Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Using vibrant and emotive full-color illustrations, cartoonist Steenz (Archival Quality) delivers a hilarious modern update to Mark Tatulli's 1990s newspaper strip Heart of the City. This collection of comics follows charismatic white Heart Lamarr, who thrives in the spotlight. With the help of her friends, stalwart and kind Kat and nerdy ghost-hunter Dean (both white), Heart develops a middle school survival guide, an endeavor that spans the collection. Though Steenz juggles many story lines, such as Heart convincing her mother to let her get her ears pierced and striking with teachers demanding new school supplies, Heart's audition for her Philadelphia middle school's musical takes center stage and introduces new friend Charlotte, an effervescent Black tech enthusiast. The compact stories each pack a punch, showcasing sincere character moments--such as Charlotte asserting that some of Dean's frustrations are his problem, not hers--and emphasizing the importance of personal responsibility and advocacy. Steenz's deadpan humor ("I'll destroy the livelihoods of everyone involved, one by one," Heart says, if she doesn't land the leading role) artfully paints a madcap adventure through middle school's highs and lows. Ages 8--14. (May)
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Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 4--8--Philadelphia-based middle school student Heart Lamarr leads the life of a typical middle-class teen: making new friends; going to sleepovers, parties, and concerts; and begging her mother to let her get her ears pierced. But what she's most interested in is starring in the next school play, if only she can stay out of detention long enough to audition. This graphic novel is a compilation of strips from the daily syndicate of the same name--created by Mark Tatulli in the late 1990s and taken over by Steenz in 2020--which gives it a page-by-page episodic feel, while also maintaining a longer story arc that is sporadically interrupted by an out-of-sequence, single panel. However, because the source material is an ongoing story, the graphic novel ends abruptly. The characters are modernized and older than who they debuted as in the 1990s, but Heart doesn't stray far from the mostly harmless rascal-next-door character popularized by comics of yore (Dennis the Menace, Calvin and Hobbes, etc.). Blues, gray, and beige dominate, with pops of warm colors (red, pink, orange) that complement the minimalist backgrounds and solid line work, as well as the characters' rounded, full designs. Characters are diverse in terms of body type and LGBTQIA+ representation. Heart is white, her friend Charlotte is Black, and some background characters present as BIPOC, though many appear to be white. VERDICT Readers who enjoy slice-of-life stories that focus on friendship will appreciate Heart's story, which subtly and naturally offers positive diverse representation.--Alea Perez
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Eleven-year-old Heart Lamarr and her friends cross over from web to print with middle school adventures and misadventures. Having taken over the daily "Heart of the City" webcomic in mid-2020 and freshened up both the art and the cast, cartoonist Steenz gathers their first seven or so months' worth of strips. Between landing the lead in the school play and hosting a Halloween costume party, drama queen Heart campaigns to get her ears pierced, tries a series of ill-fated fundraisers from babysitting to life coach, and also sees her teachers strike ("So does this mean the homework that I definitely did won't be due today?") and her friend Dean, a massive geek, meet his match in classmate Charlotte. Heart, her single mom, and most of the other characters in the spirited ensemble are light-skinned, but Charlotte, like her moms, is dark-skinned, and even if the comment Kat, another friend, makes about not having her heart set on any boys at school goes over Heart's head, it should register with readers. Overall, Heart's world is stocked with good friends and tolerant adults, free of bullies or mean girls, and rich in experiences that invite laughing with rather than at the participants. The end is abrupt but free of cliffhangers, and continuing strips are available free online for hooked readers. Dishes up sweeter slices of life than the Wimpy Kid series and its clones. (Graphic fiction. 10-13) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.