‘A Map to the Sun’ reads like one of those books that you wish came with a recommended list of music you could play while you read it. Written and illustrated by Sloane Leong, the graphic novel bursts forth with neon hues that dance across the pages like the shifting lights of a disco ball in a vibrant house party.

The story primarily focuses on the friendship between five girls from diverse backgrounds, all of whom are struggling at school and become closer after joining the basketball team. However, things get a head-start from the young Ren’s perspective, who loves shooting hoops and becomes friends with a sassy surfer called Luna. As the two girls become close friends, a tragedy in Luna’s family leads her to skip town and basically ghost Ren. The friends re-unite after two years in the same class, but things are just not the same anymore, even though Luna tries hard to blend in with Ren’s gang of girls.

‘A Map to the Sun’ then follows how a bunch of girlfriends, each on from diverse backgrounds, navigate through their friendships, family and personal issues. For example, Ren lives with her divorced dad and hates the fact that he always caves into the whims and demands of her older junky sister; Nell has to work part-time to support her family and has severe body-issues. All of these stories are spiritedly painted in bright colors, each page changing tones and mood of the plot. Sloane Leong’s illustrations aren’t very detailed and feel like draft sketches, but it’s her choice of palette that just has something hypnotic about it, like a shiny 80s music video. I am usually not a fan of neon shades, but somehow the colors just work out fine in this graphic novel.

I love how the main theme of the tale is friendship and sisterhood in ‘A Map to the Sun’, and Sloane Leong doesn’t deviate into romantic sub-plots or boy drama. However, that doesn’t mean the book is devoid of teen drama, as it definitely has its fair share. Ren and the girls come from families that aren’t financially stable, so each of them has a lot on their plate, including dealing with bullies, detractors, and an uncertain future. The friends also have their bitch-fights, squabbles, tensions, but they always come around and watch out for each other. It’s a slice-of-life kind of tale in its own right and kept me hooked to each page.

It’s a 4 on 5 from me.

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