Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Drama tells the story of aspiring set designer Callie and her middle school's theatre production of Moon over Mississippi. Determined to pull out all the stops and  create Broadway spectacle on a local authority budget, Callie's lack of carpentry or pyrotechnic skills are no obstacle for her ambition. She and her other stage crew best friends Liz (costumes) and Matt (lights) are glad to be away from the drama and tantrums of the performers until Callie meets two talented twins as she's pinning up posters for the auditions- Justin and Jesse. Then suddenly there's as much drama backstage as on it. The twins have an encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway musicals, and both know *all* the songs. Justin is a natural performer, eager to lap up the limelight, whereas the equally talented Jesse shies away from the attention. I loved watching the friendship develop between them- they really seemed to understand each other.

There's a slight love triangle that develops and falls spectacularly to pieces between Callie, Jesse and older, cooler boy Greg, the elder brother of one of her friends. The way this is handled and the outcome of it is so sensitive and natural and the artist really does an excellent job too of showing what a time of personal discovery one's teen years are. The book does a great job of depicting normal school life- the boy quandaries (does he like me/does he not like me/why is he avoiding me/how do I make him like me?) and the cliques, the squabbles and the irrational falling out, the late night phone calls and internet chats, despite having spent all day together.

I loved the character of Callie- an artistic oddball that never allows other people's opinions or judgement come between her and her passion for theatre. I loved the scene where she auditions for the lead, proves herself utterly tone deaf and takes a huge, extravagant bow, just to show new friend Jesse that's it's supposed to be fun and not to care what people say. She uses her strength of character to make someone else feel better about their lack of confidence. I thought she was so expressive and her enthusiasm, anger and determination really showed in the way she was drawn, not just in this scene but everywhere.

Drama is a really sweet coming of age story about navigating the hormonal battlefield, the playground politics and rigid social order of school and also trying to work out who you are at the same time. I absolutely love the art style it's so vivid and bold and characterful, and it's so instantly recognisable too. It's got brilliant, memorable characters that are all just genuinely nice people. Confused and obsessive, sometimes, but always thoughtful and supportive. As the book goes on it's great to see them blossom and decide to take risks and do what makes them happy, whether that's deciding to perform after all, going after the boy that seems right, or making life-altering decisions and revelations.

I just need to track down a copy of Smile now, I've become quite the RT fan.

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