Grab Your Pompoms For ‘Cheer Up!’ Young Adult OGN

by James Ferguson

The Oni-Lion Forge Publishing Group has announced Cheer Up!: Love and Pompoms, an original graphic novel from Crystal Frasier and Val Wise. Due out in August 2021, the young adult comic follows a fiercely close-knit group of girls as they take on the emotional highs and lows of relationships and high-school cheerleading.

Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school, and for her it’s all about the college applications. Who has time for extracurriculars when you’re trying to be top of the class? But when her high school counselor informs her she needs to do more than just be an ace student, she decides to suck it up and join the cheerleading squad. Her former friend BeBe is a people-pleaser—a trans girl who must make her parents happy with her grades and social life in order to keep their support of her transition. Through the rigors of squad training and amped-up social pressures (not to mention microaggressions and other queer youth problems), the two girls rekindle a friendship they thought they’d lost and discover there may be other, sweeter feelings springing up between them. 

Annie and Bebe’s story was original going to go in a very different direction. The creative team decided to turn a few stereotypes like those about cheerleaders on their heads. “[Cheer Up!] was going to be a cute book about two girls who used to be friends, had a fight, and then made up and learned to support each other,” says author Crystal Frasier. “The more I thought about that, the more I remembered the cheerleaders from my own high school, who were nothing like the stuck-up cheerleaders you saw in sitcoms or movies—they were a bunch of nerds and rejects who watched out for each other and who were pretty accepting of me. So the figurative ‘girls supporting each other’ ended up becoming literal when I decided to make everyone cheerleaders.”

High school athletics became the perfect outlet as the creators explored the idea of young teens growing into their own. This was particularly true for queer teens. “Right from the jump I felt incredibly lucky to illustrate Cheer Up!, especially as my first graphic novel,” says says artist Val Wise. “It would have been so important to me as a sheltered, gender-confused teenager to read a book with a trans protagonist where transness isn’t a tragedy or something to ‘atone’ for, but rather something to be celebrated. Even now in my twenties, working on this book made me feel joy for both who I am and who I was in high school.”

“When I started writing Cheer Up!, my goal was to make the book I needed when I was a scared little trans girl in high school, showing transgender people as normal folks capable of happiness and surrounded by people who were imperfect but ultimately full of love and capable of growth.” added Fraiser.

Cheer Up!: Love and Pompoms is set for release on August 11th, 2021. It’s currently available for pre-order at your local comic shop, bookstore, and Amazon.

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