Brave

Brave
sequel to Awkward
by Svetlana Chmakova
Graphic Novel
Realistic Fiction
* * * * Stars (Great!)

Jensen is playing his way through each of his days of middle school like it’s a videogame – complete with monsters (other students who bully him) that he has to dodge between classes and after school.  He thought he was tight with some kids from the art club, but one of the girls there teases him constantly, and even if she doesn’t mean it, it hurts his feelings.  Jensen starts helping out at the school newspaper, where he learns all about bullying and the “lizard brain” (our pre-programmed survival instincts and behaviors that we often resort to as knee-jerk responses to situations), and cultural attitudes that allow things like bullying or littering to exist and become normalized.  Jensen isn’t always the quickest kid, but as he learns, we learn, too, that what he’s experiencing at school isn’t friendly behavior.  Fortunately, there are other kids there who are better friends to Jensen than the bullies, and after the newspaper crew catches some bullies on video/in action, the school administration becomes aware of the problem and implements some strategies to change the behaviors and social norms there.  Jensen is a sweet, kind, and helpful kid and it’s satisfying to see him find support and acceptance.  Wonderful story.  For fans of Chmakova’s Awkward (it takes place in the same middle school with familiar characters), as well as readers who enjoy realistic fiction/graphic novels.

Reviewed by YA Librarian