Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age

Ariel Schrag, Editor . Viking $18.99 (210p) ISBN 978-0-670-06221-8

If you can survive junior high, you can survive anything!” That's cartoonist Jace Smith's inspirational promise in this collection of 17 comics covering those universally awkward middle-school years. The agonies depicted are the kind that leaves scars: betrayal over Spin-the-Bottle, schoolyard taunting, hazing by cheerleaders and wedgies aplenty. Every reader will have something to readily identify with: Dash Shaw's young hero wonders if he'll ever find love despite having a face full of zits. Gabrielle Bell's heroine wears the same clothes every day, earning her the nickname “Stinky.” Lauren Weinstein's Becky tops off a miserable stay at a horse camp by getting her period. The stories range from crudely drawn but deeply felt to truly literary, such as Daniel Clowes's tale of an introverted boy's summer with his grandparents. Editor Shrag contributes two of the strongest stories. In one, girlish cattiness earns karmic retribution with a bus ride to a bad part of town. In another, the hapless heroine chooses to carry around her own poop in her backpack rather than admit a social faux pas. The situations are often hilarious in retrospect, but the contributors make their emotional painfulness at the time fully apparent. This collection should help those in the midst of similar social travails realize that they, too, will someday look back and laugh at it all. Ages 12-up. (May)

Reviewed on: 06/04/2007
Release date: 05/01/2007
Genre: Children's
Prebound-Glued - 209 pages - 978-1-4177-8449-3
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