Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova, 224 pp, RL 4
I love it when I find a graphic novel that is as enjoyable as any by Raina Telgemeier, and Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova is right up there, along with Newbery Honor winner Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson. Chmakova's illustration style is reminiscent of Japanese manga - her characters have exaggerated expressions that add to the humor and emotions of the story. And her color palette is pale yellows, pinks and blues with occasional pops of darker colors. The plot of Awkward shows good kids making bad choices and working hard to making things right. Above all else, the kids in Awkward are creators - they make, they build, they draw. Chmakova ends her wonderful story with these words, "Cardinal Rule #3 for Surviving School: Build. Build things. Build Friendships. Build yourself. Bit by little bit. It may feel like you're not adding that much . . . but in the end, it will add up to a lot."
But, before we get to those wise words, we need to go back about 200 pages to the beginning. Penelope Torres, known as Peppi, is new at Berrybrook Middle School. Not only does she suffer the humiliation of of tripping in the busy hallway and spilling all her books on her first day, overloaded and embarrassed, she makes a bad choice. Peppi's Cardinal Rule #1 for surviving school, "Don't get noticed by the mean kids."
When a friendly student stops to help Peppi, the mean kids start making fun of both of them and Peppi does the unthinkable. Without thinking, she pushes the nice kid and runs off, then regrets it almost every minute of every day afterward.
Struggling in science class, but happily making new friends in art class, Peppi gets caught up in school club drama. The art club and the science club have to compete for the last table at the Club Fair. In the middle of all this, Peppi finds herself trying to apologize to Jamie, the nice kid she pushed, who just happens to be in the Science Club.
Chmakova layers lots of great details and characters into Awkward. There is Maribella, the president of the Art Club, who listens to Peppi's ideas but makes a few bad choices of her own that leave Peppi in a tough spot. There is a great field trip scene at the Natural History Museum and a thread that involves geocaching. And, of course, there are the art and science projects and the teachers who lead these clubs - the harried, paper wasting art teacher, Mr. Ramirez and the super-cool science teacher, Miss Tobins. Best of all, Awkward is not a quick read, which means that you have more time to savor it before starting it all over again.
Source: Purchased Copy