Annie is a smart, antisocial lesbian starting her senior year of high school who’s under pressure to join the cheerleading squad to make friends and round out her college applications. Her former friend Bebe is a people-pleaser, a trans girl who must keep her parents happy with her grades and social life in order to maintain 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.
From: Oni Press
Notes on This Title
Cheer Up focuses on a friendship-to-romance between two teenage girls, one of whom is transgender. It depicts both supportive and transphobic behaviors from the transgender girl’s family and teammates. Both writer Crystal Frasier and artist Val Wise are transgender.
2022 Lambda Literary Award for LGBTQ Comics - Nominee
Starred review: “Much like Ngozi Ukazu’s Check, Please! (2018), which shares similar notes of sweetness and heart, Frasier’s story is more about relationships than sports. Wise’s art features a variety of wonderfully realistic and expressive teens and adults. Annie’s frustration and stomping, the cheerleading flips and tosses, and Bebe’s insecurity are communicated clearly in fluid lines. Readers will root for these girls as they navigate the waters of self-confidence, love, and cheerleading.” (Source: Booklist, July 2021 #1)
Starred review: “Wise’s expressive art conveys personality through body language while imbuing action sequences with energy and movement. Panels of lingering glances and shy smiles show Annie and Bebe falling for one another as Frasier’s text develops a sweet, slow-burn interracial queer romance (Annie is white and a lesbian; Bebe is Latinx and questioning). Frasier maintains a lighthearted tone while depicting the microaggressions Bebe experiences: ‘If I screw up or freak out, it’s because I’m a trans girl,’ Bebe says, ‘Never because I’m just not perfect.’ Cheer Up! is joyful and insistent in its portrayal of queer teens like Annie and Bebe as worthy of love and respect, imperfections and all.” (Source: Shelf Awareness)
“Cheer Up is an Own Voices work, so there is a deep, personal nuance to the story of Bebe and Annie that is both gentle and refreshing. This book was more emotionally impactful on me than I thought it would be. I knew that it would be a queer love story, but I was not prepared for the topics of transphobia, performative allyship, and the idea of the model minority. While I would have appreciated a mild content warning in the beginning for some of the dialogue in the book, there is not anything in the graphic novel that inhibited my ability or enjoyment of it.” (Source: AIPT)
“Instead, and rather brilliantly, Frasier and Wise use Cheer Up! to explore what we’ll call ‘toxic diversity’ – how everyone is so welcoming, so friendly, so gosh-darn supportive of Bebe’s transition that they inadvertently dehumanise her in the process. The rest of the cheerleaders think they’re being progressive in voting to make Bebe team captain, but then talk about how doing so will make for a great college entrance essay, or how it might bring more media attention to the squad. They don’t notice their microaggressions, such as saying Bebe’s ‘breaking out her man voice’ when she makes a case for Annie joining the group, or try to defend her by saying she’s ‘just like a real girl’, not realising that the statement invalidates her existence. They treat Bebe as integral to the squad, but don’t invite her to hang out away from the sport.” (Source: Bear World Magazine)
“Overall, Cheer Up!: Love and Pompoms emphasises the concept of trust within sport or relationships whether that be family, friendship or even a romantic relationship. Especially concerning the importance of trust amongst LGBTQA+ teens. The characters’ thoughts and feelings are taken seriously by adults despite their age. The book has a lightness in both its art, colours and story that lend itself to considering the more serious themes. Cheer Up!: Love and Pompoms, shows the importance of peer support and the joy in trying new things as a group. It’s a heartwarming story with fully-realised characters; a delight to read.” (Source: Broken Frontier)
“There are a lot of themes in this deceptively simple looking book, quite apart from the queer ones. It is also about learning to listen to people, and actually hearing what they say. The book has important things to say about consent, and how even if you think you know a person, you should still ask them for their permission before you take a leap. And it is about learning to let go a little bit, and trust the people around you; relying on yourself is all well and good, but sometimes you should let someone else step up and catch you – especially if they want to.” (Source: Cultured Vultures)
“Two high school seniors, Annie and Bebe, rekindle their friendship during a tumultuous time in this young adult romance written by Crystal Frasier and drawn by Val Wise. Bebe is transgender and is taking the helm of the cheerleading squad, whose members are well-meaning but not completely altruistic. (One cheerleader asks: ‘You think this’ll get us on the news again like when we brought her on the team last year?’ Even Annie joins mainly to improve her college applications.) Still, the two young women learn to support each other and embark on a sweet romance.” (Source: The New York Times)
“There is no sexual content here beyond a couple of kisses, and no violence besides one arguably well-deserved slap. Bebe experiences some blatant transphobia—the coach of another school’s cheerleading squad calls her ‘it’ and a cross-dresser, and refuses to let her use the locker room to change—and some awkwardness from friends and family who mean well but don’t always know how to support Bebe. Ultimately, though, those close to her learn to do better and those who are cruel are rebuked and do not get much page time in the story. There is no homophobia around Annie or her relationship with Bebe. There is also another new member of the cheerleading squad who is still working out their gender, and is treated with sensitivity and kindness.” (Source: No Flying No Tights)
“This sharply observed graphic novel overturns high school archetypes to present a nuanced portrait of queer cheerleaders. Frasier seamlessly integrates the backstories of Annie, a chubby, white, sarcastic brainiac, and Beatrice (known as Bebe), a Latinx-cued teen who rose to school popularity as the state’s first trans cheerleader and who worries about putting people out. The former childhood friends reacquaint when Annie, needing extracurriculars, reluctantly tries out for cheerleading. The team tries to support Bebe, but as Annie notes, ‘they’re treating you like a mascot, not a person.’ Meanwhile, Bebe’s overprotective parents make their support of her transition contingent on getting good grades. Bebe admits she feels pressure to be perfect to avoid conflict; she’d rather brush off passes from creepy schoolmate Jonah than confront him. As Bebe schools Annie in being a team player, and Annie tutors Bebe in history and self-advocacy, their friendship evolves into a romance and leads to a memorable homecoming night. Wise’s fine-lined illustrations add to the novel’s specificity of character, from the rose tattoo emblazoned on Annie’s mother’s shoulder to Bebe’s koala-shaped phone case. Sweet without being saccharine, this short work is a wise, funny look at the distance between queer rights and real acceptance.” (Source: Publishers Weekly)
“Frasier’s dialogue and Wise’s full-color art create some dynamic scenes, and the quiet, wordless sequences that show the two gradually falling for each other take the story into swoon-worthy territory. As several well-intentioned characters learn to stop treating Bebe like a mascot, the story also demonstrates good allyship amid microaggressions. Annie is white, Bebe is tan-skinned, and the ensemble cast is diverse in skin tone.” (Source: School Library Journal, August 2021)
We Need Diverse Books: “Cheer Up! Love and Pompoms Is a Sapphic Graphic Novel About Love and Cheerleading”