Spoiler Alert: This review contains minor spoilers of I Am Not Starfire.
I Am Not Starfire is a young adult novel written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani. We follow Mandy, the daughter of the legendary superhero, Starfire, who tries to navigate the struggles of being a teenager.
Being the daughter of a former Teen Titan has its fair share of problems. Mandy is supposed to have superpowers or her mother’s dazzling personality, but she’s nothing like Starfire and seems to be a disappointment to everyone around her.
This novel has all of the typical story beats you’d expect to see in a coming-of-age story. Mandy is a bit stubborn and insecure, and it’s very relatable. However, her characterization can come across as rude and ungrateful for the life Starfire has given her. The book does an excellent job of making Starfire a caring mother but still having a hard time raising Mandy.
The book is a decent read, and a considerable part of that is its supporting cast. Tamaki’s writing style is perfect for this more human story, and Yoshitani’s art is strong. Making this world feel vibrant! It pops and feels unique compared to other DC graphic novels. The supporting cast is also solid. Mandy’s classmates feel like real people, and I enjoyed her interactions with them.
The major problem that plagues I Am Not Starfire is that it doesn’t offer anything new. The characterization of Mandy holds the story back from becoming truly great. She’s just not a likable protagonist. I completely understand her feelings, but we rarely see the love or kindness inside of Mandy. We need to see the qualities that no one else sees in her.
What makes the rest of the world wrong about Mandy? That’s not a question that gets answered, and it makes the story drag on. What ends up happening is that we get a villain introduced extremely late to add a sense of excitement. So, surprise near the end takes it from a high school drama to a full-blown superhero comic, which completely clashes with the rest of the story.
The book should have completely cut the final act [laser show] and doubled down on the introspection of Mandy’s psyche. Instead, all of the build-up and tension is buried under the usual comic book action pieces, and it’s disappointing.
I Am Not Starfire is a story that wants to tell this touching story of self-discovery, love, and forgiveness. However, it fails to make you feel the emotions expressed by its main character. Instead, opting for a rushed final battle against a threat we don’t even care about, making for a mess and overall unsatisfying final product.
I Am Not Starfire is available today wherever books are sold.