Traditionally a paper-based series, Middle School Confidential adapts its first graphic novel to the iPad leveraging the device’s functionality to infuse a wide variety of sounds, short songs and character voices.
The app takes advantage of zoom features to take readers through panel by panel, providing a sense of forward motion that synchronizes well with the text’s format. Divided into eight chapters, the story introduces relevant teen topics such as body image, self-esteem, popularity and stress through short, everyday interactions among a group of six male and female friends. To round out each chapter, a teen presents a related short message that’s more public-service announcement than component of the story, which may feel over the top to the audience. Each character is presented through actions and dialogue in the short chapters and with a brief bio that includes his or her strengths and insecurities. Additionally, each bio includes an e-mail address, which links to the iPad’s e-mail function; there is no indication of who will actually receive a reader’s e-mail message and what if any response such an e-mail might trigger. The images in the line-and-watercolor panels mirror and reinforce the characters’ related emotions or actions.It’s a great use of iPad functionality, but the sometimes heavy-handed emphasis on positive message detracts from the overall text. (iPad graphic self-help. 10-12)