Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: Peanut by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe (ARC)

Peanut. by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe. December 26, 2012. Schwartz & Wade. 216 pages. ISBN: 9780375965906

Everyone at Sadie’s new school knows she’s allergic to peanuts. She wears a medical bracelet on her wrist, and a bronzed peanut from her boyfriend, Zoo, around her neck. She promises the nurse she will always have her epi-pen on hand, and she doesn’t buy the peanut butter cookies at the school bake sale. Everyone knows about her allergy. What they don’t know is that it isn’t real. In this forthcoming graphic novel, Sadie learns what happens when a girl desperate for attention weaves a web of lies so thick she can’t find her own way out.

The most outstanding feature of this book, hands down, is the artwork. The illustrator, Paul Hoppe, makes great use of shadow, expression, and perspective in telling the visual component of this story. Though the figures are obviously cartoons and not life-like portraits, they come across as very real, and their different body types and faces reflect the diversity of most large American high schools. I love the way his drawings show the action from different angles - the ceiling of Sadie’s bedroom or the school hallway, Sadie’s point of view as she reads a note from Zoo, or behind Sadie’s computer monitor as her eyes scan internet search results. These different perspectives make the story very dynamic, even when what is happening in the text doesn’t necessarily require a lot of physical movement. I also think it’s great that Sadie’s shirt is colored red while everything else is black, white, and gray. It made it so easy to keep track of her in every scene, and it also just makes the book more visually appealing.

The story itself is also strong at the start. The suspense builds gradually and naturally, and the reader becomes more and more aware of the stress on Sadie as she tries not to reveal the truth about her fake allergy. Unfortunately, I think the resolution comes about too quickly. It is obvious all along that the lie must come out eventually, but the way it happens is predictable and over too soon. The denouement also felt strange to me. Things between Sadie and her mom are resolved way too easily, and I can’t figure out how Zoo’s actions in the final moments of the book relate to his realization about Sadie’s lies. Pacing and plot issues aside, though, the dialogue and characterization are perfect and evoke the everyday details of the high school environment, complete with sexual innuendo and angst.

Peanut seems like a natural choice for readers who have loved Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and Drama, though it is a bit more mature than Telgemeier’s tales of middle school. I think it also compares well to books published by the DC Minx imprint such as The New York Four, Good as Lily, and Emiko Superstar. For other books about bending the truth, check out my Pants on Fire reading list.

Peanut will be available on December 26, 2012.

I received a digital ARC of Peanut from Schwartz & Wade via Edelweiss.

For more about this book, visit Goodreads and Worldcat.

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