Middle School is brutal. I know. I’ve been there for the last 15 years. (They won’t let me graduate!) Watching the ups and downs of my students is a real eye opener, and though it’s been a long time since I was really that age, it’s hard not to remember that sometimes lonely and confusing time. I think that’s why so many graphic novelists have been capturing this time in their stories.
By Svetlana Chmakova.
Yen Press. 2017. ISBN 9780316363181
PBK, $11. 249pp.
Graces 5 and up
After the success of Awkward, Chmakova sets her newest story in the same world, with some of the characters making cameo appearances, although Brave stands alone perfectly well. Jensen daydreams that he is brave, that he fights off the kids who are mean to him, that he can conquer subjects that are difficult, and that he can fit in and make friends. But his vivid dreams certainly are not the reality: He darts away from bullies, the other kids seem to be using him, and math is impossible. When friends Akilah and Jenny ask him to be part of their research project, his reality is jolted and Jensen must face some truths. He never thought of himself as being bullied—but is he? Will he find real friends?
While there are many stories about middle school right now, this one has a unique spin, because Jensen doesn’t even realize his reality and when he does, that’s when the real heartache begins. This will be a great story to open up a discussion about bullying and friendship. There are so many things to talk about and dissect. It really captures so many realities of middle school life, as if Chmakova just left there herself.
The artwork is magnificent. Chmakova’s manga-inspired style will be a hit with anime/manga fans. The toned-down coloring allows the story to be the focus and quietly adds to the whole picture.
This will be a surefire hit.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Yen Press.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at William E. Grady CTE HS in Brooklyn, NY. In addition, she curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics and worked in the same middle school library for 20 years.
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