During the school year, we are hounded with “required reading”. Each term or semester, a new teacher provides a list of titles that we all still remember: Catcher in the Rye, Shakespeare, How to Kill a Mockingbird, The Outsiders, and more. These classic novels become favourites to some and are disliked by others, but regardless of your reaction to the books, their result is the same − they have taught you a little bit more about life. Though the significance of these coming-of-age titles is undeniable, one detail becomes clearer as years pass: times are changing. This is why I propose the addition of one new author to this list of masters, and her name is Raina Telgemeier.
When a copy of Telgemeier’s new book, Drama, arrived from Scholastic, I quickly flipped through it. What was meant to be a thirty second skim, turned into my reading a quarter of the book at my desk. Forced to put it down to finish other work, I started counting down the minutes until I could dive back in on the streetcar home. Though Drama may look like a cute graphic novel, it is actually a masterpiece in disguise.
Telgemeier has already established herself as a trusted name in the young reader world with her previous book, Smile, the story of her orthodontic experiences. Anyone who has ever dealt with braces, retainers, or even the dreaded headgear (and yes, that was me!), found Smile to be a breath of fresh air. It was an anthem for those who suffered through the various appointments, tooth-yanking and brace-tightening that kids with dental issues go through. And best of all, it was told with a combination of heart, humour and wit.
In her new book, Telgemeier writes a new anthem, this time for young people who are coming into their own identities and sexuality. Drama centres around Callie, a theatre-lover and the set designer for her school’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Passionate and focused, Callie knows she has what it takes to make the production a success, but her attention is divided between the play and two brothers she has befriended; one confident and openly gay and the other, shy and reserved.
When it comes to teenage views, Telgemeier knows what she is talking about. Reading her books feels like letting out a sigh of relief. It is the literary equivalent to being told you are not alone. Her characters are fun, lovable and so relatable. I cheered for Callie from start to finish and hope she makes a comeback in future books.
As for Telgemeier being added to school’s required reading lists, here is my reasoning:
1) More graphic novels deserve to make their way onto those lists!
2) These books deal with so many of the issues that young people face every day, and it is time they had a humourous, touching way of learning about them.
3) Of all the topics covered in these books and all the lessons learned, the most unforgettable is this: It’s not just okay to be you. It’s wonderful to be you.
Check out these spreads generously provided by Scholastic Canada! Also watch the trailer, and get a taste of Drama for yourself!