These fall to winter months are a time when imaginations run wild, ghost stories are told, and children (and adults) run around in costumes play-acting being someone or something else. When we’re young, our imaginations run wild as we create worlds and friends to play with even if all we’re holding are cardboard swords or sticks. The act of growing up can be terrifying as the world, social circles, and our bodies change, sometimes forcing us to use our imaginations less and less. Seance Tea Party takes those fears and builds a story around two interesting characters, one at the cusp of growing up and fearing for her future and the other trapped forever as a child, watching the world pass her by. They find comfort in each other during this time and begin to support each other through their different paths to growth. This graphic novel touches on a lot of issues of the early teen years: friendships, social circles, trends and fads, identity, and blooming romances. I think Reimena Yee did a fantastic job both crafting this story and creating a very visually appealing novel that I will definitely be recommending.
Seance Tea Party follows a young girl Lora who is trying to find her place among her now middle school aged friends. It seems as though all of her friends are growing up and moving away from each other. No one wants to play outside, use their imaginations or do anything fun. Lora is determined to not let that happen to her even if it means she winds up feeling lonely. One night, a magical tea party introduces Lora to Alexa, the ghost that haunts her house. They become fast friends, going on adventures together of all sorts. However, Alexa will stay a kid forever while Lora continues to grow and change.
I love the art that Reimena Yee came up with for this graphic novel. It’s loose, stylistic, and vibrant in its colors and imagination. The character design for Lora is really cute, with her slightly goth aesthetic. It reminds me a lot of how I would have wanted to dress if I had more confidence back in middle school. In a lot of ways, I think Lora reminds me of myself. Her interest in mythology, cryptids, and magic were a lot of the things I was interested in back then when I wasn’t nerding out to anime and manga. All the other characters including Alexa are all very well designed, with their own style, differing body and face styles, and a great mix of diversity.
One aspect that I thought really stood out throughout this comic was the way Yee designed and depicted Lora’s moments of imagination. They are often super fun to read and look at as they break out of the typical panel structure, taking over entire or multiple pages. There’s one where she turns her bike into a spaceship on the way to school, or one during trick-or-treating where she becomes a witch and interacts with all the people in their costumes as if they were really what they are disguised as. It feeds into the overall message of the graphic novel while also adding to its visual appeal and interest, which is how authors hold onto readers.
Some of the designs and concept of this graphic novel is perfect for the fall season of spooks and death, but it will definitely have staying power for a long time considering the overall themes of growing up, friendships, and childhood. I think Yee has constructed a very poignant and entertaining look at how young people grow up and what kind of problems they face both mentally and socially along the way. Putting it on the backdrop of Halloween was a great choice considering that this is one of the traditional holidays that can highlight a split between childhood and adulthood with the act of trick-or-treating. It also provides a great way to explore childhood imagination as Lora enjoys the act of dressing up in costumes, studying cryptids, and in general using her creativity to have fun. Watching Lora and her social circles during Halloween shows us the kind of disconnect that can develop between friend groups as kids transition into teens.
Every person develops at their own speed according to a lot of different and intricate factors. I think Yee does a great job discussing how a child begins to form their own identity as they grow up into an adult through friendships, mentors, social circles, and familial support. We see early on in the novel that Lora has become distanced from her friends from school because they no longer wanted to go out and play with her and chose to get more involved in teen things like make-up, magazines, and pop culture. This leads Lora to have a seance with herself and her stuffed animals, revealing Alexa, the ghost of a young girl who haunts her house. Their shared interests in imaginative play make them fast friends and they wind up spending a lot of time together. Their friendship acts as emotional support for both of them while Lora is going through losing her friendships and Alexa tries to hold onto a life she dreamed of when she was alive.
But inevitably, kids grow up. Lora’s begins to make new friends who appreciate her for her quirks and support her in trying new things. Then her old childhood friend returns, apologizes, and they start hanging out again. Suddenly, Alexa finds herself feeling like she’s being left out because, as a ghost, she lacks the ability to grow up. She sees Lora’s world changing as she saw all of the other children in the house before her changing, growing, and moving on with their lives. She begins to drift away from Lora and seek out younger kids she could play with again, and winds up acting as an imaginary friend to the grandson of her old friend from when she was alive. The reunion opens up a whole can of worms in terms of memories that now Alexa has to deal with.
What’s great about this story is that Yee adds in mentors, friends, and supportive family members that are there for both Lora and Alexa through all of this. Lora’s first friends are older girls who are in high school. She sees in them the acceptance of who she is and a way she might be able to express herself as she grows into being a teenager. They help her with fashion, make-up, and generally being there for her. Later on, she meets the old friend of Alexa who happens to be an older woman and a children’s book author. She teaches Lora that you can still embrace your childhood imagination even as you grow older, you don’t necessarily have to give it up. I think this finally allows Lora to start to solidify her identity and feel better about who and what she is.
Regardless of the fact that this is a middle-grade or young adult graphic novel, I think a reader of any age will be able to find something to love about it. I love the atmosphere, the art, the characters, and the message of maintaining your creativity and imagination well into your adult years. Reimena Yee has done a great job with this graphic novel and I will continue to recommend it to people especially now, with Halloween just a few days away.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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