Guts

by Raina Telgemeier
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Content: There is a lot of talk about bodily functions — throw up, diarrhea, puberty, among others. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

My first reaction to finishing this book? My gosh, Raina had a childhood. All of these books (Smile and Sisters as well) are loosely based on her childhood. And if that’s the case (and I don’t know why it wouldn’t be), then wow, Raina’s childhood was something.

This one deals with her issues with stomach aches and throwing up and anxiety and the reactions of her classmates and family surrounding it. In fourth grade, Raina developed a fear of throwing up, which made her want to throw up, and so she developed a phobia around food and being sick because of that. There’s anxiety wrapped up in there as well: when she was nervous, it manifested physically. And there’s a subplot with a girl in her class who made fun of Raina because of her issues. It all turns out happily in the end.

Telgemeier is a fantastic artist; there are a few spreads where I think she nails what anxiety feels like in images. And one where she depicted the passing of time in a single image that is just amazing. And I appreciate that she’s telling these sorts of stories. There has to be kids out there who experience the same feelings — or just the ones with anxieties! — who need this book to feel seen and understood.

It may not be my favorite graphic novel this year, but it’s another solid entry from Telgemeier.

Finding Audrey

by Sophie Kinsella
First sentence: “OMG, Mum’s gone insane.”
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Content: It has six f-bombs, all near the end of the book, and nothing else. So, I’m torn: do I leave it on the YA shelves (grades 6-8), where it thematically belongs? Or do I move it to Teen (grades 9+) where it’s not quite edgy enough, but it fits language-wise? Tough call.

Audrey doesn’t leave the house. Doesn’t talk on the phone. Doesn’t talk to people (outside of her therapist and her family). Doesn’t look people in the eye (in fact, she prefers to wear dark sunglasses all the time). She hasn’t done any of these things since the “incident”. And she prefers to keep it that way.

Before I go much further I have to interject: this is a hilarious book. Perhaps it’s because I love All Things British, but I was thoroughly charmed by Audrey and her family. It is possible to take something serious (like bullying — though you never really find out what happened, and that’s okay) and severe anxiety and to be, well, warm about it.

Maybe I should make a second diversion: I adored Audrey’s family. From her gamer older brother (with his mile-wide sarcastic streak) to her absolutely adorable four-year-old younger brother (adorable!) to her completely clueless dad (probably stereotypical, but it worked), to her over-protective mom (I will stand by my statement that the best way to be a good parent is to read YA books), they were all entertaining. Kinsella definitely wrote this with love.

(It reminded me, in some ways, of the Casson family books. That makes me happy.)

The arc of the novel is Audrey’s “recovery”. It’s aided by Linus, one of her brother’s friends who takes an interest in her. He supports her and pushes her to try new things, to somehow get a grip on her anxiety. I really liked that Audrey was never “cured”: she learned how to handle her fears and her body’s reaction to them, but they were always still around, which was not only realistic but somewhat of a relief.

Yes, things were kind of tied up in a nice bow at the end, but that’s kind of expected and I didn’t mind. In fact, I really quite enjoyed this.