Format: Uncorrected ARC
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3
Genre: Realistic fiction graphic novel
What did you like about the book? Insecure Natalie has never felt like she is, or has, enough. Enough friends, style, talent… you name it, she doesn’t have it. She’s apprehensive about starting middle school, but at least she has her best friend Lily as her next-door-locker-neighbor. Unfortunately, over the summer Lily moved to a new neighborhood and made a new best friend, cool girl Alex, and turned into an archetypal mean girl. Lily makes fun of Nat in the halls, leaves nasty notes on her locker, and laughs whenever Nat has an awkward moment (which is often). Despite wanting to stay loyal to her childhood friend, Natalie begins to make new friends, develops a crush, and learns that her talent for drawing is a great way to express herself. She finds her voice, and her niche, through a series of embarrassing situations and academic achievements and discovers that maybe being herself is actually enough.
Presented as Natalie’s sketchbook, this graphic novel includes lots of expository pages with diagrams and notes to explain her ideas and thought processes, and each chapter is introduced with a cute cartoon starring her dog and cat. Readers will identify with Natalie and her struggle to fit in, but other characters are pretty one-dimensional. We never get any background about her new friends, or Alex, and fail to find any redeeming qualities in Lily or Shawn, the boy who torments Natalie by barking at her throughout the book, until they both turn an about-face at the end of the story.
Anything you didn’t like about it? My 9-year-old daughter picked this up off my TBR pile and finished it in about an hour. We both liked it just fine, but didn’t find that the story was as compelling as the character-driven graphics we love, like Roller Girl, El Deafo, and Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.
To whom would you recommend this book? Elementary graphic novel fans who are patiently waiting for the next Baby-sitters Club to come out, or Real Friends to get returned to the library, and have read Smile, Sisters, and Guts multiple times, will find this book fills a void.
Who should buy this book? Elementary school and public libraries
Where would you shelve it? Graphic novels
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? no
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Leigh King, Lincoln St. Elementary School, Northborough, Mass.
Date of review: 1/23/2020