by Suzanne Kamata
Publication: May 17th 2013
Genre: YA Contemporary
ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS meets STONER AND SPAZ
Aiko Cassidy is fourteen and lives with her sculptor mother in a small Midwestern town. For most of her young life Aiko, who has cerebral palsy, has been her mother's muse. But now, she no longer wants to pose for the sculptures that have made her mother famous and have put food on the table. Aiko works hard on her own dream of becoming a great manga artist with a secret identity. When Aiko's mother invites her to Paris for a major exhibition of her work, Aiko at first resists. She'd much rather go to Japan, Manga Capital of the World, where she might be able to finally meet her father, the indigo farmer. When she gets to France, however, a hot waiter with a passion for manga and an interest in Aiko makes her wonder if being invisible is such a great thing after all. And a side trip to Lourdes, ridiculous as it seems to her, might just change her life.
Gadget Girl began as a novella published in Cicada. The story won the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award in Fiction and was included in an anthology of the best stories published in Cicada over the past ten years.
Five-time Pushcart Prize nominee Suzanne Kamata is the author of the novels Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia, 2013) and Losing Kei (Leapfrog Press, 2008), and editor of three anthologies - The Broken Bridge: Fiction from Expatriates in Literary Japan, Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs, and Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2009). Her short fiction and essays have appeared widely. She is the Fiction Co-editor of literarymama.com.
Lisa Cook is a klutz, but her alter ego, Gadget Girl is perfect in every way. Actually, she’s beyond perfect. After gulping down a shooting star, she was endowed with superhuman strength and extreme precision. What I mean by that is, she can thread a needle on the first try. She can put on mascara with one whisk of the wand, without having to wipe away stray black clumps. She can tie her shoes in seconds. In other words, she’s everything that I’m not.
I have cerebral palsy, which messes up my motor skills. My right arm and hand are fully functional. I can write and draw, use chopsticks and other utensils skillfully, and even do up buttons. But my left hand? Forget about it. My fingers are stiff, and curl inward, and sometimes my arm develops a life of its own, thrashing anyone within reach. The CP affects my left leg, too. I can’t completely feel what’s going on down there. It’s as if my circulation has been cut off and my leg has gone to sleep. But I can get around okay, even though I limp.
Gadget Girl, however, can put just the right spin on a Swiss Army knife, hurl it, and open a bottle of pop from fifty feet away. Or she can use an egg beater to start up a maelstrom and blind an opponent with flying dust. She’s good with her hands. In every episode, she has to rescue a dude-in-distress. This guy is usually Chaz Whittaker, an all-around athlete who looks a lot like Chad Renquist, this guy in my class. Lisa/Gadget Girl is secretly in love with Chaz, but one kiss from a normal boy and she’ll be zapped of her superpowers forever, so she keeps her feelings to herself. Better to save the planet than give in to love. Sacrifices must be made.
She lives with her guardian, Hiro Tanaka, the only person who knows her true identity. Tanaka is a brilliant, reclusive botanist. He’s developing plants that can cure diseases even better than stem cells can. He’s super famous, but Gadget Girl is protecting his privacy.
I’m working on volume two, number three. I’ve got the panels sketched out in blue pencil (which doesn’t show up when it’s photocopied), and now all I’ve got to do is finish inking and lettering with my black calligraphy pen. In this story, Gadget Girl goes to the Blue Ridge Mountains for a bit of rest and relaxation. In the previous issue, she welcomed a group of visiting aliens at a resort in the Southwest. She was in the process of making a soufflé for the guests, when Chaz got into trouble. He was in the desert on a group tour. He got separated from his buddies when he went off to take a picture of a cactus. Suddenly, he was attacked by a band of marauding jackrabbits. Gadget Girl, who has a sixth sense when it comes to Chaz, rushed from the kitchen, whisk in hand, and whipped up a sandstorm to drive away the long-eared demons. Once again safely on the tour bus, Chaz sighed and said, “My heroine!”
I’m just about finished, when I hear my mother call out my name. “Come here!” she shouts. “I need your help”