Amelia Rules! Returns With The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular and True Things (Adults Don’t Want Kids to Know)

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since we’ve seen any new Amelia Rules! stories, but that’s how long ago the series was picked up by Simon & Schuster for graphic novel reprinting. They rereleased the first four books by Jimmy Gownley,

before putting out the first original Amelia Rules! graphic novel. I’d forgotten how much I missed new adventures with this spirited young lady learning about life in unique ways.

The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular

Amelia Rules! The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular cover
Amelia Rules! The Tweenage
Guide to Not Being Unpopular
Buy this book

The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular came out in April. To my eyes, its roots in serialization can be seen in the early part of the book, with episodic chapters, but by the end, Gownley seems more comfortable with the bigger canvas.

The concept is pure Gownley through-and-through, though. It’s rare to see such an honest portrayal of growing up. His realistic view of how miserable childhood can be — and how to get through it with friends, imagination, and humor — is encapsulated in the concept that gives this book its name. Amelia’s friend Rhonda has acquired a self-help book of the same title that prepares its readers to settle for their mediocre social standing. Anyone who would buy the book-within-a-book is obviously a loser, so the author starts out by encouraging them to aim not too high. They can’t be popular, but maybe they can avoid being unpopular while staying average.

That kind of unvarnished portrayal of kiddom is what gives Amelia Rules! its comedy and appeal to youngsters (and those who remember what childhood was like). The normal outcome of a story about wanting to be popular is a character learning a lesson about how wanting popularity is shallow, about how all that matters is to be true to yourself. But that’s nicely demolished by Amelia here. She and a friend actually have that conversation, only to end it by wondering “what if the ‘yourself’ you’re being true to is a complete and total JERK?”

Since the beginning of the series, Rhonda’s gone from rival to sympathetic friend, and this is as much her story as Amelia’s. I quite enjoyed her fruit pun-filled “Passion Fruit” play, and then to see her made fun of for her creativity by the interchangeable blondies … it was so real and so hurtful. Rhonda has come up with a clever idea for a social studies skit, partnered with Amelia, but even though the class and the teacher are entertained, once the boring blondes make fun of it, everyone’s too concerned with fitting in to remember that they liked it.

Of course, it’s really Gownley’s imagination that brings all this to us. I especially appreciate the unique way he uses the comic format. His enthusiastic lettering really captures tone and emotion, plus he throws in flourishes. For example, when a mad Rhonda mutters about “wanting to do something Gothic to them”, the older reader knows what Gothic means, as well as appreciating that that word is lettered in an old English font suitable to the alternate meaning of the term. Or more obviously, the way the social outcasts are colored in black-and-white, fading them out against the more colorful class. Or how a flashback is a cascade of reproduced pages from earlier in the book. Or how Aunt Tanner’s story of her teen years looks just like an Archie comic.

The overall message here, instead of worrying about popularity, is to enjoy the fun of being your age and not worrying about acting all mature and sophisticated. Even though Amelia sometimes does the most adult things of all.

True Things (Adults Don’t Want Kids to Know)

True Things (Adults Dont Want Kids to Know) cover
True Things (Adults Don’t Want
Kids to Know)
Buy this book

The second new book, sixth in the series overall, is due out in both hardcover and paperback in October. In it, Amelia turns 11, and her family throws her a birthday party. Plus, Tanner ponders about getting back into music. (Tanner’s my favorite. I love her honesty and her talent and how different an adult female comic character she is.)

The best “true thing” in this book is something Amelia learned from the counselor she saw when her parents were first splitting up: “Sometimes a thing is broken so badly, there’s just no way to put it back together.” A good lesson for a kid (especially one into fiction enough to enjoy this series) is to learn that not everything is fixable. Decisions have consequences and you have to go forward, not back.

And this book is full of that movement, as characters make major life decisions and Amelia finds out what it’s like to have her heart broken. It’s a major turning point for the series, as Gownley sets up changes to allow him to do different kinds of stories for future volumes.

I can’t talk as much about the artistic effects in this one because, while the publisher provided review copies, this one is an advance in black and white. So much of Gownley’s magic comes through in the final, softly colored pages. I did particularly like the quotes by Tanner that punctuate the chapters, though.

There are teaching guides at the publisher’s website, as well as other resources, including preview pages for the Tweenage Guide. Here’s an unrelated bonus: Jimmy Gownley drew Amelia recommending the book Harriet the Spy as part of the Unshelved Book Club.

Similar Posts: Amelia Rules! Acquired by Simon & Schuster § Amelia Rules! Her Permanent Record § Next Amelia Rules! Book to Be the Last § *Amelia Rules!: The Meaning of Life… and Other Stuff — Best of 2011 § *Amelia Rules!: What Makes You Happy — Recommended


10 Responses to “Amelia Rules! Returns With The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular and True Things (Adults Don’t Want Kids to Know)”

  1. James Schee Says:

    Awesome! This is a great series, by some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I remember being very grateful that the Gownleys remembered me when I saw them at two different cons years apart.

    Money situation is where I can’t afford to buy comics currently, but once it gets stabilized these will be top of my list to get. They are proof that you can make comics that are fun, but still pull your heart strings a bit.

  2. Russell Lissau Says:

    There also is a new Amelia Rules story in the READING WITH PICTURES anthology, due in stories on August 11th. I’ve read it, it’s a riot.

  3. Amelia Rules! Returns With The Tweenage Guide to Not Being … « Five Little Rules Says:

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  4. Amelia Rules! Returns With The Tweenage Guide to Not Being … « Five Little Rules Says:

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  5. Hsifeng Says:

    Johanna Says:

    “…That kind of unvarnished portrayal of kiddom is what gives Amelia Rules! its comedy and appeal to youngsters (and those who remember what childhood was like). The normal outcome of a story about wanting to be popular is a character learning a lesson about how wanting popularity is shallow, about how all that matters is to be true to yourself. But that’s nicely demolished by Amelia here. She and a friend actually have that conversation, only to end it by wondering ‘what if the ‘yourself’ you’re being true to is a complete and total JERK?’…”

    Good one! This sounds refreshing. :)

    Now I wonder if the series later addresses any of these other fallacies adults told my cohort when we were kids:

    * circles of friends are always rigid cliques (IRL my circle of friends included kids who were also friends with other kids whom I wasn’t friends with)
    * being the prettiest and richest makes you the most popular (not if the varsity math team captain has way more friends than you do – being envied isn’t the same as being liked)
    * there’s a pecking order in friendships and everyone agrees which kids are coolest (no there isn’t, suppose one group of friends bonds over their shared interest in Goth style and another bonds over their shared interests in preppy style, why would one of these group point to the other one and say “they’re cooler than us” instead of each one considering itself more stylish than the other one?)
    * kids who earn higher grades have nothing to learn from kids who earn lower grades (IRL there’s more worth knowing than what’s on the test and holding up one’s end of a conversation is a worthwhile skill even if the kids cutting class to smoke it in the bathroom learn it before one of the honor students does)
    * 100% unsuperficial friends are the only ones worth having (but if one waits until one finally finds some to bother trying to make friends, they may reject one for unsuperficial reasons like “I’m 20 and can’t enjoy the company of someone who does X [because s/he ran out of unsuperficial classmates and so stopped learning social skills at 10 and only tries to catch up at 20]“)
    * all the kids who are popular are snobs (tell that to the ones who make lots of friends thanks to not being snobby ;) )
    * all the kids who play sports are popular snobs (tell that to the loners on the track teams and in the dojos ;) )
    * “peers” are nothing but sources of pressure to do bad (until you get called to serve on a jury of the defendant’s peers…)

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