Alterations by Ray Xu


Author & Illustrator: Ray Xu
Published January 30th, 2024 by Union Square & Co.

Summary: This funny yet poignant middle-grade coming-of-age story highlights the struggle of feeling invisible while yearning to be seen by all.

Kevin Lee is having a really bad week. Although he lives in a crowded Toronto apartment above the family’s alterations and dry-cleaning store, he mostly goes unnoticed. School isn’t exactly an oasis either—being one of the few Asian kids makes for some unwelcome attention. But when Kevin’s class plans a trip to Thrill Planet, a spectacular theme park, will he finally have a chance to turn his life around, or will it just be another day for Kevin Lee?

Fans of middle school graphic novels exploring identity and self-esteem will appreciate the poignant yet humorous journey of finding one’s place in the world, and readers who are looking for Asian representation in books will connect with Kevin’s story of racism, bullying, and the immigrant experience. With its mix of family relationships, friendships, and a thrilling amusement park climax, this inspiring read is perfect for fans of humorous middle grade fiction with diverse characters overcoming obstacles.


This is an excellent debut middle grade graphic novel, both funny and full of heart, depicting the lives of an immigrant family.” —Book Riot

“A funny and heartfelt story that beautifully communicates the honest and awkward relationships we have with life and our immigrant parents.” —Dan Santat, Caldecott Medal winner and creator of A First Time for Everything

“Charming, relatable, nostalgic. Love Xu’s subtle and scraggly drawing style paired with his understated, yet deeply affecting storytelling. Brings me back to being a lonely Chinese kid in Toronto.”—Academy Award–winning director and screenwriter Domee Shi (Bao, Turning Red)

“Themes of sacrifice, survival, and love abound in a multidimensional story of navigating the bumpy terrain of family tensions and resilience across generations.”—Horn Book Magazine

“[A] moving depiction of a multigenerational immigrant Chinese family trying to sew themselves back together.”—Bulletin Center for Children’s Books

About the Author: Ray Xuis a Toronto-based story artist for television and feature films. His recent work includes the 2021 Netflix animated hit The Mitchells vs. The MachinesTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem; and more. He invites you to visit him online at

Review: This book is about so much more than it seems at first. Is it about Kevin navigating middle school, definitely, but it is also about so much more. Set in the 1990s, Kevin finds himself in the middle of his parent’s divorce with his mother working all the time and his grandmother newly moved into their small apartment where he finds himself fighting with his sister and mom more than being happy. This unsettled feeling bleeds into school where he doesn’t fit in with the primarily white school population and finds himself being picked on for his differences and getting in trouble when he’s truly not doing anything wrong.

It is only through drawing that Kevin finds solace, and we, as readers, get to experience a story he is creating with his favorite superhero. This story runs parallel with Kevin’s life and is how he deals with the conflict surrounding him.

Readers will find empathy for Kevin throughout his story and will want to keep reading and rooting for Kevin to trudge his way out of the bumpy road he is navigating.

(Keep an eye out for some fantasy elements at the end of the book! I found it to be figurative more than literal magic to symbolize just one other way Kevin felt–you’ll have to let me know what you think!)

Tools for Navigation: This book will be read and loved by your graphic novel memoir fans. Although it is not a memoir, it fits in with Sunny Side UpMexikid, Smile, and other memoirs set in similar time periods.

Discussion Questions: 

  • How were both Kevin and his sister valid in how they were feeling?
  • How did Popo both help and add tension to the Lee household?
  • What does the roller coaster on the cover of the book symbolize?
  • Do you think it is fair that Kevin is called to the principal’s office for the egg and the basketball incident?
  • Why do you think Lily stopped being Kevin’s friend? What happened to make her reconsider?
  • How was the comic Kevin was writing reflective of what was going on in his life?
  • What do you think is the purpose of the fantastical element at the end of the book?

Flagged Spreads: 

Read This If You Love: Graphic novels about school and family dynamics

Recommended For: 



**Thank you to Union Square for providing a copy for review!**

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