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Review: Awkward (Chmakova)

AUTHOR: Svetlana Chmakova
SERIES: none
ISBN: 9780316381307
PAGES: 224
SOURCE: my library
GENRE: graphic novel; realistic fiction
SETTING: middle school, present day
GIVE IT TO: middle school girls

SUMMARY: On her first day in a new school, Peppi Torres trips into a shy boy in the hall. Peppi is mortified when the other kids laugh at them and nickname Peppi “Nerder Girlfriend.” To prove she isn’t the boy’s girlfriend, Peppi shoves him and runs away. But Peppi regrets this shove, especially since it turns out the boy, Jamie, is a nice boy who could become a good friend to Peppi. If only she can muster the nerve to apologize to him.

REVIEW: Like many librarians, I am always on the hunt for good graphic novels that my students will love. The graphic novel genre has grown considerably in my time as a librarian, and while I do still sometimes see a stigma on graphic novels as “not real reading,” it is much less pronounced than it was several years ago.

In my years in the library, I have seen how graphic novels can turn non-readers into voracious readers practically overnight. My own 11-year old son will tell me that he “doesn’t like to read,” but he will suck down Pokemon and Big Nate and Diary of a Wimpy Kid like it’s nobody’s business. He’s just started the Amulet series (Kibuishi) this week, and has already asked me about Book #7, which we just got in my library. So much for “I don’t like to read.”

Anyway, Awkward. How cute is this book? It encompasses realistic worries for a middle school girl such as being the new kid, fitting in, finding your social group, making friends, guilt over wrongdoing, bullying, first crushes, increased homework and tests. Virtually every middle school girl can relate to something in this book.

I especially love the diversity of the characters. Peppi appears to be Hispanic. Jamie’s mother is a wheelchair-bound artist. Minor student characters represent a wide variety of ethnic groups, including a Muslim girl wearing a headscarf. The science teacher (coolest science teacher ever) is an African-American woman. I loved her coffee mug of “Student Tears.” The bumbling male art teacher is hilarious–even the students know he needs supervision when using the copy machine. And I loved the little guy who is obsessed with sunspots. He’s weird, but he finds acceptance among his Art Club peers.

I love how Awkward celebrates intelligence, diverse interests, and school community. Peppi, Jamie, and their friends are all involved in school clubs and care about their grades. They want to belong and help their club succeed and give back to the school. While some kids may make fun of them for that, the smart kids have strength in their community. The mean kids may bother them, but they are able to get past it because they have passion for their interests and like-minded friends.

THEMES: friendship, being the new kid, making amends, being yourself, fitting in

THE BOTTOM LINE: We just got two copies of Awkward in our library this week, and we already have a hold list. This cute graphic novel is a must for any middle school library.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: We have two copies.


  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 5/5
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5


  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: very mild; first friendship-crush
  • Violence: mild; name-calling and a few mean kids
  • Drugs/Alcohol: none

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