Awkward

by Svetlana Chmakova

Once again sidetracked from the book I’ve been reading, to pick up a few graphic novels off my ten-year-old’s library pile. I really liked Awkward. It’s set in a middle school. Penelope is new there, and on the first day shoves a nice kid away who tries to help her when she drops all her stuff, because some mean kids tease that she’s his boyfriend. They call Jaime “nerder” because he’s quiet and geeky. I thought he was charming! He’s in the science club, and Penelope is in art club. The two organizations have a rivalry going on, heightened by the shortage of tables available for the school science fair- whichever club does the best project to help their school community, will get the table spot. It starts out as a friendly competition, but gets out of hand. Meanwhile Penelope is busy trying to complete assignments for various classes on time, attending some tutoring, draw comics on a deadline for the school newspaper, and help out her friends. Through all this, she’s nagged by guilt for that interaction on the first day of school- really wants to apologize to Jaime but doesn’t know how. Eventually she works things out, and starts to build a friendship with him- but it’s strained because of their clubs’ rivalry. Can Penelope find a way to bring everyone together instead?

This was cute. And relatable (especially the art club scenes, for me). And- odd at times, too. At first I thought the drawing style was exaggerated, and some of the teachers’ characterizations made me roll my eyes- the art teacher is depicted as being totally clueless and disorganized- but then I just shrugged and enjoyed it. I would readily pick up another book by this author. I think she has a series of them set in the same middle school environment. As a little bonus, I discovered by reading the back section by the author, there’s a little raccoon in the background on some pages. I had noticed him only once or twice, wondered what he was doing there, and just moved on. He’s on twenty pages! I thumbed back through just looking for the raccoon, but only found him about ten times- so there’s a fun game trying to spot all his appearances.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5
224 pages, 2015

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