MMGM and #IMWAYR: Look on the Bright Side and more!
Hello everyone! I'm trying to think of some pithy and engaging intro to this post, but I'm failing, so there's that.
Actually, wait—I remembered that I wanted to link back to last week's review of The Do-Over in case you missed it, since that is an absolutely delightful MG graphic novel worth adding to your list!
Now let's talk about some books!
Middle Grade/Young Adult:
Look on the Bright Side
Second heads-up: This book is about high schoolers, but it has MG energy and is completely appropriate for middle schoolers, so I'd say it fits into both MG and YA categories. This duology is a great pick for middle schoolers who are always wanting to read about older kids!
Wow—this book is a phenomenal sequel to Go with the Flow, bringing the same delightful energy of Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha while also making space for new and complex issues, and resolving pretty much all my quibbles with the original book in the process!
The mood of Look on the Bright Side is just wonderful. Like Go with the Flow, it has airy pages and big panels, and the choice to split the story into shorter vignettes on different calendar days gives it a breezy, life-is-good kind of feel. There are a couple spreads that are practically flexing when it comes to how much emotional work they are doing—I just love it. And the story is now in full color, bringing a new vividness to the delightful banter of these four girls, and to the introduction of some delightful new cast members as well.
Look on the Bright Side deals with so many topics, but much of it is focused around crushes. What do you do when you have a crush on someone of the same gender, and you're not sure if they'd be interested back? What do you do when you're figuring out your own sexuality? How do you balance romantic relationships with schoolwork and pursuing your own personal dreams? How do you navigate potential crushes on more than one person? It's complicated stuff, but Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann tackle it all with aplomb. I had critiqued Go with the Flow for exploring some queer identity stuff implicitly rather than explicitly, and I'm so very excited that it's completely explicit in this book and gets the resolution it deserves.
And it's not just crushes this book dives into. We've got more exploration of activism (albeit to a lesser degree than Go with the Flow, where it was the main focus)—I love the acknowledgement that even activists deal with burnout and low energy too, and I love the newfound emphasis on how people other than women menstruate (e.g., transgender men and nonbinary people). We also dig into personal health and living everyday life with a chronic condition. And perhaps most importantly, we see how the friendship of our core quartet evolves and bends to make space for all these different developments in the girls' lives.
I discovered via this delightful online quiz that my personality is closest to Sasha (love it), but I feel like I relate to all four protagonists in different ways—and I can't lie, Christine is still my absolute fave. I pretty much read this book just to see her again, because she has this way of being a goofball but also laid-back and compassionate that gives the people around her room to breathe and be themselves. She's just an absolute icon and I kind of want to be her or at least meet her in real life (but alas, she is fictional).
My only critique with this book is one small moment in the story that seems to disempower a character, and doesn't quite fit with the girl power ethos that underpins this series.
Let me be clear, though—that critique does not in the slightest distract from the joy of Look on the Bright Side. This story has characters who worm their way into your heart, and it tackles all kinds of fabulous topics that carry Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha's journeys forward. If you're unfamiliar with this series, definitely read Go with the Flow first—it's a truly iconic, menstruation-positive journey with the same delights as this book. But if you've already read that book, don't miss this wonderful sequel—you'll want to spend time with these characters seeing how their lives are changing for the better. (Honestly, I hope we get a third book at some point, because there's so much I want to know about these kids!)