nearly as angsty as this Mandy, however, nor am I the daughter of a superhero. But Tamaki's depiction of a teenage girl who's going through things is all-too-relatable. Mandy is smart, but not overly so, and the other teens she crosses paths with are sometimes terrible and sometimes great, which is true for most teenagers I know. (There are even text messages filled with misspellings and text speak, which adds to the accuracy.)
And as someone who watches Teen Titans Go!—we watch a ton of cartoons in our house—I love how Starfire throws in some extra “the’s” now and then.
Perfect Food Pairing:
There are two items of food that stood out in this book: "Tamaran-style" spaghetti and meatballs (hot dogs and noodles) and a triple-cream, triple-shot chai with cocoa and mint. I don't think I want to eat or drink either of them, but they're a perfect "this is super weird, but also might be unexpectedly good together?" combination to explain Starfire and Mandy's relationship.
Favorite Teen Titan:
Although Mandy would adamantly deny it (for most of the book), and likely say that Raven was her favorite Titan—they do have a similar aesthetic—Starfire is definitely her favorite. They have a strained relationship and they definitely don't understand each other that well, but in spite of all that, they obviously love each other. And by the end of the book, they're on a much better path. One that will likely lead to Mandy admitting it to both herself and her mother.
What Would You Most Like to Ask?:
If I had the opportunity to have a sit-down with I Am Not Starfire and ask it a question, I'd love to know what advice it might have for other teens who are having difficulties connecting with their parents and how teens can use the book's message that it often takes time to get to know your real self as a way to overcome some of their own issues. 'Cause I certainly could have used that advice as an actual teen myself!
I Am Not Starfire by Mariko Tamaki and Yoshi Yoshitani is now available in bookstores, comic shops, libraries and as a digital graphic novel.
When Mandy Curtis isn’t reading books by Leigh Bardugo or Sarah J. Maas, she’s dreaming of busting bad guys with Wonder Woman—if Steve Trevor’s there, too, she won’t complain—and writing about YA fiction and pop culture at Forever Young Adult. Follow her on Twitter at @mandyannecurtis.
Not sure what you just read? Click here for the skinny on our Book Breakdowns.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this feature are solely those of Mandy Curtis and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.