Unique and cute as can be, Mooncakes is unlike any other graphic novel that I have read so far. The story is different and the illustrations are fun and colorful. This graphic novel definitely kept me entertained throughout with its simple story line and fantastical creatures.
In Mooncakes we follow Nova, a young and budding witch, and Tam a werewolf with undiscovered magical talent. Nova and Tam embark on an adventure to banish the demon in the woods behind Nova’s house, while also discovering their feelings for each other. This story is filled with quirky characters like Nova’s pigeon headed uncle and her sassy but wonderful grandmas. This graphic novel is sure to make you smile and feel fuzzy inside.
My favorite character is Tatyana, Nova’s best friend and science nerd. She brings a lot of humor to the story and I enjoyed viewing her paralleled views of science versus magic. Her constant desire to understand and her unending frustration with the “physics” of magic made me fond of her. As a character she felt well rounded and interesting. She reminded me of one of my childhood friends and that familiarity really endeared me to her.
Weirdly enough I did not feel the same connection to Nova or Tam even though they were the main characters. To me it felt like they took a back seat to the quirkier secondary characters, who were so well crafted. The grandma’s were also so unique and in my opinion were more interesting than Nova and Tam. I feel like I would have enjoyed their love story far more. Nova and Tam just felt like a regular teen romance with angst and a small side of secrecy. It just did not feel as original as I wanted it to. With Tam being non-binary and Nova being bisexual ( I believe this is the proper interpretation though I may be incorrect) I thought going in that the dynamic would feel unique and impactful, it didn’t. It seems their relationship was composed entirely of the same typical young adult romance tropes as any other YA novel. To me the characters just felt a little hollow.
While entertaining and composed of some unique character aspects this story didn’t diverge much from the usual YA plot system. I felt like it was a novel I had read before but with a different skin. I definitely did not hate it because I love YA, but it wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. It felt like it wanted to be like SAGA mixed with Steven Universe but didn’t quite meet the expectations of either. It really needs a characteristic that causes it to stand out from the crowd, some fatal flaw or even just raised stakes. You’re probably thinking, How is battling a demon not high enough stakes? Well in all honesty I didn’t feel any real danger because the grandmas’ are so over powered. I had a hard time envisioning the conflict as true conflict. It was like no matter what everything would be okay in the end. I guess in simple terms, my anxieties as a reader felt coddled.
On the other hand, the illustrations of this graphic novel are excellent. Wendy Xu made this novel absolutely stunning. The woodland spirits and the grandmas’ three cats were so cute. The world created is absolutely beautiful, it’s colorful while not feeling like an acid trip, and it creates a definite autumn weather feel. I could see myself sitting outside in the brisk air of Halloween reading this graphic novel. I am interested to see what else Wendy Xu has illustrated.
In all, I did not love this graphic novel. But, I also do not hate it. I think that if this story is to continue and really focus on Nova and Tam’s character development, my mind could change. There is a lot of potential here and I do not want to judge it too firmly because it was not a bad story, I just think that it could use some expansion. I give Mooncakes 3/5 stars with the strong hope that I get to see more in the future.