This is my first Intermediate Nutmeg 2019 read (well, slightly true, I already read Fuzzy Mud and A Handful of Stars with a mother-daughter book group a couple years ago)! This book, Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova, created a lot of buzz among the 4th and 5th grade students who previewed it during my year-end book tasting. The title itself is appealing! I knew I had to read this one first, and did so in one sitting during the afternoon of my last day of school.
Awkward is a graphic novel that immediately hooks you with its personable voice. The cardinal rules of starting school somewhere new are introduced and mentioned throughout the story; keeping it relatable. Peppi moved to a new school and manages to trip in front of everyone the first day. Then, she draws even more attention when the school “nerd,” Jaime, stops to pick up her books. She is so worried about being targeted by bullies that she pushes her only helper down and yells at him. She avoids Jaime at all costs after this even though she wants desperately to apologize.
The story goes on to show how she manages to find where she fits in: Art Club. Her friends in Art Club are the best part of her day. Meanwhile, Art Club and Science Club have an ongoing battle about who is best. They are competing against one another to earn a table at the school’s club festival. It turns out that Jaime is part of the Science Club. He is assigned to tutor her and they are in a group for a science field trip. A friendship begins to form as she finally makes amends, and they navigate through the turmoil between their two clubs together.
There are quirky characters who you can’t help but like. I found the frazzled art teacher pretty comical. The author enjoyed creating her characters (it shows), and her notes at the end of the book are worth reading. This book is a light, fun read for students and has some depth in its topics of belonging, doing the right thing, and speaking up.