Review by Booklist Review
It's eighth grade, and Shannon finally has some solid friends and is doing well in school, so why doesn't she feel happy? Hale and Pham's third installment in their excellent graphic memoir series turns the spotlight on young Shannon's growing anxiety, fueled in large part by her desire to be perfect. In her vivid daydreams, Shannon imagines all the things she's sure will make her happy--winning the election for class president, catching the attention of a book agent, being a generous friend to everyone, finding a boyfriend--but when she tries to achieve those things, she not only is disheartened when they don't work out but also perceives those failures as proof that she's worthless, even as she unmistakably succeeds elsewhere. Pham deftly shifts art styles between Shannon's real-life experiences and her gauzy fantasies, and subtle shifts in color and panel shape--not to mention the expressive fonts giving voice to her anxious thoughts and destructive self-criticism--powerfully signal Shannon's gradual drift into depression. Hale and Pham really succeed in their depictions of the persistence and insidiousness of negative self-talk, and Shannon's realization that she needs to have more compassion for her imperfect self is a heartening note to end on. With the combination of Hale's lucid writing and Pham's masterful portrayal of body and language and facial expression, this book homes in squarely and affirmingly on teen angst and worries.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Horn Book Review
In Hale's third graphic memoir (Real Friends, rev. 5/17; Best Friends, rev. 11/19), thirteen-year-old Shannon is now in eighth grade in 1987 Salt Lake City. She has made new best friends who share common interests (drama, glee, creative writing) and yet she doesn't always "feel good" due to her undiagnosed anxiety and mild OCD. She makes a list in her journal -- "I would feel fulfilled if I could be: 1. beautiful 2. famous 3. successful 4. liked by boys 5. a good person" -- and those items then serve as chapter subjects, featured on the openers as magazine cover titles. But this self-imposed pressure to be "perfect" overwhelms her, leading to fallouts with friends, failed classes, and fights with her parents. Despite the title, this third book is less about Shannon's friendships and more about how she perceives herself -- a relatable exploration for many young teens. Hale frankly but sensitively depicts her disappointments, embarrassments, and achievements. Pham's digitally colored ink illustrations skillfully reflect the character's roller-coaster emotions, switching color palettes between reality (bright), fanciful daydreams (pastel), flashbacks (monochrome), and depressed introspection (subdued). Varied panel sizes further emphasize Shannon's feelings, particularly in a heart-wrenching series of large grayscale panels when she is at her lowest ("I hate myself"). While the hopeful ending feels a bit rushed, Shannon's choice to love herself and the realization that she's enough just the way she is help her -- and readers -- move forward. Cynthia K. Ritter September/October 2021 p.116(c) Copyright 2021. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Shannon just wants to get through eighth grade in one piece--while feeling like her own worst enemy. In this third entry in popular author for young people Hale's graphic memoir series, the young, sensitive overachiever is crushed by expectations: to be cool but loyal to her tightknit and dramatic friend group, a top student but not a nerd, attractive to boys but true to her ideals. As events in Shannon's life begin to overwhelm her, she works toward finding a way to love and understand herself, follow her passions for theater and writing, and ignore her cruel inner voice. Capturing the visceral embarrassments of middle school in 1987 Salt Lake City, Shannon's emotions are vivid and often excruciating. In particular, the social norms of a church-oriented family are clearly addressed, and religion is shown as being both a comfort and a struggle for Shannon. While the text is sometimes in danger of spelling things out a little too neatly and obviously, the emotional honesty and sincerity drawn from Hale's own life win out. Pham's artwork is vibrant and appealing, with stylistic changes for Shannon's imaginings and the leeching out of color and use of creative panel structures as her anxiety and depression worsen. A likable journey that is sensitive to the triumphs and agonies of being a 13-year-old girl. (author's note, gallery) (Graphic memoir. 10-14) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.