Mooncakes (2019) is the story of Nova and Tam, two young people who are exploring their connections to magic. They are both, in their own way, deeply connected to the magical world and must decide what that means to them. Their relationships — with the people around them and each other — fuel the emotional core of this whimsical, down-to-earth, LGBTQ+ narrative.
I was delighted by Mooncakes. First, Wendy Xu’s art is spot-on for the tone of the story — in some ways it is cute and colourful, but there are some hard, emotional moments and magic-fueled fights that don’t feel out of place in the chosen style. The characters are designed uniquely, and the strength of those designs support their distinct personalities. Mooncakes has a wonderful cast of characters, in the most literal sense: full of wonder. Even characters who only appear for a few pages leave a meaningful impression on the story.
The core strength of the story is in the inter-personal relationships of the characters. In a lot of ways, Mooncakes is a quiet narrative — Suzanne Walker talks about and explores family, childhood crushes, small-town living, and more internal struggles like anxiety (both in the worrying sense and in the mental health sense). All these aspects are informed by and directly related to LGBTQ+ people. One of the two main characters is being raised by her two married grandmothers and the other main character is non-binary. To its foundation, this is an LGBTQ+ story.
Mooncakes is the kind of story I wish I had when I was fifteen, but I’m still happy to have it now. It’s the kind of beautiful, normalizing story the LGBTQ+ community deserves — and it’s fun, adventurous, and engaging as well. It takes teen witches and werewolves to new places in fresh ways, while balancing those magical aspects against heart-felt themes.
If you’re looking for something with a whole lot of heart, great characters, and an interesting small-town magical adventure plot, then you need to pick up Mooncakes.