Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book-A-Day 2010 # 196 (8/18) -- Amelia Rules!: The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular by Jimmy Gownley

Amelia Rules! is a pleasant, and more than slightly cartoony, series of books about a tween girl and her wacky friends, pitched somewhere in the zone between realistic and goofy. (I reviewed the first three books here last year, after having read the fourth for the Eisners.) It's energetic and fun, driven by creator Jimmy Gownley's great expressive lettering and his exaggerated takes on typical kid problems.

Unfortunately, I read this volume immediately after Raina Telgemeier's Smile, another book about a tween girl growing up and learning about life (it was Book-A-Day # 194), and Telgemeier's book laps Gownley's in just about every way possible: writing, drawing, feeling, meaning, truth, art. So, even though this fifth book -- The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular -- is just as good as the first four, and very entertaining in its afterschool-special-meets-Three-Stooges style, it can't help but come up short when compared with Smile, a book that transforms one young woman's real life into a touching story about growing up, finding yourself, and extreme dentistry.

Gownley's work is broad and bouncy, full of pratfalls and goofiness -- but it's also very wordy, a heavily narrated story with carefully delineated (and pretty obvious) morals. I suspect most actual tweens will endure the wordiness and morals on account of the knockabout humor. This book was the first to be planned and executed as a single story, instead of collected from previous comics issues -- but it still has a chapter-every-twenty-pages-of-so structure, so it's not all that different from the previous books. Amelia Rules! is an utterly age-appropriate, positive series of graphic novels that many tweens will enjoy, and The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular is another solid entry in that series -- but it doesn't wow the way Telgemeier's book does.
Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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