Reading The Rainbow is an original regular feature at Musings From Neville’s Navel. I’m a queer bookworm who loves to geek out about books and LGBTQ+ topics, so why not talk about both subjects at once?! Basically, I review books with queer characters and/or themes, discuss the pros and cons of each, and tell you which stories are worth your time!
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Genre: Middle grade, graphic novel, contemporary, romance
Length: 233 pages
Published by: GRAPHIX
Date of publication: 2012
Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can’t really sing. Instead she’s the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage and offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!
Previous Reading The Rainbow posts may be found here.
Back in August I asked for, among other things, recommendations for graphic novels with LGBTQ+ characters/themes… so thanks for your suggestions, everyone! I received recommendations for a few different books, but the majority suggested that I read Drama by Raina Telgemeier.
So I did.
In under half an hour.
That’s one of the lovely things about this book – it’s such a quick read. I mean, it’s A) a graphic novel that is B) barely two hundred pages and C) tells a very simple story that is D) narrated by only one person. If you’re the sort of person who likes to read while they eat (I do!), you could probably read this in the time it takes you to eat lunch.
(I love quick reads, in case you couldn’t tell.)
The art was, well… cutesy? I wasn’t such a big fan of the cartoonish drawing style – I prefer something more realistic and beautiful – but I DID like the vibrant colors.
The plot was fairly basic – girl is a drama geek, girl helps with the school play, girl meets various cute boys. It’s not a very deep or complicated story, but it entertained me. For half an hour.
Now, what about the LGBTQ+ representation?
Um. Hmmm. Like the plot, it wasn’t very deep. It was basically just like “OMG I’m a boy who thinks other boys are cute and wow I have a crush on the lead actor.”
On the other hand, that’s not really a bad thing. Sometimes I don’t want a deep (or dark) LGBTQ+ story; sometimes I just want something fluffy and light-hearted where the characters are giggly about their crushes.
And I also can’t ignore the importance of LGBTQ+ stories for littler kids (versus YA audiences). Plotwise, Drama was a bit underwhelming/average, but we really do need more middle-grade and children’s LGBTQ+ books. So far, this is the only middle-grade LGBTQ+ book I’ve ever read or heard of, and that’s rather pathetic.
(I realize that Rick Riordan included a queer character in his middle-grade Heroes of Olympus series but… while I appreciate that, Nico di Angelo wasn’t really a main character. It was an important step, but it was also a baby step and I feel like Drama‘s queer characters have a bigger impact on the plot.)
Most non-adult LGBTQ+ books are written for YA audiences, and they shouldn’t be: Little kids can be queer too, and I would’ve appreciated this book when I was that age. Drama‘s writing style is very readable and I think an upper-elementary-school student could definitely handle this story.
Additionally, Drama wins points from me for having multiple queer characters – yay! And they’re brothers, actually, which is cool. (Being queer is genetic, so that actually makes a lot of sense.) Finally, one of the brothers labels himself gay, but the other isn’t sure. He could be gay, bi, queer, questioning – it’s never really stated, and that’s OK. That’s more than OK. I liked that this novel essentially said, “Some young people are already very sure who they are, and some haven’t figured it out yet, and either one is fine.”
I would recommend this book to…
- Middle-grade readers
- Graphic novel enthusiasts
- Young queer guys
- Those who are looking for light-hearted, fast-paced stories
- Fans of Raina Telgemeier
- Anyone who’s looking for a different kind of LGBTQ+ book – something other than the usual YA prose story
My final verdict on Drama by Raina Telgemeier is… well, the plot definitely suffered from a case of “meh” and this really shouldn’t be the first book you pick up if you’re new to the LGBTQ+ genre – BUT it’s also one of the few (possibly the only?) LGBTQ+ middle-grade books out there.
And that kind of diversity is important to me. So. That causes me to give Drama a slightly higher rating than I otherwise would, than I would based on plot alone. For what it’s worth, if you’re interested you might as well try it – even if it’s not quite your cup of tea, you won’t have spent much time reading it.
Now, before I conclude this review, there are just two more things I’d like to say. First of all, I’ll try to read your other recommendations (such as the Runaways and Young Avengers comics, and assorted online comics) soon. Secondly… hmmm, my first two Reading The Rainbow reviews were not that enthusiastic. I’ll try to review something that I really like next in order to mix things up!