The third in Terri Libenson’s series of connected middle school graphic novels, Just Jaime tackles the difficult question of how to react when “friends” decide they don’t want to hang around you any more. As with Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy, the format is unique, with interspersed chapters alternating between the illustrated diary format and full-out comics. (The lead characters from the first two books also appear here, tying the three together into a richer picture of young teen life.)
It’s the last day of school, and Jaime is psyching herself up to finally confront her best friend Maya. The two have been hanging out with Celia and Grace lately, and the other three tease Jaime for not being interested in makeup and boys. She’s too “babyish” while they think they’re more grown up. (The smart reader realizes that, by being more comfortable with being herself, Jaime is actually more grown up than the others, who are more concerned by what others think and motivated by jealousy.) Jaime wants Maya to tell her what’s really going on.
Jaime’s thoughts are captured in diary format, with plenty of cute little illustrations that elaborate on what she’s feeling. Then we switch to comics, where Maya is worried about having to be the one to tell Jaime that she and the others don’t want to hang around her any more. She’s been deputized for this unpleasant duty by mean girl Celia.
Libenson does a terrific job with plenty of detail that captures daily life and what it feels like to be part of different types of families. Her drawings are simple and approachable but still expressive. Seeing the same events from two different perspectives is eye-opening. There’s a lot here to take in about friendship and motivations and perception, particularly once we start seeing how others see Jaime from outside her friend group.
Just Jaime is a substantial, though-provoking read that adds to the list of outstanding middle-grade graphic novels about friendship. It’s a worthy companion to books like Smile and Awkward.