Author: Natsuki Takaya
Reading Level: Young Adult
Location: Graphic Novel YA Fruits
Tohru Honda is an orphaned 16 year old high school student. She has had a hard life, but doesn't let it get her down. Due to various circumstances, she ends up living with her classmate Yuki Sohma and his two cousins, Kyo and Shigure. What she doesn't realize is that the Sohmas have a secret... when they are distressed or hugged by a person of the opposite sex, they transform into one of the animals of the Chinese zodiac!
It is not difficult to understand why Fruits Basket is so popular. Natsuki Takaya has created a believable fantasy world full of vibrant characters. As you follow Tohru through her interactions with the Sohma family, it feels like you are growing with them and sharing in their adventures. Everything is not so sweet in this fairy tale. There is a dark side to this tale that shows how there are many layers to life. It also shows you how resilient people can be and how to overcome pain and obstacles in life. You can go from laughing out loud on one page to running for a box of kleenex to dry your tears on the next.
The artwork is fun and very emotional. Even with a few panels, Takaya makes the emotions fly off the page. I also enjoy the backgrounds of each panel. You could easily miss something if you read too quickly. My only wish is that all of the pages would be in vibrant color, although it is not needed with Takaya's style.
Natsuki Takaya received a Kodansha Manga Award for shojo manga in 2001 for Fruits Basket. More recently, she was nominated in The Female Cartoonists and Comic Book Writer's Hall of Fame category in the 2009 Lulu Awards.
Bottom Line: A great story with beautiful artwork. Once you start reading you won't want to stop. Even if you are not a reader of manga or graphic novels, you will enjoy this series. A must read for teens and adults alike.