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

Written by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann, and illustrated by Lily Williams
Graphic novel · 2023

Heads-up: I will keep this review spoiler-free of Go with the Flow! To do so, I am not including the publisher's description of the book, but you can view it here.

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!)

Currently reading:

Solitaire

Written by Alice Oseman
Young adult · 2014

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

In case you’re wondering, this is not a love story.

My name is Victoria Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.

Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.

I really don’t.

· · · · · ·

Shocker—I'm actually capable of reading things that aren't graphic novels! (To be fair, this book does exist in the same universe as all the Heartstopper graphic novels I was consuming...) So far, this book is further proof that Alice Oseman is brilliant—I can't wait to share a full review soon!

Bookish thoughts:

I keep having epiphanies about life and my own psychology while reading Solitaire, and I'm not sure if it's because I found exactly the right book at the right time, or because any story that intersects with the world can be a springboard for emotional discovery.

Either way, it really is amazing how you can't outgrow MG and YA books—so much of our emotional journeys in life are anchored in our childhood, and watching other young people figure out how to make their way in the world is so inherently healing.

That's everything I've got—happy reading this week! ✨✨

Comments

  1. Solitaire sounds like an interesting read. I find that there are overlaps between MG and YA. Sometimes the publishers are so arbitrary about categories. I think it's to keep bookstores happy. Carol Baldwin

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  2. I agree with you that some books can be a springboard for helping us with what we're dealing with and that we don't outgrow MG & YA books. Glad you survived reading a print book.

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  3. Thanks for all, Max. I think I'd better get Go With the Flow & then grab the others! Happy Holidays!

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  4. Sounds like both books are really interesting and will keep an eye out for them. I usually use watching movies as my springboard for dealing with various emotions, but books sounds like they'd be perfect if I knew more about the book.

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  5. I always enjoy reading your reviews of graphic novels because they are NOT my personal favorite. I always feel like I am missing half the story. I also suspect that a lot of my students just flip through the pictures and don't actually read the books. Your reviews make me hope that at least SOME of my students actually read. ; )

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  6. Middle school students are always curious about what High School is all about. This book sounds perfect with older characters and a not too heavy story. I'll be looking for both books for a future read. Thanks for the excellent review.

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  7. great review of "Bright Side", Max! I don't usually read GNs, but every now and then I dive into a good one and remember why kids like them

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  8. Loved your thoughts on Solitaire. It's a wonderful feeling when a book really resonates.

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  9. Books like LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE are so needed - I often get younger kids coming in desperate to read about high school, but who aren't quite ready for YA, so these kinds of books fill such a needed niche!

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  10. I just saw something about Solitaire, a best books list I think. I don't know much about it, but am putting it on my TBR list since you say it's so wonderful.

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  11. Oooh, a sequel to Go with the Flow! Excellent. I'm behind in requesting graphic novels for review, so I will look for this one. Solitaire sounds good, too, though I don't think I've read Alice Oseman's graphic novels yet (but I remember your rave reviews). Thanks for the recs! Hope you enjoy the holidays with your family and have a wonderful New Year!

    Sue
    Book By Book

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  12. The characters in Look on the Bright Side sound wonderful. The quiz sounds fun, too!

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Please feel free to leave a comment—I always love reading them! ✨✨

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