Gr 5 Up—Flawed protagonist Peppi is fantastically imperfect in this middle school graphic novel. She is the new girl at Berrybrook Middle School and is having a hard time fitting in because of her struggles with social anxiety. The work opens with the young teen pushing away the first person who tries to help her, Jaime, and it only gets more awkward from there. A feud between Peppi's after-school art club and Jaime's science club springs up. Can the two groups stop fighting long enough to earn a spot in the school fair? Will Peppi overcome her social anxiety and apologize to Jaime? Will any of them feel comfortable enough in their own skins to have a good school year? The story is told with a clear, believable voice. Diversity is reflected in this average middle school setting, and there are characters from a variety of ethnicities and are differently abled. Chmakova is an adept storyteller and organically incorporates messages of kindness and understanding without being preachy. The placement of the text and images were carefully considered. The illustrations and lettering are playful, bright, and fun, in keeping with the tone of the work. Readers will connect with the relatable, complex characters. VERDICT A superb graphic novel that authentically depicts the naturally awkward adolescent years.—Julie Zimmerman, Brooklyn Public Library
Cardinal rule #2 for surviving school: Seek out groups with similar interests and join them.
On her first day at her new school, PenelopePeppiTorres reminds herself of these basics. But when she trips into a quiet boy in the hall, Jaime Thompson, she's already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her the "nerder girlfriend." How does she handle this crisis? By shoving poor Jaime and running away!
Falling back on rule two and surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi still can't help feeling ashamed about the way she treated Jaime. Things are already awkward enough between the two, but to make matters worse, he's a member of her own club's archrivalsthe science club! And when the two clubs go to war, Peppi realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school!