I had the pleasure of meeting Raina Telgemeier at the Scholastic 'reader's theatre' event in June to profile upcoming releases, and she was, in a word, fantastic! She was just as engaging and funny as her novels, and it gave me a new appreciation of how much of herself she inserts into each of her graphic novels.
"Drama" is the follow-up to "Smile", her excellent award-winning web comic and subsequent graphic novel about a teen that comes to terms with mouth surgery and new braces after an accident. That novel paralleled Telgemeier's own experiences, and was at times desperately poignant and hysterically funny. Students snapped up her work, choosing to re-read it again and again due to her honesty and her ability to unerringly capture middle and high school life so vividly. "Drama" is the story of Telgemeier's love of theatre, starting in middle school, and completely encompasses the many feelings and (pardon the pun) dramas that occur in that setting.
The descriptions of life behind the scenes of a drama production - middle school, high school or community theatre - were unbelievably realistic. I felt at times that Telgemeier had been fly on the wall, both for my own experiences as a student and as a staff advisor, and the conversations were always truthful. I loved when Callie decided to audition – fully aware of her own level of talent – in order to encourage her friend to follow her lead. Her bravado and willingness to make herself look foolish for a friend really endeared her to me, and I was absolutely committed to seeing how her final act would play out.
What I really enjoyed about this book was that the author was unafraid to discuss that 'elephant in the room' - the question of sexuality that pops up with all the kids involved in the Drama program. (As a side note, isn't it interesting that we never question the sexuality of the science fair kids?). Callie encounters some serious crushes over the course of the book, and she begins to develop a sense of what she is looking for in a partner. The question of "who is/who isn't" is handled with sensitivity and support, and Callie's responses when she realizes that some of her friends are gay are realistic and honest.
The artistry in the novel is of an equal caliber to that in “Smile” – engaging artwork with vivid colours that draw you into the story as much as the narration. The facial expressions on each of the characters crack me up, and I hope that there will be many more Callie stories to come!
Middle School is a time of great growth for students. They start the year as one person, and finish as completely different young adults. They begin to find their niches, and the groups of friends that go along with those interests, and “Drama” does an excellent job of portraying how important those groups of similarly minded students become to each other. This is an excellent read, not only for the theatre ‘geeks’ in your life, but for the Middle Schoolers struggling to find out just who they are and who they are going to be. “Drama” is an engaging and hysterical read for everyone.
"Drama" was received by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It is published by Scholastic via Graphix, and can be purchased through Scholastic or at Indigo, Amazon or your friendly indie bookseller. ISBN: 9780545326995, 240 pages.
Scholastic and author Raina Telgemeier have a great trailer for the book - see it below: