by Raina Telgemeier
Review copy from NetGalley
[#47 in my 75 book challenge]
Note: This expected publication date for this novel is September 1, 2012.
My students LOVE Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, and ask for similar books constantly. There are very few non-anime graphic novels geared toward girls out there, and even fewer contemporary middle grades graphic novels for girls. Telgemeier knows what she’s doing when she writes in this niche — this book will circulate like hotcakes in any middle school library.
This is the story of Callie, a middle school girl who joins her school drama club as a member of the stage crew for Moon Over Mississippi. While trying to problem solve behind the scenes, Callie is also trying to problem solve her romantic life. She embarrasses herself in front of her crush, falls for her friends, and can’t seem to fine-tune her gaydar. Callie is realistic and likable, so middle school kids will identify with her as she figures things out and finds what she loves.
Quite realistically, many of the characters are somewhere on the GLBT spectrum, even in middle school. I think this was pretty realistic. As a middle school teacher, I’ve known students who were openly gay in middle school and it’s actually quite common. Some other reviews I’ve read criticize the book for being too optimistic about the acceptance of the gay characters. I don’t agree with that criticism. If our main character were a lesbian, I might expect to see her experiencing bullying and teasing. But since the gay characters are secondary character, I fully believe that Callie might not see these negative aspects of their experience. Drama club is probably a relatively open-minded group, and this isn’t really a story about bullying — it’s Callie’s story.
FINAL GRADE: A I don’t usually give graphic novels an A, but this one deserved it. It had more depth and realism than some of the others I’ve read. My students will love it, and it’s a quick read for adults interested in graphic novels for girls or books with GLBT characters. I highly recommend buying it for a middle school library or classroom library. This is a really delightful little book!
What do you think of authors including GLBT characters in middle grades novels?