I'm back for the new year! I've had an incredibly hectic two months, so I've barely had time to sit down and read much less write a review. However, now that it's winter break, I finally have a review! This week, I am recommending Crush by Svetlana Chmakova.
You may remember that, back in July, I read the first two graphic novels in this series, Awkward and Brave, and wholeheartedly recommended them. I just finished reading Crush over the course of one day, and I think it may be even better than the first two! Crush follows Jorge, a side character from Brave. Jorge happens to be quite large for a middle-schooler, and he uses his size as a superpower, scaring bullies out of hurting their targets. Despite being somewhat terrifying, Jorge has two good friends from the athletic club at his school, Garrett and Olivia (or Liv). Most years, his life would be perfectly pleasant, but this year is odd. Jorge develops his first crush on a girl named Jazmine, and he finds himself unable to even speak to her due to sheer nerves. To make matters worse, Jazmine already has a boyfriend, Zeke, who hates Jorge and the other athletes. Garrett and Olivia are always fighting, and Garrett desperately wants to be part of a group of "cool" (mean) kids, led by another athlete named James. As the drama starts to spill over (and explodes in Chapter 9), it is up to Jorge to make the best of the endless trials of middle school. As with Awkward and Brave, the characters and story of Crush are incredibly lifelike. Even though I never knew what might come next in the plot, when it did happen, I always knew how the characters would react (even minor ones that we had barely seen). Jorge is an incredibly likable narrator, always trying to do the right thing and sometimes surprising himself with how much he is actually capable of. I also loved Jazmine, whose shyness belies her caring-but-not-a-pushover demeanor (as a shy person, I always love seeing a well-written one!). The story is built on many current topics that readers will recognize. Cyberbullying plays a major part in the later parts of the story, which shows just how many people cyberbullying can truly hurt. Coach Rashad also lectures her students in the athletics club before an upcoming dance about "body autonomy," or respecting other people's bodies and asking consent before touching, kissing, etc., an idea which comes into play several times later in the book. Finally, Crush still has author Svetlana Chmakova's expressive, adorable, beautiful art style, which just makes it even harder to put down! Crush is a book that any reader, in middle school or not, will love and remember for a long time!