YA graphic novel The Magic Fish
Review,  LBGTQ,  Middle Grade

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen // beautiful YA graphic novel

The Magic Fish was my first YA graphic novel and I really enjoyed this beautifully written inspiring story of a immigrant mother and her middle grade kid, both spoke different language but found a way to express their feelings through stories.

Table Of Contents
YA graphic novel The Magic Fish

The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

Publication Date : October 13th 2020

Publisher : Random House Graphic

Genre : Comics & Graphic Novel / Teen / YA / LGBTQ

Pages : 256

Rating: 5 out of 5.


Tiến loves his family and his friends…but Tiến has a secret he’s been keeping from them, and it might change everything. An amazing YA graphic novel that deals with the complexity of family and how stories can bring us together.

Real life isn’t a fairytale.

But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through?

Is there a way to tell them he’s gay?

A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected. The Magic Fish tackles tough subjects in a way that accessible with readers of all ages, and teaches us that no matter what—we can all have our own happy endings.

*** Disclaimer : I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to PRHGlobal for free copy. ***

Review of The Magic Fish

The Magic Fish was amazing coming of age LGBTQ graphic novel revolved around Vietnamese-American middle grade kid and his mother. The story was about communication gap because of language barrier, immigration, family, love, hope, grief, gender identity, coming out to parents, and importance of stories.

I loved the first line- “They say we’re meant to go from here to there, but so much happens between those two places.”

It started with Tiến mother talking about language how his mother, Helen, wanted them speak the same language as she speaks Vietnamese while Tiến speaks English so they made a habit of reading library book everyday after dinner. It was hard for them to communicate about their feelings with each other. Tiến didn’t know how to tell his parents he was gay as he didn’t know the Vietnamese word for it.

It was amazing to read how they discussed hard topics through the stories they read and found the right balance that was love.

Everything in this book was perfect. Author packed so much emotions both in words and expression of characters in this short story. I loved characters.

Tiến was lovely and I loved how he cared for his parents, read stories, and discussed and expressed things through it. His feeling for not able to coming out to his parents fearing he might mess it up was realistic and touching. I felt for him for what happened after the dance, and how he had to face teacher’s homophobia. His frustration was genuine.

His friendship with Clare and Julian was great. I loved how they both supported him and how Julian understood his feelings.

This wasn’t just about Tiến but also about Helen’s struggle as immigrant, how hard it was to leave her own country and family to have safety and future in other country and what it cost her. Her loss, grief, guilt, how she felt stuck in-between because of the change from of her past and present, and for Tiến not able to tell her things was heartfelt. I loved how she talked about it and how she let Tiến know about her feelings after knowing he was gay.

It was awe-inspiring how author interwoven Tiến and Helen’s story with three fairy tales– the German Allerleirauh, Vietnamese Tam Cam (2 relative Cinderella tales), and Little Mermaid.

After reading Allerleirauh, I realised part of that tale was also in Spin The Dawn book and I haven’t read that original one until mentioned in this book. The Vietnamese tam cam was gory and dark. Little Mermaid was amazing. The twist given to all three tales perfectly complimented to Tiến and Helene’s story.

Art was beautiful. I loved how colour segments changed for present, past, memories, and fairy tales which made it easy to identify the change and made transition smooth. The expressions of characters, all other deatils were amazing. I loved the dresses in all three fairy tales. I enjoyed reading author’s inspiration for those dresses, this story, and bonus art in the end.

Overall, The Magic Fish was simply beautiful teen/YA graphic novel that packed many layers and stunning artwork. If you love graphic novels, diverse story, story about immigrant and coming out to parents, I highly recommend this.

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What do you think about the book and review? Have you read this already or any book by the same author? Which is your favourite Immigrant story or diverse graphic novel?

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Hi, I'm Yesha, an Indian book blogger. Avid and eclectic reader who loves to read with a cup of tea. Not born reader but I don't think I’m going to stop reading books in this life. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”


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