Nubia: Real One by L.L. McKinney, Illustrated by Robyn Smith

Summer vacation, racial tensions, and super powers… Not to mention a crush, a bully, and a solid group of friends. Nubia: Real One is an awesome graphic novel that highlights McKinney’s ability as a storyteller. I was constantly impressed with the expression of Nubia’s character: the strength but also the vulnerability in the face of all the obstacles life throws at her. 

The story starts with Nubia hanging with her friends outside of a convenience store. They’re talking about what they are going to do with their summer. Jason is going to soccer camp, Quisha will be going on a road trip with her family, and according to Nubia’s mothers, she’ll be spending her time doing something “safe and quiet.” But when Nubia sees her crush going into the store she gets the guts up to ‘get a refill,’ aka follow Carlos into the store. Unfortunately, Nubia walks right into a robbery. In no time, the masked men have Carlos on the ground and are threatening him… Nubia is forced to use her powers to toss an ATM machine across the store to disrupt the criminals. That’s enough to break up the hold-up and let her escape!

But Nubia has revealed her powers and the cops quickly catch up to her for questioning. Just minutes into summer and it’s definitely not safe, nor quiet! Thus, Nubia’s balancing act begins. Can she hide her powers, stay connected to her friends, and quite possibly get to know Carlos a little better… all in the face of systemic racism?

This graphic novel blew me away. I was impressed with the art work… the colors and raw energy of Nubia’s world. Her outfits, her hair (I loved it!), and the action scenes were great. I was glued to this superhero story that cuts right across 2020: BLM and the fight against police brutality. This book includes representation of POC, LGBTQIA, and the stark reality of growing up as a young POC woman in these divisive times. She is so powerful but not without the strength of her mothers and a special visit from someone we all know…

My highest recommendation: I hadn’t even started this review and I had already emailed my school’s librarian about this Nubia! What do we do with great literature? We want to go out and share it!

5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, DC Comics, the author, and illustrator for an advanced copy for review.

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