Graphic Novel Review: Drama by Raina Telgemeier
If you don’t have Eisner award winner Raina Telgemeier in your collection, you need to start.
Her newest work, Drama, brings us into the world of 7th grader Callie. Deeply in love with the theater, Callie’s dream is to design sets for Broadway. For now, however, she’ll settle for being on set crew for her school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, and is determined to bring Broadway to Eucalyptus Middle School. And on budget. Yet things get complicated on stage and off when romances develop, misunderstandings blow up out of proportion, and a last minute crisis threatens the entire production.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier, published by Graphix in 2012. ISBN: 9780545326995
Drama is engaging from the first pages, and readers are grabbed from the beginning by Callie’s sense of humor and a sense of immediacy that reads exactly how a seventh grader takes EVERYTHING in their world. Lost in her unrequited romance with Greg, Callie throws herself into her first passion: the theater. Determined to take Moon over Mississippi to Broadway level (including a working cannon), Callie meets twin brothers Justin and Jesse, who seem to be polar opposites in every way. Yet, will Jesse be the love Callie wants in her life? And will the play even go on with the drama threatening the production? Great for middle ages and up, and could be paired with Telgemeier’s other graphic novel, Smile, or theater fiction like Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen by Dyan Sheldon, or Pink by Lili Wilkinson. 4.5 out of 5 stars. Goodreads currently lists Drama at 3.97 stars out of 5 as of February 20, 2013. Drama is a 2013 Stonewall Children’s Award Honor Book and a 2013 Rainbow List Top 10 Book.
I LOVED Drama. Working day in and day out with middle school kids, Callie, Jesse and Justin could have been *my* kids- that’s how believable they were. They have their own quirks and foibles, their own ways of acting out and reacting to situations makes them more believable. Telgemeier’s drawings are something that I could never hope to aspire to, and have that art that draws readers of all ages and all genders in- I had my personal copy on my desk at work, and within minutes had a 21 year old “new adult,” a 12 year old, an 8 year old, and a 16 year old all want to know when I was getting it for the library or whether they could borrow my copy so they could read it.
The romantic back-and-forth between the characters is extremely real, and for me the fact that no one is doing drugs, alcohol, or anything remotely off-kilter (aside from some possible grade cheating) is really refreshing in a graphic novel. No one has super powers, or is solving crimes- these are real tweens and teens going through real issues. They may be a bit more high strung than most, but I’m not sure about that.
The storyline of Justin and Jesse hits home especially hard for GLBTQ readers- Justin is completely out to his parents and friends, but it’s not until near the end of the book that anyone even suspects that Jesse is gay as well. No one, not even Callie (who has every right to be when he deserts her at the prom), ends up mad at Jesse by the end of the book- they accept him for who he is, which is the way it should be.
As for Callie, she is what I wish I had been like in school- she is such a strong female character with a huge sense of self that she could be someone to look up to for middle school girls. She knows what she wants to be when she grows up, she sticks to her guns when she knows she’s right, she accomplishes everything she sets out to accomplish, and she doesn’t let her relationships (up or down) diminish her confidence in her identity.
For more theater productions gone out of control, check out No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman. And for more MG GNS, check out Cardboard by Doug Tennapel, Chickenhare by Chris Grine and Giants Beware by Rafael Rosado.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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