"Really charming." MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE
"I think quite a few young ladiesand maybe a few lads as wellwill recognize themselves in the hopes and dreams of the girl next door." MCCLATCHY NEWS SERVICE
"Although these may be familiar places and nostalgic characters for some of us, they are brilliantly recreated by Archie Comics for today's young adult readers." DIAMOND BOOKSHELF
"You remember what it was like to be a teenage girl, right?
OK, clearly I was never a teenage girl, but I’m pretty sure if I had been, I would have wanted to be Betty Cooper. Smart, pretty, ambitious, full of dreams. Blond with a ponytail.
Sure, Betty’s not the most popular girl in school (that’s her middle school best friend Veronica) and she doesn’t have this high school thing completely figured out (particularly her crush on a certain Archie Andrews). But this girl is genuine and kind and pretty darn funny. She’s everything you’d expect, and yet still feels like a real live person.
A youth-oriented novel with simple and fun illustrations by artist Bill Galvan, DIARY OF A GIRL NEXT DOOR: BETTY is the first in a series of prose titles aimed at the tween market who, if I had to guess, may not give comics a second look. Designed to stand tall next to Disney Channel programming and young adult novels, Betty surpasses its peers in quality and depth, delivering a book that not only would appeal to kids (maybe not even just girls) 10 to 14, but can be enjoyed by adults as well (that’s me!).
Author Tania del Rio provides a beautiful, first-person narration of Betty Cooper’s first two months of high school in classic “Dear Diary” style, but still manages to engage the reader thoroughly from entry to entry. Each passage is treated like its own story, featuring Betty’s interactions with best friend Veronica, the dreaded Glossies (Veronica’s new ultra cool friends), her next door neighbor Jughead, her parents, and of course, best guy in the world and dream boat extraordinaire — Archie.
The feelings we get from Betty aren’t trite or overplayed, and they’re somewhat self-conscious without resorting to being maudlin. Del Rio rides the line very carefully by infusing a wonderful humor in Betty’s thoughts and speech, as well as a good sense of how she’s learning from herself from start to finish. As this is but a brief swatch of young Betty’s life, we don’t get a radical growth into womanhood, but the confidence she has by the end of the book finally catches up with her ambitions. It’s heartwarming, quite honestly.
Galvan’s doodle-style drawings, meant to mimic Betty’s own illustrations (why doesn’t she ever consider becoming an artist? Huh.), are really so adorable, it’s hard not to grin from ear to ear when you page through the book. The ones gracing the cover and outside spine, in particular — Betty herself with a word balloon saying “That’s me!” — make me smile every time I open the book.
As much as I love what Archie Comics has done here, and as much as I am looking forward to the inevitable follow-up starring Veronica, I have a confession to make. I’m not keeping my copy. No, I have to ship it immediately to my niece, because if there’s anyone in the world who’s going to like it more than me, it’s someone Betty’s own age (or younger even).
Buy this book for your little middle-school girl. She’ll feel like she’s getting a peek into the wild sophisticated future of high school, and you can be assured that what she’s really getting is the most genuine experience of a good kid who has a great heart that I’ve seen in a long time. Congratulations, Archie Comics. You’re about to make another new generation fall in love with you.
The Verdict: 10/10
Matt Santori-Griffith, COMICOSITY