Review: Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

This review is in the style of an SLJ review.

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Chmakova, Svetlana (2015). Awkward. Hachette Books/Yen Press.

Ages 8-12. In this all-ages middle-school graphic novel, friendship and teamwork are threatened by social division. When Peppi, a new student at school, falls in the hallway, she feels humiliated when a much-bullied nerd, Jaime, helps her to her feet. She feels terrible, but isn’t able to offer an apology immediately, because studious Jaime is in the Science Club and Peppi has joined the Art Club, and the two groups are at war. Just a few weeks later, the principal announces that all clubs need to scramble in order to prove their value to the school if they want to be featured in the club fair. After a disaster involving subterfuge by the Art Club, Peppi and Jaime have to step up to improve relations between their two groups and cultivate friendship instead of enmity. Svetlana Chmakova, known for her teen fiction series Dramacon and Nightschool, maintains her humane concern for conflict resolution in this story for younger readers. In Awkward, she moves into a full-color, pastel palette. Her character designs, while still manga-inspired, both reflect the diversity of a North American public school and are full of Chmakova’s more individual artistic character. Side characters have a richness that is satisfying to older readers.  VERDICT An astonishingly sweet, energetic story about with layers of emotional and social complexity likely to be attractive to anyone who has ever set foot in a middle school.

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