MMGM and #IMWAYR: Clash by Kayla Miller (plus a quick survey!)
Hello everyone! I was very sad to miss everyone's posts last week, but there was just way too much going on for me to get around to reading what people had to say. I hope I'll be able to fix that this week!
Fortunately, I still have time to read and talk about books, and I'm here with a great one today: the graphic novel Clash by Kayla Miller!
|Add it on Goodreads or preview the illustrations|
OK, so I've finally decided that I completely love this series of graphic novels! Kayla Miller has written five books in this series so far, as well as two spin-off graphic novels, and Clash is the fourth book in the main series. Prior to now, I had read Click, Camp, and Act, the first three books in the series, and barring a mostly irrational reaction I had to Camp (for reasons described in my review of Act), I seriously enjoyed those books. But for some reason, I hadn't gotten around to this book yet. Well, now, book 5 is out—it's called Crunch, Earl Dizon at The Chronicles of a Children's Book Writer brought it to my attention, and it looks absurdly amazing and relatable and I want to read it now! But alas, patience is a must, and so I decided I'd immerse myself in the series and read book 4 and spin-off 1 too (especially since spin-off 2 is coming out in a little over a week—Kayla Miller is up to so much right now!). So blah, blah, blah, the main point is that (a) I'm finally getting caught up, and (b) depending on how quickly my library gets these books in, I may be reviewing up to 3 more books in this series in the coming weeks!
So what's Clash about? Well, let's see the publisher's description:
Olive, meet Natasha.
There’s a new kid in town! From the moment Natasha sets foot in class, it’s clear she’s one of the coolest kids in sixth grade. Everyone wants to be her friend, including Olive . . . but things might not be so easy.
Olive tries her best to befriend Nat, but it seems like the only thing they have in common is that they both want to hang out with Olive’s friends! Watching as Natasha gets closer with some of her best buds, Olive can’t help but worry that they’re starting to like Nat more than they like her . . . and who could blame them? Nat is just that cool . . . and Olive is, well, just Olive.
The New York Times best-selling author-illustrator Kayla Miller delivers a nuanced look at navigating middle school friendships and the importance of both empathy and respect.
Wow, there is just so much to love about this graphic novel! If you're not familiar with the series, there are a couple of familiar elements that Miller brings back again and again. One is, obviously, Olive, the series's protagonist, who is such a delight—she is an extroverted kid in the best way, instinctively befriending practically everyone in her grade while always lending them her full attention and interest when they hang out. Olive strikes a wonderful balance between being totally relatable (even for complete introverts like me!) and also having unique traits of her own—in this book, we see her affinity for dad jokes, for example. It's impossible not to root for Olive, because even as she grapples with hard feelings, she always brings her all to everything she does—she's just a phenomenal protagonist.
Some other things we get in this series include Miller's amazing art, which is clear and colorful and energetic but not too energetic—it has such a perfect kid appeal that it will draw out the inner kid of even grizzled old readers like myself (OK, maybe not grizzled just yet!). Another wonderful thing about this series is Olive's family—she has a brother named Simon with perfect little-brother energy, a mom named Lucy who makes mistakes but cares deeply about her two kids, and an aunt named Molly with dyed hair and a solution for pretty much everything! And one other great thing that makes a reappearance in Clash is the general style of this series—the lack of narration that puts the spotlight on action and dialogue, the occasional wordless panels that depict the delightful hustle-and-bustle of an energetic kid like Olive without getting too bogged down in all the details, and the many different kids Olive knows that bring their own personalities to the table (whether it's the dynamic introvert duo Willow and Hugh, skateboarders Trent and Sawyer, or best friends Beth and Chanda who are the subject of the two spin-off books)!
Now, beyond all this amazing stuff that applies to the whole series, Clash also brings a unique, insightful conflict to the table. Click and Camp both explore some really messy friendship situations, and while Act changed gears a little bit to focus on activism and making a difference, Clash returns to the classic friendship focus, but with a totally new and unique story. Olive's compassionate and friendly nature doesn't help her rocky relationship with Natasha—like in Click in some ways, it actually becomes a bit of a liability, as Natasha ambiguously takes advantage of Olive's anything-goes nature and leaves her to question whether or not there's something more malicious going on. Is Natasha a bully? Is she just making a lot of awkward mistakes? You'll be asking those questions right alongside Olive.
It's also worth noting that the troubles in Olive and Natasha's relationship arise in part from ideas of immaturity and maturity, which I imagine young readers are thinking about quite a bit (and which I know cross my own mind from time to time too!). Olive and Natasha are at different places developmentally when it comes to their interests, from romance to TV shows. And Natasha knows it too, leaving Olive to wonder if she needs to speed things up, or if she's completely fine the way she is.
I also appreciated how tactful the resolution of the story is. Miller treads delicately between offering empathy to Natasha (there's a reason she acts the way she does, just like there is for everyone!) and not expecting Olive to put herself in a painful, approaching-toxic situation any longer. Most authors would find themselves on one side of this continuum but not the other, but Miller knows the importance of teaching both of these lessons at once, and they're skilled enough to actually include both simultaneously!
The last thing I'll say about Clash is that it is just packed to the gills with fun and sweetness—even as all the drama with Natasha is going on, we also see Olive and her friends putting together what might be the single coolest Halloween party I've ever seen! If you're looking for a delightful graphic novel and some holiday entertaining inspo, Clash is the book for you! ;)
Seriously, though, Clash is a really strong addition to this series that just doesn't quit. Kayla Miller has created such a delightful protagonist and flexible, irresistible world that they can tell pretty much any story within the same framework, resulting in books with engagement that builds over time and new, meaningful lessons that never get repetitive. Few MG graphic novels tackle everyday issues that kids face as respectfully and smartly as this series does, and Clash makes me confident that the coming books in this series will continue this tradition with just as much skill, sweetness, and fun as ever!
My rating is: Really good!
My rating for the graphic novel-averse is: 3!
And one more thing...
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