Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Review: PEANUT graphic novel

SCHWARTZ & WADE BOOKS – @randomhousekids

WRITER: Ayun Halliday – @AyunHalliday
ARTIST: Paul Hoppe @HoppeIndustries
ISBN: 978-0-375-86590-9; paperback (December 2012)
216pp, B&W with some color, $15.99 U.S., $17.99 CAN

Ayun Halliday is the writer and illustrator of her autobiographical zine, The East Village Inky. Paul Hoppe was born in Poland and grew up in Germany, where he published two graphics novels. Together, Halliday and Hoppe are the authors of an original graphic novel entitled, Peanut, published this past December. Written by Halliday and drawn by Hoppe, Peanut tells the story of a girl who pretends to have a peanut allergy in order to make an impression at her new school.

When her mother tells her that they were moving from Cedarwood to Plainfield, teen Sadie Wildhack knows that she will also have to undergo the torture of moving to a new school. Before she starts at Plainfield Community High School (PCHS), Sadie hatches a diabolically hilarious plan to gain the attention of her new classmates. She will tell them that she has a peanut allergy. Sadie even buys a medical alert bracelet. And it works!

Her stories of a life spent avoiding peanuts and the tale of once going into anaphylactic shock make an impression. Sadie manages to snag some new friends. There is a teen boy, Christopher “Zoo” Zuzuki, with whom she becomes close – call it teen love… maybe. She shares secrets and gossip with new gal pal, Louann.

All is not perfect. Her best friend back in Cedarwood, Cheryl, rarely calls or returns phone calls. Her homeroom teacher, Mr. Howard Larch, is always on the lookout for peanut danger, and she owes Miss Anderson, the school nurse, some paperwork. And one little lie often sires more little lies, on the way to a great big mess.

Out of nowhere, I recently received a review copy of Peanut, and a quick glance through the large comic book told me that I would not like it. Turns out, I was wrong. Peanut is actually a good read, and now I can see why it was made “A Junior Library Guild Selection.” It is a young adult graphic novel that captures the snakepit/wonderland that is high school, both with blunt honest and genuine warmth.

Writer Ayun Halliday offers some conflict between Sadie and the others denizens of PCHS, but the best struggle is the one inside Sadie – to tell the truth or not. It carries Peanut through some drier moments of the narrative that seem like padding. Sadie’s rough path to honesty will have readers racing to get to the end of the story. Artist Paul Hoppe uses a clean style of vigorous line work, and that makes the compositions hop with activity. If Charles M. Schulz had drawn the Peanuts gang in high school, it might look like Paul Hoppe’s art style in Peanut.

I would like to see co-authors Halliday and Hoppe work together again, on the strength of Peanut. Unlike Sadie Wildhack, I’m not lying about that.


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