This is my 17th year in middle school. Sure, I should probably graduate, but I do like the age a lot. It makes work exciting most days. When I read certain books, I just feel like the author (artist) has captured what goes on in a given day. The Berrybrook Middle School series just gets the age. It’s like Chmakova is like me—she never left middle school.
By Svetlana Chmakova
Rated A – All Ages
Grades 5 and Up
If you were to pass Jorge Ruiz on the street or in the hall, you would assume he had been held back. He’s big. He’s tough looking. But in reality, Jorge is sweet and gentle and all about keeping the peace. He’s not the bully. He’s the kid who protects you from them. He uses his size and the fact that people are afraid of him for good rather than evil.
Though he has his two best friends, Liv and Garrett, Jorge of late realizes he’s crushing on Jazmine. He gets tongue-tied whenever he is around her, but it doesn’t matter because Jazmine is already dating someone else. This is middle school, though, and no one stays a couple for very long. When the opportunity arises to start a relationship with Jazmine, it takes a while for Jorge to use it.
The story has many parts to it, without being overly complicated. Jorge and Jazmine do become a couple, but Garrett, who is trying to fit in with the jock crowd, makes some bad choices that affect their relationship. There’s also a social media episode that is timely for today’s youth.
Chmakova really hits all the nails on the head. She created a captivating story with warm and likeable characters (and some characters you really don’t want to like). While the situations are exaggerated for the sake of fiction, it works! There is a diverse cast of characters. The soft color tones and manga style artwork enhance the exciting read.
Make sure to add this to your shelf. It’s a must have—and one of our picks for the top ten graphic novels of 2018!
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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