This graphic-novel featuring a middle-school theater production and its cast and crew is a fun and quick read: its characters are in seventh and eighth grades, and it’s written for a middle school/junior high audience. Callie, the pleasingly-purple-haired protagonist, is the set designer for her school’s spring musical: she’s loved musicals since she was little, but she can’t sing, so has found her way to the stage crew. Her best friend, Liz, is the costume designer, but Callie is sometimes a little distracted from friendship by boy drama: she’s initially smitten with Greg, but hm, twins Justin and Jesse are awfully cute, and meanwhile, why is Greg’s younger brother Matt being such a jerk to Callie lately? Callie sometimes is gossipy without meaning to be, but can be trusted with secrets that matter: when one of the aforementioned boys comes out to her as gay, she assures him she won’t spread the news around. Meanwhile, Callie’s not the only one with romantic drama: the play’s leading lady keeps getting broken up with, and other characters are slow to figure out who they are or aren’t interested in. More interesting, to me, were the logistical challenges of putting on a play: costumes and sets and possibly-malfunctioning props, and is anyone coming to see this thing, anyway?

I like Telgemeier’s art, which is a little manga-style (in the characters’ exaggerated facial expressions, with bulging eyes and wide-open mouths at moments of emotion or humor), satisfyingly crisp, and beautifully colored. The wordless “Overture” and “Intermission” sections are fun and attractive, and overall the balance of text and pictures felt right on to me. The book is mostly straightforward panels featuring dialogue via speech bubble, but I especially liked some of the more playful bits, including one section where Callie and Jesse are portrayed inside the pages of a book they’re flipping through, and one panel where Callie frustratedly increases the volume on a movie she and Liz are watching to drown out her little brother’s distracting (and nonstop) conversation.

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