Friday, April 02, 2021

Middle-Grade Reviews: 2 Graphic Novels for Middle-Graders

In March, I read two graphic novels for middle-grade readers and enjoyed them both!

I just finished reading Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright. Identical twins Maureen and Francine are starting middle school (6th grade) together, but suddenly, everything seems different between them. They've always been inseparable, but now, Francine wants to be called Fran, is in different classes than Maureen, and wants to establish a separate identity. Maureen feels lost in the new school without her sister by her side and is devastated by the changes. To top it off, Maureen is stuck in Cadet Corps, while Fran is taking regular PE, and Maureen is terrible at marching. Then, things get even worse when they both decide to run for President of Student Council. Suddenly, it's sister versus sister, with their joint friends feeling caught in the middle. Gradually, Maureen makes some new friends and discovers that maybe things aren't as perfect as they seem for Francine, either, as the two girls learn more about themselves and each other and finally breach the new gap between them.

I really enjoyed this story that is perfect for kids facing all the new challenges of middle school. Between Maureen and Francine, kids will be able to relate to issues of academic struggles, friendship, self-confidence, and of course, sibling squabbles. The story and its characters feel real, with true-to-life challenges and flawed people. There's just enough conflict here to keep kids engaged, with a happy but not predictable ending. Each girl learns to accept her own flaws and celebrate her own strengths, and the twins develop their own identities while still maintaining a close relationship.

249 pages, Graphix by Scholastic


Earlier in March, I read All Together Now by Hope Larson. I realized too late that this is the sequel to another middle-grade graphic novel, All Summer Long, that I hadn't read, but I was still able to enjoy this story about friendship and the beginnings of romance.

Even though Darcy has only lived in L.A. for a few months, she and Bina have become fast friends. Darcy is from Brooklyn, and the two eighth-grade girls both love music. They even started a band together, with Darcy on keyboards and Bina playing guitar. Bina writes original songs for them to play. (Much of that happened in the first book, but there is plenty of info here to catch you up.) Now, they decide they need a drummer to complete their band. They find one in Enzo, a quiet, nerdy kind of guy at school who was recently moved up a grade. He's a great drummer, and it seems like things will work out well. Then, Enzo and Darcy begin seeing each other, and both of them want a harder, more punk sound for the band. Suddenly, everything has changed, and Bina feels left out in the cold. To add to her confusion, her neighbor and best friend, Austin, seems to be interested in her romantically, and Bina isn't sure how she feels about that. After the new school year began with such high hopes, life feels distressing and confusing to Bina now. Can Darcy and Bina repair this rift between them?

Even though I missed the first book, I caught on pretty quickly to Darcy and Bina's friendship and the status quo. This book is all about upheavals and changes, topics familiar to any middle-schooler! While the challenges here begin with creative differences, the focus is really on relationships: Darcy and Bina's friendship and the experiences of first love. These topics are dealt with intelligently and sensitively, with an ever-present focus on music as the driving force in Bina's life. I enjoyed this unique music-oriented look at the challenges of navigating relationships as a young teen.

178 pages, Farrar Straus Giroux

Disclosure: I received these books from the publishers in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.


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1 comment:

  1. I love graphic novels and really should read more of them. I've done better at that recently and have enjoyed the ones I've chosen. These all seem great for middle graders!