I'm back again! Today, I am recommending the graphic novel Just Jaime by Terri Libenson (the sequel to Invisible Emmie, which I reviewed almost a year ago, and Positively Izzy, which I reviewed two weeks ago).
Just Jaime, like all of the books in the "Emmie & Friends" series, switches between the viewpoints of two characters: Jaime (whose story is told in prose with frequent illustrations) and Maya (whose story is told in comic-book-style panels). Jaime and Maya are best friends, and they and another girl, Grace, are part of a friend group "led" by a girl named Celia. Celia is one of the most popular kids in school, and she leads her friends in making rude comments about other students behind their backs. (These students include characters from previous books in the series, such as Emmie and Brianna, making for an interesting tie-in to the previous books.) Eventually, Celia, Grace, and even Maya begin to turn on Jaime, who they feel still acts too childish; they judge her for not yet liking boys, wearing certain kinds of outfits, etc. When something happens that severely endangers Jaime's position in the group and friendship with Maya, both Jaime and Maya are faced with tough decisions about the people they care about and the ways they want to feel and be perceived.
I love Just Jaime for so many reasons! One is that it tackles an exceedingly difficult subject matter with plenty of thought and insight. Many of us struggle to figure out how children and teenagers can be so cruel to each other, whether peers or even friends. Just Jaime gives us a look inside the minds of the children who do awful things to each other, and it shows us why they might do those things (especially as part of groups) and why they might struggle to leave those groups (even when it seems to us like the obvious solution). Readers will empathize with the characters of the story, even as they are appalled/horrified by their actions. Just Jaime also discusses the idea of forgiveness: should we forgive others for their wrongs and risk them hurting us again, or should we shut people out after they make mistakes, even though we might want them to forgive us if we made a mistake? How should we decide between these options? In the wrong hands, a book similar to Just Jaime could have been filled with incorrect assumptions and lacked empathy. Luckily, in author Terri Libenson's hands, Just Jaime is one of the most thought-provoking and fascinating books I've ever read.
One thing I also love about Just Jaime is how it uses humor to stay lighthearted. Like in Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy, many of the illustrations feature captions filled with gags. As an example, in one illustration, captions label all of the items a character is bringing to the pool, such as "towel" and "sunscreen," and one caption says "courage (not shown)". There are also some visual gags; for instance, there is a running gag (continued from Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy) of a girl running frantically to the bathroom after eating some stomach-upsetting food. These jokes keep the book fun, even with such unpleasant subject matter. Yet another continuation from the previous two books in the series is the tradition of a twist at the end of the book. It's not as earth-shattering as the ones in the previous two books, but it is still exciting and ties up a minor plot line quite nicely. All in all, Just Jaime is a fantastic read that deals with a timely and important subject in an enjoyable, even fun way!
(P.S. I mentioned in my review of Positively Izzy that the books in the "Emmie & Friends" series could be read in any order. I do NOT recommend reading Just Jaime until after Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy, however, as it features spoilers of the main plot lines of those two books. Positively Izzy CAN still be read before Invisible Emmie if so desired, however.)
(P.P.S. This past Thursday was the third anniversary of Completely Full Bookshelf! I am so grateful to all of you, my readers, for commenting on my posts, for entering in my giveaways, and for giving me a reason to recommend books! I also want to thank the authors of the books I have reviewed for providing wisdom, insight, and fun to children and teenagers. I'm excited for this next year!)