Flamer is an award-winning graphic novel that tells the story of Aiden Navarro “as he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can’t stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.” This graphic novel is just one of many books currently being challenged for relaying a story from one of the LGBTQ+ perspectives.
As with many challenges targeting LGBTQ+ graphic novels, those surrounding Flamer falsely accuse the book of being pornography or containing explicit sexual images. In 2022, a parent from Katy ISD filed a criminal complaint that the district was providing material harmful to minors. Though the claim was found unsubstantiated, the book was removed from the shelves and relocated to the police department, where it could be processed. This challenge demonstrates the growing trend of citizens attempting to ignore the proper review process and intimidate educators, librarians, and administrators. Flamer has been challenged across the country and was included on the “Krause List” as a book to remove.
We’ve put together the following resources for librarians and educators who may need assistance justifying or defending the addition of Flamer to their collections. You can also reach out to Comic Book Legal Defense Fund for support at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summary of Flamer from the publisher:
It’s the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. Everyone’s going through changes―but for Aiden, the stakes feel higher. As he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can’t stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.
Award-winning author and artist Mike Curato draws on his own experiences in Flamer, his debut graphic novel, telling a difficult story with humor, compassion, and love.
Reviews for Flamer
School Library Journal (Starred Review)
Curato has created a beautiful story of a teen who must decide if he will force himself into the mold of what he thinks a “normal” boy is, or if he can allow himself to live life on his own terms. An essential book that shows readers that they are never alone in their struggles.
The monochromatic illustrations, sometimes highlighted with red, orange, and yellow, are timeless moments of a remembered childhood. The use of red to highlight the tangible (firelight, a Swiss Army knife) and represent the intangible (passion, sorrow, and hope) is a master class in simplicity. But the true star of this book is the writing, which describes a boy who could live in any decade on his journey of self-discovery. This is a story that will be read and reread, and for some, it will be the defining book of their adolescence.
Masterfully nuanced and stunningly told, this is visual storytelling at its finest.
The Horn Book (Starred Review)
The variation of small, storytelling panels and full-page and double-page spreads for big moments is wonderfully effective, and the climax — Aiden in a literal dark night of the soul in the outdoor chapel — is high drama indeed, emotionally powerful, proudly and extravagantly spiritual. . . . I wish I had had this book fifty years ago.
Awards and Recognition
- 2021 Award for LGBTQ Young Adult — Lambda Literary Award
- 2021 Golden Kite Award — Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators
- 2021 Great Graphic Novels for Teens — YALSA
- 2021 Best Books of the Year — Bank Street Center for CHildren’s Literature
- 2020 Best Books for Teens — New York Public Library
- 2020 Best Teen Graphic Novels and Manga — Chicago Public Library
- Fanfare 2020 Booklist — The Horn Book
- Best Books of 2020 — NPR
- Best Graphic YA Books of 2020 — Kirkus Reviews
- Best Graphic Novels of 2020 — School Library Journal
Mike Curato’s Website (Amazing support resource!)
Flamer Discussion Questions
The Censorship of LGBTQ+ Comic Books with Maia Kobabe and Mike Curato
Interview with the Author
What should I do if Flamer is challenged?
Most challenges to comics in libraries come from well-meaning individuals, frequently parents, who find something they believe is objectionable in their local public or school library. These challenges are often difficult and stressful for the library staff who must manage them, but there are resources to help them in the process. Below we’ve identified a number of tips and links to assist libraries to increase the likelihood of keeping challenged comics on the shelves.
1. Make Strong Policies.
Strong selection and challenge review policies are key for protecting access to library materials, including comics. The American Library Association has developed a number of excellent tools to assist school and public libraries in the essential preparation to perform before books are challenged here.
2. Face the Challenge.
What do you do when a comic is challenged? Much of the material in this post can be used to help defend Flamer against a challenge. The American Library Association has developed these helpful tools to cope with challenges:
- How to Respond to Challenges and Concerns about Library Resources
- Working with Community Leaders
- Selection & Reconsideration Policy Toolkit for Public, School, and Academic Libraries
CBLDF can also help by providing assistance with locating review resources, writing letters of support, and facilitating access to experts and resources. Call 800-99-CBLDF or email email@example.com at the first sign of a First Amendment emergency!
3. Report the Challenge.
Another essential step in protecting access to comics is to report challenges when they occur. By reporting challenges, you help the free expression community gather necessary information about what materials are at risk so better tools can be created to assist. To report a challenge to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, call us at 800-99-CBLDF or email here. You can also report the challenge to the ALA here.
CBLDF and its partners have been battling ongoing and organized attempts to censor comics and other books in schools and libraries. You can join the struggle by making a donation or reporting censorship today!