Posted August 23, 2012 by Tara in Review /// 11 Comments

I can just see the teenage girls scrambling for this one.

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?


Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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11 responses to “Drama

  1. I think it’s commendable to include GLBT characters into novels. I’m afraid to say however, that over the past year I’ve only ever read one novel that has a gay character in it, and I wouldn’t say that was young adult fiction. It was ‘A Discovery of Witches’ by Deborah Harkness.

    I think it would be too pretentious to expect every novel to have a GLBT character in it, but more books definitely should do, especially in young adult fiction as it ‘normalises’ them.

  2. A book for girls! A book for girls! I read that little girls will read books that have male protagonists, but boys will not not read books with girl protagonists. As a result, some YA authors feel pressure from their publishers to create stories with male protagonists. 🙁 This post made my day.

  3. I think it’s great that they include GLBT characters! Kids are doing everything sooner these days, including figuring out who they are, and there should be books for them to read and identify with. Books about nerdy, awkward girls helped get me through middle school, and I can only imagine that books with GLBT characters might help those kids who are having trouble fitting in or simply want to read books with characters like them, even if the characters are side characters. 🙂

  4. I loved “Smile” so I can’t wait to read this book (before this review I didn’t know it existed!) Great post, and lucky you for the ARC!

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