By Raina Telgemeier
Grade Levels: 4 - 8 and Parents
Drama, a New York Times Bestseller, is the work of graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier, author of Smile and Sisters, also featured by the New York Times. If you have never read a deep and meaningful graphic novel before, this may be your chance to start! Drama is much more than a comic book and truly earns the “novel” appellation to its genre. It follows the life of theater-obsessed Callie as she juggles set design for her school play and the shifting friendships and romances of her middle school. This graphic novel is, on the one hand, a classic tween romance story. It begins when Callie shares her first kiss with a boy at her school and progresses through the (relatively chaste, have no fear) series of crushes and love triangles that are the mainstay of this kind of story, sure to keep readers entertained as miscommunication follows meet-cute.
What makes this graphic novel unique, and the reason it was honored with the American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Award in Children's and Young Adult Literature in 2013, is the way it addresses issues of LGBTQ identity. There are a number of non-straight characters in Drama, and Telgemeier uses this as a way of exploring the different coming out experiences of children who, at this age, begin to recognize their differences from their peers and grapple with their own identities. Questions of gender norms and expected behavior weave through the narrative in subtle ways that give readers a full range of real, human experiences. The novel portrays a full spectrum of characters as they discover what expectations are placed on them and how they can choose to meet or reject them.
A story of classic young adult romance, this graphic novel is as engaging as a Jane Austin novel, although much more accessible for a young (and modern) audience. It also does a wonderful job of normalizing LGBTQ identities and romances, and could be a great choice for any readers who want to understand more about what they or their classmates may be as they transition from children to young adults.