Review: Mariko Tamaki’s Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me


Frederica “Freddy” Riley feels like she’s lucky. Her girlfriend, Laura Dean, is the girl of her dreams on paper: confident, popular, and beautiful. The only issue is that, almost every time a holiday rolls around, Laura finds a reason for the two of them to break up.

Frustrated by her devotion to Laura’s lies and infidelities, Freddy seeks help in the from emails to Anna Vice, an advice columnist; her group of best friends, none of whom are particularly keen on Laura themselves; and the Seek-Her, a fortune teller whose verdict on the situation is that Freddy must be the one to break up with Laura Dean. As she’s drawn in again and again by Laura’s charm, Freddy begins to feel more and more distant from her loved ones, her best friend Doodle (whose struggles she’s oblivious to), and her sense of self.

As a graphic novel, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me features two elements that make the medium so enamoring: easy-to-read, naturalistic dialogue, and gorgeous illustrations. Mariko Tamaki has created a cast of characters that you’re allowed to see both sides of: like Laura Dean’s understandable draw and her dismissive abruptness, or Freddy’s happiness when she feels in love and the ways that her romantic relationship hurts the people who care about her. The dialogue between the high school-age characters flows well, without falling into the all-too-easy trap of stereotypes or buzzwords. The majority of the main characters fall on the LGBTQ+ spectrum, making the story less of a coming-out one and more about the difficulties that come with feeling “othered” by your identity. Among the dive into how abuse in same-sex relationships can be easier to overlook, Tamaki also addresses the frequent dismissal of those who don’t “come out right,” and how parental support plays such a large role in the comfort LGBTQ youth have in their own identities.

Rosemary Valero-O’Connell’s illustrations elevate the story further, as she adds beautiful shades of light pink among the typical black and white illustrations found in graphic novels. The characters are expressive in their joy and sadness, but Valero-O’Connell is also skilled at creating expressions that are hiding emotions, as Doodle draws away from Freddy or Freddy tries to play off her irritation at Laura. The quirky restaurants and stores that pepper the story’s setting in Berkeley, California (such as the organic restaurant Freddy works at, where all of the dishes are named from famous lesbians) all sport a unique, fun, and above all authentic charm. Freddy’s habit of sewing stuffed animal-hybrids is also made clear by the undeniable adorable mashups Valero-O’Connell fills her room with (a half-mermaid, half-Santa is a key player in one emotional scene).

For a story that doesn’t shy away from the angst and pain of unhealthy teenage relationships, Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me doesn’t wallow in pain. Instead, it builds to an ending that will leave readers with a sense of catharsis – and the message that no one is defined by being an “ex-” of someone else.

Fairfax County Public Library Digital Programs: August 11 – 21, 2020

Spend your next two weeks online – with the library! These events, while no longer in person, are still being offered to provide Fairfax County teens with plenty of fun.

Cozy Crafts to Go: August 11-21, pick up at Great Falls Library

Grab one of three kits with instructions from Great Falls, and get crafty in your own home! Among the activities offered are pom-pom trees, magazine strip art, and a Harry Potter-style origami Sorting Hat.

Summer Photography Club – Mission: Places and Travel, August 11-21

Enter your best travel photos for FCPL’s slideshow! Submissions are accepted until August 21st, and the slideshow will be posted on the library’s YouTube channel at the end of the month.

Online Yoga, August 12 & 19, 10-11am

Begin your day with FCPL’s virtual yoga class, for teens and older! Register online to receive the Zoom code.

*Teen Advisory Board Meeting, August 13, 7-8pm*

Reston Regional’s next TAB meeting will be held this Thursday evening! Come discuss your summer reading and upcoming school year with us. Register online to receive the Zoom code.

Summer Writing Workshop, August 13 & 20, 3:30-4:30pm

Teen (aged 12-14) can share and get feedback on their writing through this online workshop hosted by McLean High School upperclassmen, as well as learn about opportunities to publish pieces on McLean’s The Highlander site. Register online to receive the Zoom code.

Teen Otaku Club, August 11, 4-5pm

Discuss your favorite manga or anime and participate in an activity with Pohick Regional’s Teen Otaku Club. Register online to receive the Zoom code.

Herndon Book Club, August 18, 6:30-7:30pm

Herndon’s Teen Book Club will be discussing the historical drama Between Shades of Gray at their next meeting. Register online to receive the Zoom code.

Superfight, August 21, 2-3pm

If you’re a fan of absurd mash-ups and playing “who would win in a fight,” join FCPL’s online Superfight tournament! Register online to receive the Zoom code.

You can register for all of these programs and more here.

