Review Detail

Poetry and Class Election Anxiety
Overall rating
 
4.0
Plot
 
4.0
Characters
 
4.0
Writing Style
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
4.0
Ruby is constantly encouraged by her exuberant, artsy mother to get out and do things other than writing poetry in her journal and watering the family plants, but Ruby has fallen out with friends at school and is so uncomfortable in her body that she tries to stay off everyone's radar. Her anxiety about life has led her to develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms, and her clumsiness has occasionally landed her on social media in embarrassing ways. Mia, who used to be her friend, is completely embarrassed by Ruby and tries hard to avoid her. Mia is running for class president, and is herself incredibly anxious. She still has two friends, Keya and Gabi, as well as her boyfriend, Trevor, who is very supportive and also fun to kiss. As the campaign starts to heat up, especially when rumors fly that Josh is trying to bribe people to vote for him, Mia starts to alienate her friends by being obsessed with her campaign and not sharing her concerns with those who care about her. Ruby, meanwhile, agrees to join a poetry club that her favorite teacher, Mrs. Winn, is starting, and even helps to recruit members. She's a little uncomfortable, but starts to enjoy herself. She even makes a new friend, Leah, and the two hang out together. During a talent show, Ruby reads a poem that vaguely describes the breakdown of her relationship with Mia, which mortified Mia right before the class election. The two have an altercation, and the principal decides that because of their past history, they can help Mrs. Winn run a poetry program for elementary students instead of serving detention. Will the girl be able to reconnect, and get help with their rampant anxiety?
Good Points
This hybrid illustrated novel/graphic novel series has been very popular with my students who like Raina Telgemeier and Svetlana Chmakova's middle school titles that also showcase the generational anxiety so many students are currently exhibiting. Like this author's other books (Invisible Emmie, Positively Izzie, Just Jaime, Becoming Brianna, Truly Tyler), this has a good mix of school, family, and social situations with which the main characters must deal. It's not strictly necessary to read these in order, but it is fun to look back and see where characters like Ruby and Mia appear in the other volumes in smaller roles. I'd love to see Trevor or Josh examined, especially since they don't seem to have the same level of trauma in their lives that Mia, Ruby, Emmie, and Brianna seem to have.

One of the things I like best about these books is the representation of the parents. Parents are still a huge part of middle schoolers lives, and they determine so many facets of middle school experiences. I loved seeing Mia's father tell her she had to put her phone downstairs, and enjoyed Ruby's mother's overly enthusiastic interest in her daughter's life. Parents can be a source of embarrassment for tweens, but also a good source of support, and it was interesting to see that Ruby's mother eventually has her attend therapy sessions for her emotionally based stomach upsets.

There's a good mix of artwork, and hand drawn style of text, which greatly appeals to young readers. Mia's chapters are drawn with more traditional, comic book style panels, while Ruby's are a mixture of text blocks and smaller drawings. The color palette tends toward the pastel, with Mia's sections having more pops of color.

These books will be greatly appreciated by fans of Scrivan's Nat Enough series, Miller's Click books, and Lloyd's Allergic.
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