MMGM and #IMWAYR: Act by Kayla Miller

What a week. I'm not going to get into everything except to say that I am of course utterly appalled and disgusted by the anti-trans legislation in Arkansas. I heard from others that there is a small nonprofit organization in Arkansas called Intransitive that supports transgender people and is advocating against these laws; consider making a donation! Unfortunately, I don't have the mental fortitude for a full super-depressed write-up on that mess—at the rate we're going in the world, I would never actually have any time to review books—but I did want to mention the situation quickly.

Also, since I've had the most unpleasant morning, I'm going to warn you all: if you have a Mac, and you are super-behind on software updates, and you are planning to install macOS Big Sur (the newest version), please, please, PLEASE check and make sure that you actually have enough storage to install it. Because my sibling's Mac laptop gave us the go-ahead to install Big Sur even though there wasn't nearly enough space, which caused the update to fail during installation (after the old operating system was already gone), which meant that there was no operating system on the computer at all (!!!), which meant that I had to go into Recovery mode and completely factory reset everything so that there was enough room to reinstall the operating system from scratch. So that's several hours of my life I can't get back. Oh, and while I'm on the topic: BACK UP YOUR COMPUTER.

With that, I'm going to go ahead and take a look at the MG graphic novel that I might possibly have been reading at 9:00 PM at night on Saturday because I had already missed a week of MMGM and still hadn't had any time to read during the week: Act by Kayla Miller.

          So here's the story: almost two years ago, I read the first two graphic novels in Kayla Miller's Click series: Click and Camp. I absolutely loved Click, and I was really excited to read Camp. But then something happened called "being super-insecure." Basically, what had happened was that I had read a certain other graphic novel and, through a combination of some unfortunate and strange writing and factors completely unrelated to the book (i.e. my own experience as a shy person and frustration with others' lack of understanding about my experience), I basically eviscerated this other book. And Camp arrived while that wound was still a little too raw, so I did have a somewhat excessive but also somewhat reasonable negative reaction to Camp as well (and particularly to its character Willow). And then I basically didn't want to catch up with this series for a long time. But here we are—I managed to get over myself a bit, and though I still find myself frustrated a bit with how Willow is portrayed, even in this book, I'm going to get a grip on myself and, while maintaining that my opinions are still valid, ultimately try to calm down and enjoy this series again. It really is a great series, y'all, and where that certain other graphic novel was worth flipping out about, these books absolutely are not, so I'm going to do better here.

          Like Click and Camp, Act's protagonist is Olive, a friendly and outgoing girl who, in Act has just started sixth grade. Olive's first year at middle school gets off to a great start, with her class going on a big field trip to the theater—but Olive notices that some of her friends are missing. It turns out that some students cannot afford the field trip fees, which Olive believes is super-unfair. So, in the words of the official synopsis, "she decides to act." Middle school means there are student council positions to be had, and Olive jumps into the fray, trying to make a difference. But that means running against her friends Trent and Sawyer, and it's up to the rest of Olive's friends to pick a side. Olive has to figure out a way to make the changes other kids need without losing her friends in the process.

          If you've read Click and Camp, it's really no surprise that Act is high-quality fun from start to finish! First of all, Act and its predecessors reminds me of Terri Libenson's Emmie and Friends books in that it has an incredibly good grasp on what elementary/middle school is actually like—and, even better, this series tends to zero in on the time right before seventh/eighth grade (which, at least for me, was when school went from fun to awful—sixth grade was still pretty neat!). As in the previous books, Olive is still very extroverted here, and it's both fun and honestly awe-inspiring to see her manage to be so nice to so many classmates all at once! I mean, she's friends with Willow, she hangs out with Willow's friend Hugh, she's friends with Trent and Sawyer, she makes friends with Ava, she buddies up with Chanda on the field trip, she is there for Beth in her time of need, she video-calls Bree when things go awry—I can barely manage to keep three text-message relationships going at once, so Olive's near-infinite capacity for actual real-life friendships is pretty impressive! I also appreciate, as always, that Olive is never portrayed as some awful popular kid—maybe that drama just doesn't exist in sixth grade yet, but she does always make an effort to be there for her friends and to listen to what they have to say.

          There are a few other excellent elements of this series that carry over from the previous books. First of all, these books are absolute fun, and that is in large part due to Kayla Miller's wonderful art style. Their art is filled with vivid colors, friendly facial expressions, and plenty of energy (honestly, there are a few panels that are a bit overstimulating, but I imagine kids will gobble them up). Unlike some other energetic graphic novels, though, Miller's art is clearly drawn and easy to interpret, with logical panel shapes and layouts, and they also use plenty of words and speech bubbles to get the story across—even without narration, you still always have a grasp on exactly what's going on. And another wonderful, if minor, thing that carries over from previous books is Olive's wonderful family—her relationship with younger brother Simon (or "Goober," as she calls him) feels very true to life (love mixed in with plenty of arguing), and I also love Olive's Aunt Molly, a librarian with pink streaks in her hair and a rebellious philosophy who always ends up giving Olive the solutions she needs. And although Molly's sister Lucy (Olive and Simon's mother) tends to be more concerned about rules, she is still a loving and likable mother!

