Drama, the long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s Smile, is the story of Callie, a member of the stage crew for the Eucalyptus Middle School musical. She doesn’t seek the spotlight herself, as she can’t carry a tune and much prefers set design over singing, but that doesn’t stop her personal life from being dramatic. From liking the wrong boys to giving herself the impossible task of creating an onstage explosion, Callie finds herself playing out one difficult scene after another. What she learns, though - about friendship as well as boys - is well worth the hardships she must endure.
I really loved Smile, and many girls who visit my library name it as one of their favorites as well. As I was reading this book, I considered whether I think those girls will be disappointed when they finally get their eager hands on Drama. I don’t think Drama quite lives up to the very high standards set by Smile, which is original, fresh, and true-to-life, but I do believe my Telgemeier fans will eat this new book up as well, because of its humorous tone, expressive illustration style, and fast pace.
The way Telgemeier draws each of her characters goes a long way toward helping the reader understand who they are as people. In some cases, based solely on how a character walks, or the faces he makes, it’s possible to guess at what he would sound like if he really existed. Callie’s voice isn’t the most original of all middle grade voices, but it’s engaging, and even in the case of characters who are identical twins, Telgemeier manages to differentiate them completely from one another based on how they move and dress. Also effective are the many panels in this book which include no speech bubbles, but instead illustrate different aspects of the process of putting on a show. The entire book is in fact laid out as a musical, with an overture, several acts, an intermission and an entr’acte, which is not just a fun way to incorporate the subject matter, but also an important tie-in to the end of the story, which brings everything full circle in a most satisfying and somewhat unexpected way.
Drama will thrill fans of pop culture phenomena like Glee, High School Musical, and Camp Rock. I’d recommend it especially to girls who have loved Megan McDonald’s Sisters Club books, Take a Bow by Elizabeth Eulberg, or Simply Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.
I received a digital ARC of Drama from Scholastic via NetGalley.