After reading her debut graphic novel, Smile, I decided that she and fellow comic artist, Hope Larson, were probably Co-Patron Saints of Middle School Girls. Well, maybe Judy Blume retains some of that sainthood – who can forget Margaret Simon and crew? – but I think these two artist ladies are certainly picking up where Blume left off.
Telgemeier’s latest – Drama, available in September – gives us Callie, a purple-haired, excitable theater techie who juggles 7th-grade-caliber boy troubles with the upcoming spring musical – she’s painting the sets. The book spans the length of the show’s preparations, from auditions to closing night, and chronicles the many small dramas and social intricacies that inevitably arise during high pressure situations.
But all drama aside (ha), what I really liked about Callie is that although she was unabashedly and refreshingly young – her worries, her exuberance, her boy-craziness – she is also a bright, driven female character with interests and skills. She’s obsessed with theater in a way that only seventh grade girls can be (and I know of what I speak), and it’s this energy – energy to learn, to do, to study old movies and collect soundtracks- that drives her decisions and her character growth, not what boys think of her.
Basically, Callie gets to run around and be a well-adujusted 12 or 13-year-old, hang out with her friends, and also kiss some boys. Awesome. If only my own 7th grade self could have been so self-actualized. I think I liked Callie and liked this book so much because after years of reading about the pain and misery and angst of middle school, Telegemeier has given us a book that makes junior high seem like fun. What a novelty!