The Newest and Best YA Books Reston Has to Offer!

compiled by Emma Shacochis

Are you eager to pick up some of the most recent and most buzzed-about young adult titles? If so, Reston Regional’s Teen Section’s shelves are packed with options for your reading appetite. Here are a few that you can head over and check out for yourself!

When We Were Magic, by Sarah Gailey

Alexis and her five best friends are your typical, close-knit group of high school girls. Oh, except for the magical powers that they share. And the fact that they have to help cover up an accidental murder on prom night.


Lifestyles of Gods & Monsters, by Emily Roberson

For fans of Greek mythology comes a retelling of the myth of Theseus and the minotaur…by way of reality television and The Hunger Games. Princess Ariadne agrees to help contestant Theseus win her family’s competition show, The Labyrinth Contest, but will helping him bring her family’s empire to ruins?


Someday We Will Fly, by Rachel DeWoskin

In 1940, teenage Lillia flees with her father and sister from Shanghai to escape persecution that Jewish people were facing in her home of Warsaw, Poland. Lillia embarks on a journey to help raise her sister, learn Chinese, make a living – and find her missing mother.


Freaky in Fresno, by Laurie Boyle Crompton

Cousins Ricki and Lana find themselves Freaky Friday-d during an unfortunately electrifying argument. Their journey to returning to their own bodies (as well as saving Ricki’s beloved drive-in theatre and Lana’s appearance at an online convention) is paved with crushes, convertibles, and chihuahuas.


Little Universes, by Heather Demetrios

Sisters Mae and Hannah winters are made to move from one coast to the other for their senior year of high school after a tropical storm claims the lives of their parents. Both struggle to deal with their losses, as well as stay tied to one another even as their circumstances pull them apart.


Place a hold or come check out these new titles today!

Review: Gloria Chao’s American Panda

American Panda by Gloria Chao, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

     Mei is a 17-year-old in college, and she should have her whole life planned out, but she doesn’t. Then again, it doesn’t matter as her parents have planned it for her: pre-med at MIT, become a doctor, marry a Taiwanese Ivy League students (preapproved by her parents of course, and have children with him, preferably starting with a son. And if Mei doesn’t follow this plan, well, then she’ll end up like her brother: disowned, left on his own, with no financial or emotional support whatsoever. However, the one thing Mei does know is that she doesn’t want to be a doctor. She hates germs and everything related to medical school, but she still tries to convince herself it’ll be okay by shadowing a doctor on campus, but it’s hard to make yourself into the person you least want to be.

     As Mei starts to figure out what she wants and who she is, away from her parents (mostly), she also discovers what really happened with her brother. He got disowned because he started dating the wrong girl. Mei starts to reconnect with them, and she starts to wonder if lying to herself and her family is worth it. She doesn’t want to end up like her brother, but she also doesn’t want to become the perfect Chinese girl, especially with her love for dance, and this new boy that’s caught her eye – a boy that is not Taiwanese. Can she fix everything before it all blows up in her face?

     Gloria Chao has given us a heartfelt novel that shows us how to find the best of every situation and how to be true to ourselves, no matter what anyone says. American Panda will have you rooting for Mei all the way through, crying with her, laughing with her, and hoping for the best. American Panda is a story about acceptance and loving yourself, even in the face of adversity.

Missing The Teen Section at Reston? Check Out What’s On Display Now!

by Emma Shacochis

For the past few months, it’s been hard to get out of the house – even for something essential as finding summer reading! Luckily, if you feel like spending your last month before the online-school-year begins, Reston Regional’s Teen Advisory Board has plenty of recommendations to keep your imagination busy all August long.

On our displays, you get the chance to judge a book by its cover – or at least its cover’s color palette. If you want to spice up your reading and get your heart beating, try Steampunk!, Puddin’, or All of This is True. If you’d prefer to slow down and relax by the pool, The Names They Gave Us, Hush, or The Chaos of Standing Still may be more your speed.


On our little board, you can see the results of an incredibly important poll: Reston reader’s favorite books! There’s still time to visit the teen section and have your voice heard by submitting your own pick. Here are a few of the hit books that Reston’s readers are revering:

Check back later this week to see the newest YA books that have hit Reston Regional’s shelves! Until then, happy reading, and some words of wisdom that can be found among the teen section’s shelves:


Upcoming Events

Here are some upcoming events that you can attend if you are interested. You can register and find more details about the events on the Fairfax County Public Library. Here is the link:

Teen Otaku Club

Date: 7/28/20

Time: 4:00 PM-5:00 PM

Location: Pohick Regional Library

Virtual Yoga for All

Date: 7/29/20

Time: 10:00 AM-11:00 PM

Cook with Us: Making Sriracha Buttermilk Oven Fried Chicken

Date: 7/29/20

Time: 1:00 PM-6:00 PM