Sunday, February 24, 2013
There was just one catch: Sadie didn't really have a peanut allergy. It was just something to make her more interesting at the new school, a way to attract attention and new friends. But a peanut allergy doesn't go away, so she was stuck with living her lie -- as long as she could.
Peanut is a graphic novel for teens, written by indy cartoonist Ayun Halliday (East Village Inky) and drawn by illustrator/cartoonist Paul Hoppe -- and, although Halliday's previous comics work (and a lot of her other books) were autobiographical, this one is purely fiction, as far as I can tell. (So many comics aimed outside of the long-underwear ghetto are memoirs these days that I won't be the only one wondering about this.)
Hoppe uses a crisp, entirely realistic style to tell this story -- mostly thin blue lines, with a splash of red for Sadie -- and Halliday's first-person narration lets Sadie tell her story in a similarly clear, direct way. Sadie finds attention -- and a new boyfriend -- with her new peanut allergy, but of course she doesn't know if she'd have those friends, and that quirky boyfriend (he sends her notes in origami and refuses to use a cellphone) without the big fake revelation.
Peanut is a closely observed story of modern suburban teens, with nasty queen bees, friends as devoted as only fifteen-year-olds can be, and one very conflicted teen girl at the middle of it all. It's heavily narrated by Sadie, as focused through her point of view as a traditional first-person novel would be, so the reader stays in her head (and, presumably, on her side) the whole time. The stakes aren't particularly high here -- just Sadie's honesty and happiness, though that's not nothing -- unlike so much of the popular current teen fiction. It's a bit conventional -- it doesn't go in any of the interesting directions that a more fantastical book about a lying teen girl like Justine Larbalestier's Liar does -- but it has a good heart, it tells a good story, and it looks good along the way.