Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Review: The Meaning of Life... And Other Stuff by Jimmy Gownley (ARC)

by Jimmy Gownley
2011 | 176 pages | Middle Grade Graphic Novel

This seventh installment in the Amelia Rules series finds Amelia in a tough spot. She's feeling older, thanks to a young crop of kids in the neighborhood who have formed a superhero club, Y.I.K.E.S. (Young Imaginative Kids Emulating Superheroes ) in an effort to emulate Amelia and her friends' former club, G.A.S.P. (Gathering of Awesome Super Pals). She's also missing Tanner, who is out on tour, and hasn't called. At school, she suddenly finds herself stuck on the cheerleading squad, and her friend, Joan, becomes obsessively concerned about the well-being of her father who is serving in the military. Underneath it all, Amelia struggles with the nagging idea that there might be something inherently bad about her, a belief she has developed due to a wrong she committed back in her hometown.

While there are lots of funny moments, this book is far from merely comic. Rather, Amelia is a fully-developed and well-rounded character facing serious existential questions that I think a lot of kids wonder about, but few know how to voice. There are some truly poignant moments in this book, particularly when Amelia finds Tanner's old journal, and when she and her friends rally around Joan in a moment of tragic uncertainty. Also hugely impressive is the way Gownley portrays the differences in development between the boys and the girls and shows that the characters are also aware of this. Some of my favorite moments in the story came from the interactions between Amelia, Joan, and Rhonda and the boys in their group.

The metaphor of the old G.A.S.P. clubhouse also really resonated with me. Amelia insists it cannot be rebuilt because it's too far gone, but learns, slowly, as the pieces of her past, present, and future come together, that nothing is ever really broken for good.

This series gets better and better with each volume. Amelia is one of my favorite middle grade characters of all time, and I really feel for her in every difficult situation she encounters. I love seeing her progression from book to book and can't wait to see where she takes us next.

The Meaning of Life... and Other Stuff comes out today, September 6, 2011. Catch up on all things Amelia at ameliarules.com, and read my review of the previous book, True Things Adults Don't Want Kids to Know here.

I received a digital ARC of The Meaning of Life... and Other Stuff from Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab.


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