Graphic Novel Rec #9: Flamer

Creator: Mike Curato

Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

“THIS BOOK WILL SAVE LIVES” reads the quote from Jarrett J. Krosoczka on the cover of Flamer and I couldn’t agree more. Growing up, I felt the same feelings that the protagonist, Aiden, feels in this book; the feeling of isolation, of being an outsider, or being “wrong” somehow. You have kids in your school that feel this way too. They NEED this book.

Aiden is a fully realized character. He struggles every day with his own self-worth and the burden of trying to fit in. Everything he does makes him stand out when all he wants to do is blend in. The rest of the characters flesh-out the world of Flamer; the hunky crush, the acquaintance who slowly becomes a friend, the well-meaning scoutmaster. The interactions between these characters feel so real, I think I may have actually had these exact conversations with people.

Curato uses several visual storytelling techniques of note. Throughout the story Aiden has several different fantasies or dreams. During these the panels no longer have the sharp corners of rectangular panels and instead have rounded corners. The gutters also become black during these dreams. The combination of these two techniques make it clear what is happening in the real world and what is in Aiden’s mind.

Color is also used to great effect. The art is black, white and red. Pay attention to the items that Curato chooses to make red; the letter, the knife, the flames. Does red always symbolize the same thing? Or does it shift from scene to scene?

I read Flamer in one sitting. I think you know several readers who will do the same thing. Be sure to check out Curato’s blog post about Flamer found here.

Teaching Considerations:

  • Genre: Realistic Fiction
  • Units of Study: Realistic Fiction, Identity, Growing Up,
  • Grades: Middle School, High School

Published by Eric Hand

I'm an educator and literacy professional with a long-standing passion for comic books and graphic novels.

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