Written and Drawn by Raina Telgemeier
Published by Scholastic
Reviewed by Marc Mason
Anyone who’s ever been involved with the theatre knows that the real drama takes place backstage. Whether it’s love triangles (or quadrangles), personality conflicts, budget issues, or the impacts of self-discovery, it all plays a role in how the finished product looks on the stage, and that’s certainly true in Raina Telgemeier’s DRAMA.
Easily one of the best graphic novels of the year, DRAMA focuses on the trials and tribulations of a young woman named Callie who definitely has theatre in her blood. When her middle school decides to put on a production of Moon Over Mississippi her inability to sing keeps her from performing; however, she makes her presence felt on the stage by handling set design, including an ambitious plan to fire a “cannon” during the show. However, plenty of obstacles stand in her way, not the least of which is a pair of very cute twin boys who share her love of theatre. But Callie is spirited, and no matter how much the pressures of a young life weigh on her, she knows one thing for certain: the show must go on.
I’ve been a fan of Raina Telgemeier’s work for a long time, and the reasons why are on display here in abundance. Her art is eye-catching and her storytelling is smooth and effortless. But most importantly, the characters in DRAMA are real characters; they don’t just exist to serve a plot. You know these kids. You went to school with these kids. You were one of these kids. Their passion, their confusion, their heartbreak… these things are recognizable. DRAMA is cute and charming, but it is also filled with truthful moments, and you’ll spend a lot of time flashing back to your own life during these formative years. This is the essential difference between an excellent work like DRAMA and the television show GLEE, which abdicated any pretension of reality early on. This book is what that show wishes it could be but lacks the writing quality and narrative cohesion that Telgemeier brings to her work.
DRAMA is a book that works for ten-year olds and it works for fifty-year olds, another quality common to the author’s other works. No doubt about it, this book will make my year-end top ten list. It gets my highest possible recommendation.