“Girl On Fire” Graphic Novel By Alicia Keys: Lolo Is Our Kind Of Hero!

Alicia Keys at Pavilhão Atlântico (Lisbon, Portugal) on March 19, 2008. Image by José Goulão.

Alicia Keys is more than a Grammy-winning songwriter, musician, and producer. She’s more than a successful actress, more than a producer. She is a powerful voice for the movement against racial injustice, and champions women’s natural beauty. What you may not know about the artist is that she is also New York Times bestselling author. Her new graphic novel, “Girl on Fire”, named after the popular song she wrote, gives voice to the superhero we all wish we could be.

Keys wrote the 2022 graphic novel with Canadian science fiction writer Andrew Weiner, and Artist Brittney Williams illustrated the colorful panels.

Just a Girl, Living in a World

The graphic novel opens with Lolo Wright and her older brother, James, playing a video game. We know from the first pages that Lolo, although only 14 years old, has been bumped to the tenth grade, just like James. The funny and authentic scene that ensues when their father catches them sets the stage for a character-driven narrative in both senses.

The two teenagers are balancing their various school struggles with concern about their father’s business and a long-absent mother. When they visit a bodega to purchase groceries for their grandmother, their lives seem poised at the edge of catastrophe when a cop falsely accuses James of a crime and raises his gun.

Both Feet on the Ground, Burning it Down

Lolo’s rage and fear turn outward and she discovers her telekinetic powers at the same instant the reader does: When she throws the cop away from the scene. She’s saved her brother, but her newfound strength catches the attention of Skin, a dangerous figure with a thirst for power. He hears about Lolo’s abilities and wants to use them for his plan.

However, she won’t let Skin use her to hurt the people and the neighborhood she loves, although the price for standing up to him and his gang may be more than she bargained for. Lolo uses her powers, smarts, and integrity to hold firm against the hatred and violence the world is throwing at her.

Head in the Clouds, Not Backing Down

Lolo is a character that you want your kids, especially your daughters, to emulate. She’s brilliant, funny, and loving; most importantly, however, she has deep integrity and grit. At first, Lolo is unique for her academic success in a tough school environment. We learn that she has the support of a loving father and brother, and we see her inner fury against injustice leap from her mind as telekinetic power.

At that moment, Lolo becomes more than an intelligent girl facing a tough situation. She becomes a force for change. Keys and Weiner use the antagonist, Skin, to test and sharpen Lolo’s power and moral compass. We have the privilege of watching her transformation into a girl on fire, a young woman who sets an example for the kids at school and the readers who love her.

Never Forget Her Name

Alicia Keys is an incredibly authentic artist, and the lyrics to “Girl on Fire” are a not-so-subtle soundtrack to the graphic novel. And that’s a good thing. The story’s framing around a character who feels both loneliness and a call to action works to bring a realistic tone to an otherwise fantastical tale.

Yes, Lolo has psychic powers, but her mother also abandoned her, she has been a victim of bullying and has witnessed painful injustices. Her young female audience will recognize their struggles and fears reflected in Lolo’s story. Keys also wants those girls to see that they have an inner strength born of rage and hope.

@anafelisca My niece has read it around 5 times already. How do you feel about this read? #aliciakeys #booktok Song Credits:#girlonfire by @aliciakeys ♬ original sound – Ana Felisca

This Girl Is on Fire

While we enjoy the delightful banter between characters throughout the story, the narrative moves at a pace that’s a bit too brisk for deep character development, we see the edges and surfaces of potentially interesting characters, like Michael “Shrimp,” another teenager with superpowers, and Lolo’s mother, but we’re left wanting much more. Similarly, the speed of the plot can reduce the impact of major incidents, like the surprise return of Lolo’s mother.

Like the energetic story, Brittney Williams’s illustrations are vibrant and kinetic. The colors leap from the page, and the action sequences feel appropriately tense without being uncomfortably graphic.

The tale of a girl who fights against injustice and stands her ground against fear will resonate with readers of all ages. In particular, adolescents and young adults will connect with Lolo as our country grapples with current events around the overuse of force and increasing poverty. Honest without sermonizing, exciting without resorting to barbarity, “Girl on Fire” is a remarkable and moving read.

“Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys. Published by HarperCollins.

Comments are closed.