Here’s another book I’d completely missed when it was published a couple of years ago: Written and drawn by Raina Telgemeier, Drama1 is an engaging story set in a middle school, among students taking part in a school theatre production. Though the main character is a young (straight) girl, gay characters are included and shown in a refreshing, matter-of-fact way.
Callie is a bright, energetic girl who’s fallen in love with theatre set designing a few years ago, which lead to her assuming the responsability of the designs for her school’s new play. Her budding love life is less successful, since Greg, the boy she has a crush on, is more interested in her as a confidante regarding his own matters of the heart.
But Callie soon makes new friends, with the twin brothers Justin and Jesse. Justin is as outgoing as Callie, while Jesse is the quieter, even shy one. Justin is also happily gay, with Callie reporting her fast growing affection to his brother Jesse.
Drama follows Callie, Greg, the twins and their friends throughout their school year, the production of the play and their relationships. It is done in a charming and unmelodramatic way, with gay matters being given an unexpectedly large place, as Justin is not the only gay in the village.
As you can see from the two excerpts, Telgemeier’s art style is all-ages friendly, with characters given expressive faces and body language. To my eyes, it’s more influenced by kids comics from Europe than by the American equivalent–though I’m glad to see that American kids are now offered more diversity than they used to.
Drama is set in a world where young teens are strong enough to come out to their friends, and where their friends are mostly unfazed. I don’t know how realistic that world is, and I’m not sure gay kids have it easier now than we did. But at least, they have access to fiction which does not exclude them, and that’s definitely a big progress.
Another thing I really liked with this book is that the author wants to show her young readers that yes, love and relationships are important, but so is finding something you like doing and do it well, preferably with people whose compant you enjoy. It seems to me that is a better-balanced message than what is often seen in youth fiction.
Drama is a book I would have loved to read as a teen, and I’m sure I would have had a crush on Justin. As it is, I hope it will find the way to many school libraries and kids’ bookshelves.