Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki

Photo Credit Amazon

Bibliographic Information:

Title: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

Author: Mariko Tamaki

Illustrator: Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

ISBN: 978-1626722590

Publisher: First Second

Publishing Date: 2019

Genre/Format of the Item: Book-Graphic Novel


Realistic Fiction


2020 Michael L. Printz Honor Award

One of Forbes Best Graphic Novels of 2019

Eisner Award Winner

On BCCB 2012 Blue Ribbon List

Booklist 2019 Editor’s Choice

Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year

Reading Level/Interest Level:

Grades 9-12 (NoveList)

Plot Summary: Freddy (Frederica Riley) is 17 years old with a job and a great group of friends. She also has an unreliable girlfriend that is driving her a little crazy. Laura Dean is the most popular girl in school and has already broken up with Freddy three times by the start of the book. Freddy has a very supportive group of friends that have grown quite tired of Laura’s behavior. Freddy is very confused about her relationship with Laura. She desperately wants to be with Laura but doesn’t like that Laura is non-committal to their relationship. Freddy and Laura begin dating again, but slowly begins to realize that her friendships are slowly fading as Freddy spends less and less time with her friends.

Freddy’s friends also have their own troubles. Buddy and Eric must face the reality that some families are not as accepting of differences as other families and Doodle must decide what to do when she finds out that she is pregnant. With the help of an advice columnist, Freddy begins to take charge of her life once more. She supports Doodle with a very tough decision and begins to branch out beyond the confines of her high school, forming new friendships. Freddy finally finds the strength to stand up for herself and live the life she is most happiest in.

Photo Credit MacMillan Speakers

Author Background: Mariko Tamaki has a Master’s in Women’s Studies and has partially completed a Doctorate of Linguistic Anthropology . Tamaki first began writing and acting in plays in Toronto, Ontario for the Buddies and Bad Times Theater, a theater group dedicated to exploring the voices of queer characters (MacMillan Speakers, n.d.). Tamaki has an eclectic range of writing. She has written for DC Comics, Boom! Studios, and Marvel, specifically focused on the characters of She-Hulk and Supergirl. Tamaki has earned many awards for the graphic novels that she has co-created–This One Summer and Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me (MacMillan Speakers, n.d.). In an interview with Etelka Lehoczky, Tamaki states that she enjoys writing for teens because,” writing about teens is a form of writing about adulthood. Teens are trying to understand what it means to be an adult. It’s a specific kind of anthropology I am interested in, the anthropology of grown-ups” (2022).

Critical Evaluations: This story was a joy to read. Tamaki explores the realities of high school challenges with a diverse cast of likable characters. Valero-O’Connell’s illustrations range between detailed and character focused. I think that many teens will be able to relate to the many different obstacles that the Freddy and her friends dealt with. One key takeaway was that relationships of any kind are tough but they should leave a person with more joy than less at the end of the day. Catilin Chappell praises Tamaki for avoiding yet another “coming out” narrative of LGBTQIA+ characters, leaving the premise to focus on real life problems that both queer and non-queer teens experience in high school (Chappell, 2020). This portrayal of “typical” teen challenges with diverse characters allows the book to be relatable to just about any teen.

The illustrations are done in mostly black and white, with some light pink added for color and flare. This allows some details to stand out more than others, such as word bubbles, a certain character’s clothes, or even the background. The level of emotion shown on the faces of the characters is amazing. Overall, this book gives its readers a little slice of realistic teenage life. There are some parents that are accepting of their children, and some families who struggle with acceptance. The teens have jobs and homework and love problems. The characters face daily struggles of how to balance their emotions and lives. Tamaki leaves readers with the sense that happiness is attainable.

Photo Credit MacMillan Publishers

Creative Use for a Library Program: This book could be used in a library program that explores realistic teenage relationships in fiction. This could be a creative writing class that focuses specifically on a graphic novel style format. This could be an after event that teens could attend. There would be small blank page notebooks and colored pencils available for each teen. The librarian would discuss what aspects of fiction writing are used in realistic fiction and also the librarian would go over the basic format of a graphic novel. This book could be on display as a resource and example for the teens.

Speedround/Book Trailer: Laura Dean is the most popular girl in high school, but she is giving her girlfriend, Freddy, nothing but a heartache. As Freddy begins to lose touch with her best friends, she begins to question whether her relationship with Laura is worth it. With the help of an online relationship advice columnist, Laura finds to happiness that she has been looking for all along! Read Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me to find out more!

(Booklist Online, 2019)

Potential Challenge Issues/Defense Preparations: This book may be challenged for its LGBTQIA+ content. It may also be challenged for some references to sex, abortion, and some use of profanity. I would argue that this book deserves to be on my blog or in my library because it portrays real life for teenagers. Teens can easily relate to many characters in the book and to the relationship issues. I think that it is important to normalize LGBTQIA+ characters, and look beyond their queerness and see that many people (teens) have similar friendship and relationshiop challenges no matter what sexual identity they may be.

Reason for Inclusion: I wanted to include this book in my blog because it offers readers an honest portrayal of teenage life, including different kinds of relationships, the topic of abortion, and toxic interactions. I think that teens can relate to many aspects of this book and its diverse characters.


Booklist Online. (2019, July 29). Mariko Tamaki, author of Laura Dean keeps breaking up with me (DC), part 2 [Video]. YouTube.

Chappell, C. (2020, July 5). Laura Dean keeps breaking up with me resonates for major reasons. CBR.

Lehoczky, E. (2022, March 30). Creators on the cusp: Mariko Tamaki makes and curates LGBTQ-focused graphic novels. NPR.

MacMillan Speakers. (n.d.) Mariko Tamaki: Writer, artist, graphic novelist.


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