You gotta love those well-written graphic novels for middle schoolers. They are crowd-pleasers: attractive to those who don’t love to read, and gobbled up in one sitting by those who do.
Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, about growing up as an awkward adolescent with braces, was well-received by critics and readers alike. She now has a new book out called Drama, which also depicts the very real ups and downs of middle school. Like Smile, the writing is good, and it’s a darn good book.
However, I am disappointed in what I have been reading about it. Critics seem to like it (well, it IS a good book!), but others are not so open-minded. Bloggers and other reviewers have condemned this book because there is a gay character who is open about his orientation. No one in the fictional school has a problem with it. There are a few gay characters in the book’s theater production, but honestly – can you tell me a theater production that does not? Or for that matter, can you name a middle school that does not have gay students? This book is not about sex, it’s about young teens (gay and straight alike) figuring themselves out and accepting who they are. More importantly, it is about others accepting them (which is not a problem in this book as everyone is open and being gay is not a problem).
My daughter, also a seventh grade theater chick, read this book and really enjoyed it. We talked about the characters, gay, straight, bi – whatever. It was not shocking to her. She told me that it very accurately depicted her middle school life. I applaud the middle school kids of today, really. They can read a book and say, “He’s gay, lots of kids are. So what?” Not so for many parents and other critics of this book. Why is that?
Let’s just stay focused on the positive. Finally we have a book that is perfect – PERFECT – for the young theater crowd. Those kids, male and female, who know all of the words to Les Miz, and say things like “Break A Leg!”, and “The Show Must Go On!”: here is a book just for you.