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Seventh-graders Julie and Lydia return for their third funny, angst-ridden outing that navigates the perils of middle school.
In e-mails, back-and-forth notes and an occasional bit of graffiti, Julie and Lydia explore all of the emotional hardships of being non-populars in middle school. After their friend Sukie's mother dies, the pair decides to dedicate their lives to something more substantial than worrying about where they stand in the school pecking order. Consequently, they reach out to very badly dressed loner Jen, who turns out to be perfectly happy in her independent ways; Lydia gets a bit part in the school musical and angers the rest of the performers; Julie does all of the work on a class-assignment comic book for Jonathan—but the populars think they recognize themselves in it, and the girls visit the boys' bathroom to look for graffiti. Humorous illustrations in ink, colored pencil, markers and yarn featuring clearly differentiated characters add to the fizzy realism of the effort. While those new to the series may face a brief learning curve, given the total absence of introductory material, the quality of this almost-a-graphic novel will make the effort worthwhile.
"Outcast" middle-schoolers everywhere will recognize the situations depicted, and while some of them may seem heartbreaking at the time, this comic relief will add some much-needed perspective. (Graphic novel. 9-14)