*Drama — Best of 2012

Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, about her adolescence, was one of my best graphic novels of 2010. Now, as she moves into fiction, she’s put out another outstanding title. Drama is one of the best graphic novels of 2012.

It’s the story of Callie, who’s the set designer for the school play. She’s got a crush on her friend Greg, but after telling him of her feelings, he starts avoiding her. (Kids. Easier not to talk about something than face the difficult conversation. Hmmm, maybe not just kids.) Once she gets involved in play preparation, she meets twin brothers Justin and Jesse. Justin is a bit of a diva, ending up in a star role, while Jesse is quieter.

They’re both dealing with high parental expectations, but for now, they’re able to explore their own interests for a while. Jesse has the talent to be on stage, but his non-competitive nature (and perhaps being used to Justin being the one in the spotlight) keeps him in the wings. Callie, Jesse, and Justin hit it off immediately, providing a wonderful example of those rare times when you meet instant friends. I don’t want to talk too much more about the plot because part of its charm is contained in the many surprises that reveal themselves as the story continues.

The overture framing, as though we’re entering the story by watching the curtain rise on a play, makes clear the parallels between school and putting on a show. The kids are figuring out their roles, who they want to be and how that might differ from what they want to project to others.

Raina does an amazing job capturing the authentic feelings of being a teen, from the enthusiasm over a project (and getting in over one’s head with grand plans) to bravery not always working out (but being the better choice in the end). Her drawings are so expressive, too, showing these attitudes and emotions through every movement. The loose, cartoony style makes everything amusingly readable. There’s a wide-ranging cast, full of different personalities, making for a full, realistic world. And some of the moments are just so perfect, as when Callie runs into the stuck-up girl Greg’s dating, and she doesn’t know who Callie is. (Cue Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”.)

The sequence where Jesse and Callie read an art book on historical stage design is beautifully cartooned, with the characters slowly slipping into the pages to demonstrate how the images fuel their imaginations (much as this comic did for me). The title is just right, capturing both the events — drama club — and the emotions — the drama that comes with crushes and best friends. This is highly accomplished work by someone who’s thankfully got many more years in front of her to continue rising to ever-increasing heights.

Here’s a youth-targeted book trailer that animates some of the art:

9 Responses to “*Drama — Best of 2012”

  1. ~chris Says:

    Excellent choice! It makes a great gift for youths and oldsters alike. :-)

  2. Kat Kan Says:

    My middle school girls love this book. Every time another one reads it, she gives me a big thumbs up!

  3. Best Graphic Novels of 2012 » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Drama by Raina Telgemeier […]

  4. James Schee Says:

    I got this book yesterday at my library and just couldn’t put it down until I finished it. Very entertaining story, with memorable characters.

    I had one minor personal quibble, not sure to post it or not as its a spoiler. It was more of a personal preference though and didn’t ha,per my enjoyment of the book.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Now I’m curious! What was it?

  6. James Schee Says:

    I was just a tiny bit disappointed that Jesse turned out to be gay. I was thrilled to see a character seeming to break most masculine norms. I saw very similar things in Jesse to myself, I enjoy musicals, have a sort of shyness etc

    Still love the character and story, but was still a little bummed that it seemed to go the sort of stereotypical path (he likes musicals/plays, is shy and ultra nice? hes gay) when I thought it was beating the norm.

  7. James Schee Says:

    Of course I guess hoping he and Callie were getting together plays part there too. Lol still loved the play and how things went with West. Plus what Callie told Greg at end. Lol

  8. Johanna Says:

    Ah, I can see what you mean — but I thought Jesse’s revelation was somewhat in keeping with his relationship with his brother, in that both had similar interests, personalities, etc. but the other twin was much more forward about it. It was something of a surprise to me, too, but when I thought about it, that’s how I made sense of it. Now I’m curious about how many identical twins turn out to have the same orientations versus different.

  9. Raina Telgemeier Shows Us How to Make a Graphic Novel » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] also reveals the source of the name of the lead in her newest book, Drama, and explains why she had to take an additional six months to write the […]




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