Drama by Raina Telgemeier is a book that hasn’t stayed on the shelf long in my library. It recently came back in long enough for me to have a chance to sit down and read it in order to see what had caught the attention of the students. The major appeal of this book has to be the fact that it is a graphic novel with some great and vividly colored illustrations, while at the same time offering a contemporary story about the life of a seventh-grader. The story follows the main character, Callie who is the set designer for stage crew in her school’s drama club. The entire book revolves around the production of Moon over Mississippi and the dynamics (in some cases drama) between all of the students working together in the cast and crew. Callie deals with her relationships with other characters, the poor ticket sales of the production and her trouble with a faulty prop cannon. She has awkward encounters with the opposite sex and trying to decode what they mean (typical for any 12 or 13-year-old), but at the same time she has real friendships with boys her age and a great best friend who helps her through the ups and downs.
Really this story is so great because of the way that kids can relate to the main character and the everyday situations that are part of middle school/ junior high experiences. It made me remember how central school was for me. I can also make an easy comparison with the kids that I work with; it’s very much how they interpret what’s going on in their world and how some things that might be trivial to an adult are really important to kids. I love that Callie was so passionate about theater. She has bigger goals than just putting on a play and her ambition is part of her charm. This is a great middle grade book; I’d really recommend for anyone from 5th grade- 8th grade. Raina also did great on creating characters that were interesting and I liked that she incorporated the LGBT aspects in a way that is relatable and realistic for boys who are gay or questioning their sexuality. Overall it’s just a quick fun read with a lot of humor. This may even be more enticing for some reluctant readers. Raina has some other great graphic novels that look to be similar in style to Drama that I’ll have to check out soon.
This book really has one overarching theme of survival. The first of these survival themes is survival in the wilderness. Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick 17-year-old Alex is an orphan who is has terminal cancer. She’s fed up with the different treatments that aren’t going to help because her brain tumor is inoperable. She decides it’s time to take a journey into the middle of the wilderness to scatter her parents ashes, so she leaves home without telling her aunt and heads out on a weeklong hike to her destination. On her trip a phenomenon occurs that she later finds out is has to do with electromagnetic pulses. All her electronic devices stop working and Alex witnesses some strange behavior from some animals, along with a shocking and sudden death during the phenomenon. As the story progresses we find out that most people didn’t survive the EMP. The EMP also gives Alex some interesting new abilities that make up some of my favorite parts of the story. Along the way Alex has also ends up in care of an 8-year-old girl named Ellie. This is when the second part of the survival theme comes in to play, zombies. We find out that some people didn’t just die in the EMP, they changed. I thought the mix of wilderness and zombie apocalypse survival was great and for me Alex somehow becomes a more relatable character around this point in the story. Eventually Alex and Ellie meet Tom, a 20-year-old war veteran who helps save their lives. Together the three of them struggle to make it out of the wilderness alive.
I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that the second half of the book is completely different from the first half. There are some many changes that it almost feels like a different story and there are a lot more characters introduced. At first I couldn’t decide if these changes were good or if I liked the story after this point, but ultimately I decided in some ways it made a little bit of sense for the characters to find other people who weren’t just on the run. This half is where Alex gets to the town of Rule. Rule is a little strange and there are a lot of parts where some of the characters in the town are kind of mysterious and cryptic about some of the things that Alex asks about. It’s really more about survival in society for this portion of the story and I think it was a really a natural progression for the plot to go. There are also some interesting characters in Rule for me, the author throws them at you a little fast, so you meet about ten people in a few chapters, but it’s not that difficult to figure it all out. The tumor is in the back of Alex’s mind through the whole book and I thought that was another great aspect of survival. Having her think about the “monster” as she calls it and how long she has left before the end.
The book started off a little shaky for me and I wasn’t sure I would like Alex, the protagonist. It took me a few pages to feel ready to be in head for the duration of the book. Once the story picked up for me though, it did not disappoint. I think Ellie and Tom were great characters as well, along with some of the later characters in Rule (Jess, Lena, Chris, Peter, and Kincaid just to name a few). I thought the story had a lot of great action packed parts, it was also pretty gruesome. I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who doesn’t like a little bit of horror. The end of the book has a big cliff hanger that was something I didn’t see coming at all and I’m really looking forward to reading the second book in this trilogy, Shadows.