Release Date: September 1, 2012
Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can't really sing. Instead she's the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!(courtesy of Goodreads)
Graphic novels have exploded in popularity in recent years, especially since The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I love that this medium of telling stories has become widely accepted by the gatekeepers of children's reading. Raina Telgemeier has benefited from this new acceptance.
Drama is a middle grade novel about a school musical: it's preparation and all the "drama" that goes along with it. Callie is not an actress. She's stage crew. She may not get the glamour that her starring classmates do, but this novel makes it clear that the stage crew are just as, if not more, important than the actors.
The play is really just a framework around the more interesting thing happening in Callie's life, just like the dental work is in Raina's other book Smile. Callie is at the center of a bunch of middle school drama. The boy she like suddenly breaks up with his girlfriend. Does he like Callie now? Is he worth her time?
Two new kids - twins Jesse and Justin - join the musical and become fast friends with Callie. Their personal issues become a significant part of the novel. Their relationship with their dad. One of the boys has low self-confidence. One is more comfortable in his own skin.
And of course, because the characters are theater kids, there is lots of drama. Not so much with Callie, but you get hot romance and leading divas.
Two other things. First, one of Callie's new friends is gay. The book deals with it wonderfully. The boy is happy being who he is, his classmates are totally okay with it, he's an all-around fabulous person. Part of me thinks that it's all too hunky-dory. That it's unrealistic to think that things can be totally rosy for an openly gay middle schooler. But maybe it's better to set that as the expectation.
The other thing and the only thing that really bothered me about this book: I had trouble believing that these were middle schoolers. Not by their actions or personalities. But by the freedom and control they had over the school play. They did everything with virtually no supervision other than the occasional reference to a teacher. Maybe my middle school was overprotective of the kids, but when I was in the 8th grade musical, the teachers controlled everything. I don't think I'd be confident letting 12 & 13 year olds having so much responsibility without some structure. I feel like Raina was drawing on her high school experience and imputing it to these kids.
Aside from that little qualm, Drama is a delightful novel. And what's more, it was recommended by my favorite podcast NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour. If you love graphic novels, you should definitely pick this up. Even if you don't, you'll still get a kick out of this quick, good-hearted novel.
Rating: 4 / 5
Here's How to Buy the Book!