Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age

Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age

by Ariel Schrag
     
 

A very unscientific poll recently revealed that 99.9% of all people who attended middle school hated it. Fortunately, some of those people have grown up to be clever and talented comic artists, with an important message to share: Everyone can survive middle school!

Edited by underground comics icon Ariel Schrag, this anthology of illustrated tales about the

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Overview

A very unscientific poll recently revealed that 99.9% of all people who attended middle school hated it. Fortunately, some of those people have grown up to be clever and talented comic artists, with an important message to share: Everyone can survive middle school!

Edited by underground comics icon Ariel Schrag, this anthology of illustrated tales about the agonies and triumphs of seventh and eight grade features some of America's leading graphic novelists, including Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt, Lauren Weinstein, and Ariel herself. With a sense of humor as refreshing as it is bitingly honest, seventeen artists share their stories of first love, bullying, zits, and all the things that make middle school the worst years of our lives.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

If you can survive junior high, you can survive anything!" That's cartoonist Jace Smith's inspirational promise in this collection of 17 comics covering those universally awkward middle-school years. The agonies depicted are the kind that leaves scars: betrayal over Spin-the-Bottle, schoolyard taunting, hazing by cheerleaders and wedgies aplenty. Every reader will have something to readily identify with: Dash Shaw's young hero wonders if he'll ever find love despite having a face full of zits. Gabrielle Bell's heroine wears the same clothes every day, earning her the nickname "Stinky." Lauren Weinstein's Becky tops off a miserable stay at a horse camp by getting her period. The stories range from crudely drawn but deeply felt to truly literary, such as Daniel Clowes's tale of an introverted boy's summer with his grandparents. Editor Shrag contributes two of the strongest stories. In one, girlish cattiness earns karmic retribution with a bus ride to a bad part of town. In another, the hapless heroine chooses to carry around her own poop in her backpack rather than admit a social faux pas. The situations are often hilarious in retrospect, but the contributors make their emotional painfulness at the time fully apparent. This collection should help those in the midst of similar social travails realize that they, too, will someday look back and laugh at it all. Ages 12-up. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
KLIATT - George Galuschak
If there's a more unpleasant age than puberty, please let me know. Here 16 cartoonists share their recollections of the awful yuckiness that is middle school. Highlights of this anthology include Lauren Weinstein's "Horse Camp," in which the author spends a miserable week at sports camp shoveling manure (it rains every day) and singing gospel hymns (she's Jewish); Dash Shaw's "Crater Face," which recalls the horror of zits; Daniel Clowes' "Like A Weed Joe," about a summer the author spent with his grandparents; and Ariel Schrag's "S—t," which illustrates the extremes we will go through to avoid certain embarrassing bodily functions. Some of the stories in Stuck in the Middle are funny; others are sad; most feel authentic. I'm at a point in my life where I can barely remember puberty, but for these folks the fire still burns bright. The artwork is eclectic, ranging from the highly polished to stick figures. Highly recommended for junior high graphic novel collections on up; but please keep in mind that this graphic novel does contain some strong material, including obscenities (s-bomb and f-bomb) and sexual material (it is puberty!).
VOYA - Joe Sutliff Sanders
The middle school characters in these short comics survive first loves, name calling, bizarre fantasies, cheap summer camp, and unpredictable friendships. Authors with little reputation rub shoulders with new comics stars and at least one legend to tell stories of angst and occasional triumph. The art styles of these comics vary widely, from Joe Matt's clear, bold lines and heavy ink to Jace Smith's intentionally claustrophobic messiness and Eric Enright's moving abstraction. The book also includes the vaguely hideous style that Dan Clowes has also used so effectively in Ghost World collected by Fantagraphics in 2001. It is nice to see Clowes's influential "alternative comics" style next to efforts by artists such as Jim Hoover and Robyn Chapman, who work in newer popular styles. The themes and storytelling structures are not as varied as the artwork, and at times that makes reading the next story difficult. The stories are aimed squarely at middle school readers, many of whom will find the queue of tales about ugliness and traitorous friends so close to reality that the stories become comforting, but other readers will be turned off by the gloom and avoidance of closure that ends so many of these pieces. The self-absorption of the characters, too, will come across either as familiar and welcoming or familiar and tedious. These brief tales succeed in communicating the unrelenting social pressure of middle school, but they are most powerful when they are also able to show characters escaping their awkwardness and self-absorption, if only briefly.
School Library Journal

Gr 7-9
Multiple stories of life during middle school are told in an indie comix style that might appeal to the zine crowd in terms of raw art, construction, and subject matter. Common themes of alienation, adjustment, popularity, and burgeoning sexual drives can be found in the various tales-with accompanying charged language-but what is most striking is their collective open-ended lack of structure and conclusion. While the stories take transition and formative awareness to heart, the recurring vignette format prevents most of the offerings from providing much in the way of a discernable message or point beyond the evocative emotional content. The volume subsequently has a therapeutic vibe, with the stories-even while not contemporary in most of their settings-existing simply to show that the situations in which readers may find themselves are common. But the sharing seems less helpful for prospective readers than it seems purgative to the contributors, as little solace can be found in moments that hang on the page without any clear direction. The artwork is quite varied, but does exemplify that there are many ways of expressing oneself, and that traditional comic-book structures can be adapted or subverted in order to create a personal storytelling technique. In this fashion, the book does more artistically to demonstrate the potential of individual expression than the generic themes and the somewhat meandering plotting.
—Benjamin RussellCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780670062218
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/17/2007
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
8.48(w) x 11.02(h) x 0.72(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Meet the Author

Ariel Schrag is a well-respected graphic novelist. Her series of autobiographical comics are currently being made into a major motion picture. She works as a writer for the popular Showtime program The L Word. Ariel lives in New York City.

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