          So that's a bunch of stuff that makes Act similar to the other books in the series—now let's talk about what makes it different. In light of everything in the world right now, Act's message about getting involved and fighting against injustice is quite timely and relevant. Olive demonstrates to young readers (and, let's be real, to older ones too, including even myself) that even kids can make a difference in the world—you just have to listen to others and try to help them. Olive comes up with inventive solutions to the problems that other kids bring to her, and she is clearly willing to put in the hard work to fix them. The problems that come up (such as the aforementioned field-trip policy and unfair school dress codes) are problems readers young and old will know are actually present in schools today! I also really liked that Olive, with her Aunt Molly's help, researched actual protest movements throughout the world, from the Civil Rights Movement to Occupy Wall Street, and drew from those to try things like petitions and quiet protesting (she called that one a "sit-in," but she did miss that the point of a sit-in is to sit somewhere you aren't allowed to be). I loved Miller's illustrations of these real-world protest movements, and there's a short but awesome selection of back matter that names each of these movements and explains them in more detail! Act will definitely inspire kids to get involved in causes that they believe in.

          I'll spend my last big paragraph discussing the elections. I know from personal experience that running to be a student council officer (or an officer of other groups) in middle/high school is filled with drama—the worrying what other people will run for, the mutual or just-plain-coercive attempts to run unopposed, the blackmail-esque accusations from faculty (or maybe that was just at my school), etc. So, in short, I totally related to Olive's struggles in wanting to make a difference and knowing you are the right person to do it, but also not wanting to totally ruin every single interpersonal relationship you have for the sake of a title. These elections really can drive a wedge through lots of relationships—as if Olive's relationship with Willow wasn't already strained by Willow's definitely-not-a-crush on Hugh, Willow wants to side with Hugh (who sides with Olive's opponents, Trent and Sawyer) which unsurprisingly makes everything tense between Olive and Willow. Plus, Olive is literally friends with Trent and Sawyer themselves, so just her choosing to run is obviously problematic for the relationship between the three of them. As things get competitive in the elections, readers will begin to wonder if Olive's goal of fixing injustice in her school will actually break her friendships. Does it? You'll have to see, but I will say that, even in spite of the conflict, there's plenty of fun to be had in this story—it never even gets close to becoming a monotonous, depressing book.

          All in all, Act absolutely succeeds as a sequel to the two delightful books before it, and it has made me very excited to read the upcoming next book in the series, Clash, as well as to read the first of two spin-off graphic novels in the series! But more than just being a worthy sequel, Act delivers a valuable message in its own right: even in spite of conflict, and drama, and people being more easily persuaded by rewards than by fixing actual issues, everyone, including middle-schoolers, has the power to make a difference and fix injustice. I hope that young readers pick up a copy of Act and change their mindset about the world, and I think even adults could stand to learn a thing or to from this delightful and insightful graphic novel.

My rating is: Really good!




My rating for the graphic novel-averse is: 3!






Comments

  1. Sorry about having to reset your computer to the factory reset. It must have been such a pain to reset your computer. Glad that Act is a great addition to this series and that you enjoyed it so much.

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    1. Luckily (for me), it was my sibling's laptop, not mine, that got reset—if I had erased everything off of mine, I would have been absolutely enraged for days on end! And yes, Act is a wonderful addition to the series! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  2. computer updates are bad enough when they work. As for antitrans legislation - I am appalled. APPALLED. at the way certain folks want to legislate other people's rights. I loved CLICK - and I usu. don't read graphic novels. I find them harder to read than regular books.

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    1. I completely agree about computer updates, and the legislation is definitely appalling. I'm really glad you enjoyed Click—there's some great sequels to enjoy now! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  3. I have not read Click- but I do love graphic novels so this sounds like a series I should check out. Glad you gave this one a chance- sometimes we just need a little time before we are ready for a book. :)

    So sorry about your computer problem! UGH! Thanks for the reminder to back up everything. Hope technology is better for you now!

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    1. I'm glad I gave Act a chance too—I just needed to wait a little while before trying it! And thanks about the computer mess—I'm glad it's over now! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  4. You hooked me with Olive's interest in social injustice and kids trying to make a difference in their schools, communities and world. I love that you feel the book will inspire kids to get involved in causes they believe in. Timely book!

    How horrible, about the anti-trans legislation!

    Glad you got your computer reset. I'm embarrassed to say that I don't know how to back-up my computer. Thanks for the advice!

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    1. I really do think this book will inspire a lot of kids—and I'm glad you're intrigued now!

      The legislation really is awful—I hope something will be done, but I'm not terribly confident anything will be, unfortunately.

