My oldest checked Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward out of her school library a couple of weeks ago, and when she finished it she assured me that I just HAD to read it before she returned it. It’s a graphic novel (and it was on my list anyway!), so I told her I could make that happen–and I’m so glad I did, even though I was apprehensive at first. The book starts with the main character–under stress–lashing out at an innocent bystander, which is bad enough, and then suffering agonies of remorse for weeks rather than apologizing in person. Yes, I know facing up to the injured party is hard, but how can it be worse than feeling guilty about it nonstop? Spit it out already!
I’ve always struggled with that sort of plot; it would have killed The Kite Runner for me if that book hadn’t been so ridiculously beautiful. But I digress.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take Peppi the entire book to make amends, and the way in which that scene plays out is an unexpected pleasure. As for the rest of the book, well–it’s a pleasure, too. The characters are (mostly) likable and feel alive in a way that has everything to do with the author’s skill, and the conflict and resolution between the Art Club and the Science Club make for a lovely and entertaining fable about growth through making the effort to find common ground and build unity. (And if THAT sounds stuffy and moralistic, there’s fighting and pranks and punishments by the principal until the two groups figure out a way to live with each other–mostly.) It’s a book about friendship and compromise, and NOT a book about middle school love–in other words, a winner on both counts! Don’t miss this one.