Cartoonist Scrivan’s debut graphic novel explores friendship breakups and coming in to one’s own.
Bespectacled Natalie and her best friend, Lily, used to be “two peas in a pod.” But after Lily moves, even though they both start at the same middle school, nothing is the same. Mean and dismissive, Lily has clearly dropped Natalie for their middle school’s cool girl, but Natalie is desperate to win her back no matter what. Convinced she’s “not enough” as she is, she tries everything from a new hat to suppressing her creativity. While she faces mild bullying from Lily and another classmate, a few newfound friends work unwaveringly to support Natalie in her journey to rebuild her self-esteem: “I’ve spent so much time thinking about what I’m not good at…that I never think about what I am good at.” Both the illustration style and slice-of-life pacing have an early-2000s feel—think Amelia’s Notebook rather than Raina Telgemeier. Natalie’s first-person narration is so self-focused that secondary characters are exclusively there to contribute to her character development. Readers learn next to nothing about the internal lives of Natalie’s kind new friend Zoe or her crush, Derek, both kids of color. (Both Natalie and Lily are white.) While this isn’t unfitting—the premise is that this is Natalie’s sketchbook—it makes for underwhelming representation.
Could pack more of a punch, but Natalie’s straightforward, heartfelt story will still resonate. (Graphic fiction. 10-12)