      And backing up a computer is definitely more complicated than it should be—some of the stuff on mine backs up into the cloud automatically, but not all of it. You can usually buy a hard drive and set it up to make backups—it's a little complicated, but there's usually a program built into the computer to help (on Mac, it's called Time Machine—I don't know for Windows). Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  5. I haven't read Act yet, but students enjoy the other two books. Your post reminded me I need to get this one.

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    1. Although I don't recall Click as well as I'd like to, I do think Act is as good as if not better than Click (and definitely better than Camp), so it's definitely one to look forward to if you're a fan of the series or just starting it. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  6. Haven't read it either - added to my list! Thanks

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    1. Of course! I hope you get a chance to try it, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  7. Your computer disaster sounds like a nightmare. Here in Canada we watch the events in your country with nervous horror. The anti-trans legislation is appalling, but we are equally terrified by the voter suppression laws. That said, we are cheering for you and feel certain that progressive voices will win and you will end up stronger for it. Whew!
    Time for books. I have enjoyed all of Kayla Miller's books so far and am looking forward to reading Crash. It's supposed to be published this coming July.

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    1. I wish we felt as certain as you all do that good will prevail here! It feels like 2021 is going to be the year that makes us wish we were back in 2020—I'm not terribly inclined to find out what comes next.

      As for books, I am definitely looking forward to the next book as well! And I also saw that Miller is co-writing a new spin-off graphic novel with a different illustrator—that one should be fun as well! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  8. On a bright note—I'm loving the look of your website!
    I've not read any books in this series but your compelling review has me adding them to my future read list. Thanks for featuring on today's MMGM.

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    1. Thank you so much about the website—I'm really happy I took the time to redesign it, since it feels so fancy now! I'm glad this series intrigues you, and thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  9. I think I've bookmarked one of these but now will note them all, especially for a middle-grade granddaughter. Thanks for that. Plus, thanks for the support & info for trans kids. I've had 2 students in the past begin their transition in the 8th grade, then completely in early high school. It seems that people who are trying hard to take away rights in so many areas, in so many places, we have to keep working against those laws, I agree!

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    1. Of course—I hope your granddaughter enjoys this series! And it really is awful about the anti-trans laws, but I'm glad to hear there are considerate people like you in the world who have been counteracting all of the bad! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  10. This sounds very intriguing. I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but this like it really has the middle grade mindset with the elections. I also like that deals with students not being able to afford the field trips. That is such a reality for so many.
    Thanks for an intriguing review! And sorry about your computer!

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    1. Ha—thanks! And yes, this book tackles some issues that kids in particular will definitely be familiar with. If you want to get started with graphic novels, this book isn't a bad one to try! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  11. Uh-oh. My Mac has been trying to update to the new operating system with no luck because of lack of memory. I have been thinking about a new computer. Maybe it is time. The Arkansas legislation is horrific, but not unexpected. What would one expect from a state that would elect Cotton to the senate? Thanks for the heads up on intransitive. I made a contribution. I don't really like graphic novels, but you sure make a compelling case for this one. Maybe I will check it out. Thanks for the post.

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    1. It could be time for a new computer—if yours is an iMac desktop instead of a laptop, it sounds like Apple is going to announce redesigned iMacs on the 20th, so maybe hold out for those! I'm thrilled to hear you made a contribution to Intransitive—we did as well, and I hope more people will follow our lead! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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    2. Thanks for the heads up on the iMac release. I have a laptop and a desktop. May be time for new everything. Glad we got those stimulus checks!

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  12. G..r..o..a..n.. Thanks for the warning about the MacBook! Though I am a long-time Apple aficionado, I am not happy with them lately - their software "upgrades" seem to be making things more and more complex and difficult for users, and their focus has shifted too much to iPhones and away from laptop users. I am in the midst of a storage issue myself (my MacBook is basically full) and am not happy with iCloud as a solution so was planning a trip to the Genius Bar next week. So, thanks for the heads up!! I am always wary of their system upgrades now because I've had the experience before where the system automatically upgraded and then some of my (Apple) software wouldn't work with it! OK, rant over - but you hit a nerve and I appreciate the warning!

    I hadn't heard of this graphic novel series before, but it sounds great! And isn't it interesting how our own personal experiences can color our experiences of books? Glad you ended up enjoying this one and are looking forward to the next one.

    Hope you are enjoying your books this week, too!

    Sue

    Book By Book

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    1. Oh no—I'm so sorry you've been dealing with Apple struggles as well! I've had lots of trouble with Windows laptops in the past, which is why I've become an Apple person as well, but I agree that their products seem to get glitchier and glitchier every year. Good luck with your visit to the Genius Bar!

      And yes, it really is fascinating how our own lives change how we perceive books—I do wonder if it's even possible to objectively review a book in that case, but at least we can find reviewers who subjectively perceive things the same way we do! Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

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  13. I have all of the books in the series but students always were borrowing them. Thanks for the detailed review and reminder to go back and read the series!

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