Stuck in the Middle

Title: Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age
Author: (Editor) Ariel Schrag
Pub Date: 2007
Pages: 210
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoir, Young Adult

First I have to say that I love graphic novel collections, and this one is no different.
Stuck in the Middle is a collection of seventeen stories all from the chaotic (and neurotic) middle school years. The front cover of this book is absolutely fan-tas-tic! In the top right hand corner is the old looking lunch lady, with her hair net and smock. There are three or so tables squished together with tons of activity: notes being passed, a spitwad being spat, boys laughing and leaning back in their chairs. And finally, the only colored boy walking in the midst of it all, cringing and appearing absolutely terrified! For someone who lives middle school every weekday, this is exactly what the cafeteria would look like without adult supervision.

Some of the shorts that stood out:

BFF by Veronica Davis ~ the timeless tale of two besties planning on being "friends forever" until a boy comes in between them all. But rather than the friendship ending, we are left to speculate how it will survive.

Snitch by Tania Schrag ~ Poor little Tania tries to defend herself from merciless teasing in class only to be called a snitch and scorned by the rest of her peers. Her days are spent being bullied, ostracized and pushed out to find new friends. The only saving grace is it *is* middle school, and eventually there will be a new snitch.

Plan on the 7 Busy by Ariel Schrag ~ Two "friends" ride together on the public bus to another "friend's" house. Their sole purpose for the visit is to viciously (and slyly) torture the other girl. The catty chit chat is ear prickling and the mean-spirited behavior includes sharp one liners to one and another about each other.

Like a Weed, Joe by Daniel Clowes ~ Perhaps one of the most heartbreaking tales of giving into peer pressure. Young Daniel is stuck with his grandparents for the summer. In the beginning, although he is bored, he appreciates the loving and nurturing quality of his grandfolks. Then, as the summer moves along he pairs up with the 'riff raff' of the neighborhood. A smart mouthed boy with an attitude that screams delinquent. As the days go by, Daniel models similar behavior, ultimately scorning the old people who take care of him.

There were so many other great stories in this collection (The Adventures of Batboy and Starling by Nick Eliopulos was especially amusing) that I wish I had purchased a copy for my personal library. For the most part, I am pretty content with my middle school years (my high school years on the other hand....) but do recall how mean and nasty we could be if you put a group of us girls together in a room for a couple of hours. I think that even though each generation deals with their own demons, the underlying behaviors are pretty universal (base that on brain developments - they're still trying to build connections to their frontal lobe!).

Finally, the comics themselves didn't speak to me as some other graphic novels have, but I believe that has more to do with me and less to do with the artist. I don't have an eye for technique; I just base my opinion on what catches my fancy.

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