I Am Here! Omnibus Vol. 1 (Manga)
Publisher: Del Rey Manga
Release Date: November 2010
Price: $16.99
Creator: Ema Toyama
Format: 416 pgs.; B&W; Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-345-52243-6
Age Rating: Teen+
ICv2 Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

Hikage Sumino is invisible at her middle school.  Her only friends are two people who she met through her blog.  With their encouragement and with the unexpected friendliness of Hinata, one of the most popular boys in school, Hikage tries to find the courage to change her life for the better.

Toyama’s quiet manga series will speak to teens--girls especially--who feel like they are overlooked.  Hikage isn’t bullied (at least not until she becomes friends with Hinata and the other girls get jealous), but she doesn’t have any friends either.  She’s so anonymous even the teachers forget about her.  Toyama is careful to make Hikage just interesting enough for readers to identify with, instead flattening her character too much.  Hinata and his friend Teru are equally compelling, though the rest of the characters are merely one-dimensional backdrops.  Toyama’s art is a little too cutesy to make the story completely believable, but that should make her work appeal to the sort of quiet teens who might need it most.  Del Rey is releasing the five-volume series in two omnibus editions and their timing is perfect for this sweet, if overly easily resolved, story about identity, bullying, and courage.

--Snow Wildsmith: Writer and former teen librarian and ALA/YALSA committee member.