Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Children's Graphic Novel Review: Awkward (Ages 10 and Up)

Svetlana Chmakova

Peppi just moved to town and she’s starting at a new middle school. She knows that she can survive as long as she follows two cardinal rules: don’t get noticed by the mean kids and join a group of kids with similar interests. It seems pretty simple, but as you can imagine, it’s anything but. On her first day, Peppi trips on her own feet and falls in front of everyone in the hall. Now she’s on the mean kids’ radar! She reacts fast and does something that she will be ashamed of for weeks to come. She shoves the only kid who stops to help her, Jamie, a member of the Science Club.

Peppi finds friends when she joins the Art Club and the mean kids leave her alone, but she is haunted by the way she treated Jamie. She is so ashamed that she doesn’t know how to apologize! It doesn’t help matters that the Art Club and Science Club are bitter rivals. To make matters more awkward, Peppi bombs her science homework and her teacher makes Jamie tutor her. Still, she is too shy to apologize and he’s too polite to bring it up. Through club rivalries and field trips, the two are constantly thrown together. When she wrecks her bike in front of Jamie’s house, she is finally able to work up the nerve to write an apology letter (She still can’t tell him in real life!) They establish a tentative friendship, but it’s hard to keep it going when their clubs are at war with each other. When the principal threatens to dissolve both clubs, it is up to Peppi and Jamie to find a solution.

This is such a great graphic novel! Middle schoolers will especially identify with Peppi’s shyness, and uncertainty. The situations in the book feel like they happened in real life. Heck, they remind me of something that happened to me in middle school. This book shows great character development without seeming forced and it touches on issues like divorce, bullying, and emotional abuse without seeming heavy-handed or preachy. There is even a section in the back where the author talks about her experience writing the book and growing up as an artsy kid. She also shows off her design gallery for all of the characters. This book was a lot of fun. It’s a great way for kids to learn that everyone goes through sticky social situations.

Mollie McFarland
Springville Road Regional Branch Library

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