Where was Raina Telegmeier when I was a kid?!
Raina Telegmeier is a queen. Her idea to take snippets of her adolescent life and turn them into graphic novels was genius, and moreover, she’s an exceptional artist and author. The thing that really gets me with her work is that she writes so strongly in the voice of a child, emphasizing the things that are scary to them. In Guts, Raina is suffering from stomach illness, and thus begins having anxiety attacks connected to her fear of throwing up. Her fear of throwing up/being sick affects her ability to concentrate at school and causes her even more anxiety, and it goes around and around in a circle causing her loads of distress. Telegmeier’s art reflects how she feels inside and her pain every time she gets a stomach ache or fear of vomiting is portrayed with green circles and her falling to the floor. Eventually her parents take her to a therapist, which she feels ashamed by, to try and figure out why she’s feeling so terrible. Although she’s scared to tell any of her friends about therapy, she does tell Lauren, her therapist about school and her home life and things that finally leads Lauren to ask if she’s being bullied. She realizes that her anxiety is causing stress, which is causing her to feel sick, and she teaches Raina some coping mechanisms that will hopefully help her center herself in times of stress. Raina eventually helps the rest of her class by teaching them these breathing exercises and gaining more self confidence. Raina also finally gets a diagnosis of IBS, and her doctor tells her that being under stress can cause her IBS to flare up, thus making her feel sick.
The approach to doctors and therapy is very positive, which is great for kids to see. At the end, Raina finally tells her friends about therapy and none of them have an issue with it, which is a great way to normalize it for younger kids. Another girl in the book is also suffering with some stomach/intestine issues, so I like that there’s multiple kids struggling with different forms of (relatively) the same thing within one book. The content plus the awesome art makes this story far deeper than a simple comic book, and Raina Telegmeier obviously knows what she’s doing and how to explain big life topics on a kid or young adult level.
Author: Raina Telgemeier
Three Descriptors: Coming of Age, Angsty, Cartoony
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