In Séance Tea Party, the debut middle grade graphic novel by Reimena Yee from Random House Graphic, Lora Xi decides that growing up is too distasteful and so she decides to summon a ghost, instead – but is there an alternative option to either an eternal ghostly childhood or dull, pedestrian adulthood?
An original ghost story
As Séance Tea Party begins, Lora finds herself drifting away from those closest to her. While her friends are beginning to develop an interest in popular fashion magazines, boy bands, and begin arranging themselves into cliques, Lora finds that she just can’t seem to figure out how she fits in. Instead, she prefers to remain in the domain of the imagination, favoring her daydreams over the increasingly conventional world inhabited by her peers.
When her closest friend allows Lora’s twelfth birthday – the day before Halloween – to go unremarked, Lora resolves to conduct her own séance and summon a new friend (well, what do you expect from a scorned Scorpio).
The endeavor is an unequivocal success, and Lora meets and befriends Alexa, the ghost she summoned. Séance Tea Party does a particularly excellent job of anticipating the questions which readers will have surrounding the supernatural elements of the story and then thoroughly exploring them. This leads to plenty of interesting scenes that give us glimpses of how a ghost reacts to a tablet as well as plot-relevant revelations about Alexa’s life.
Interesting relationships between characters
Soon after Lora has summoned Alexa, the pair decides to trick or treat together, and coincidence leads them to connect with one of Lora’s estranged friends, who is having her own party. While Lora is hesitant, Alexa encourages her to open up to her friends about the topics that Lora is actually interested in, and in the process, Lora ends up forging the foundations of genuine friendship – and complicating her presumption that she had no interests in common with her friends.
Rounding out the dramatis personae is Diana, who is Alexa’s childhood friend. Without spoiling too much of the narrative, suffice to say that Diana’s introduction into the narrative provides an essential additional perspective that allows the themes of the story to fully bloom.
Thoughtful meditations on meaningful themes
And the themes of Séance Tea Party are certainly worth considering. While some stories that concern characters that are reticent to grow up culminate with perfunctory conclusions, Séance Tea Party is not content with surface-level solutions. Instead, the story takes the time to consider Lora’s feelings, and then allows her to navigate them in an earnest, honest way.
Ultimately, Lora is able to learn how she can lay personal claim to some of the trappings of adulthood that she had previously found alienating, and this results in an empowering self-actualization by the comic’s conclusion. It’s an important message, and for certain young readers, it will undoubtedly be a message that they need to hear.
Candy colors and meticulous construction
It is impossible to read Séance Tea Party without marveling at Yee’s craftsmanship, both narratively and aesthetically. Taking inspiration from vintage Halloween artwork, every page of this graphic novel is something to behold. There are gutter-free splash pages that will leave you breathless, while other pages feature gutters crammed with adorable drawings – and all of it is intentional.
As Yee told The Beat in an interview earlier this month, everything about the page layouts has been considered and designed to convey additional layers of meaning.
And like other RH Graphic books, Séance Tea Party includes some stellar back material, including the 2016 artwork that inspired the graphic novel, glimpses into the creative development of the comic, and details concerning the raw materials Yee used to create Lora, Alexa, and Diana’s world.
Summon Séance Tea Party now!
While autumn and the approaching Halloween season are an excellent time of year to enjoy this spooky but sweet middle grade graphic novel, Séance Tea Party is a gorgeous comic that you’ll want to return to again and again, no matter what the season.
SUPER SECRET CLUE: Fans of Yee’s urban gothic webcomic The World in Deeper Introspection will want to keep their eyes peeled for a special cameo appearance by a certain Jersey Devil detective…
Séance Tea Party is available now from a nearby bookstore, or at your local library.