Rummanah Aasi
  Graphic novels are, unfortunately, the easiest targets for challenges and banning. 'Objectionable' pictures are easy to spot and cause for alarm despite the fact that they serve an important part of the story. Due to this there is an organization called The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and its mission is to protect "the First Amendment rights of the comics art form and its community of retailers, creators, publishers, librarians, and readers. The CBLDF provides legal referrals, representation, advice, assistance, and education in furtherance of these goals." Check out their website for more information. The comic anthology called Stuck in the Middle was targeted in 2009-2010.

Description: Seventeen short comics stories are written from a variety of graphic novelists who explore their middle school experiences.

Review: Do you remember junior high? Was it a pleasant or unpleasant experience for you? Seventeen graphic novelists come together to visualize the anguish and awkwardness of that age in this honest, sometimes hilarious and other times cringe-worthy compendium of cartoon black humor. Some of the writers are well known such as Daniel Clowes, whose comics were adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie, Ghost World. Though the stories became repetitious, the comics nevertheless hit the mark in terms of emotional content, whether the subject is making friends, embarrassing parents, or suffering through a first date. Kids going through adolescence or looking back in the past will easily relate to these stories. For the most part the stories didn't show great pain or great joy, but small vignettes of life at that age exposed for what they are: small, sad and occasionally moving. Everyone gets over middle school eventually, and perhaps the strongest essay in the book was a how-to guide to making it through those difficult years. One of my complaints is not getting a wide viewpoint. Each of the story offers a story of an outcast or someone desperately trying to fit in with the in-crowd. I wondered about those who were considered popular or even the bullies. It would be nice to get a balanced perspective.
  Though all the comics are in the same in color schemes, the black, white, and gray-tone, the artwork is very unique from one story to the other. Moving from short story to short story was a bit challenging because each  cartoonist has his/her own style. Sometimes I had to figure out the panel sequence before reading the comic. Some artists draw sparse art and text, while others have a dense text and intricate artwork.
  While reading this book I can see why some parents may be uncomfortable with this book. Yes it has some language and crude humor, but it does realistically depict how children talk and think at this age. Mature middle school readers will most likely go beyond the superficial level and understand the purpose of this book which is: we all go through this awkward age and get we get through it. You are not alone. I think Stuck in the Middle would be a great place for parents and tweens/teens to discuss important issues like bullying together.

Rating: 3 stars

Why the book was challenged/banned: In 2009-2010, this graphic novel was pulled Pulled from the school library collections at two Sioux Falls, S.Dak. public middle schools. Masturbation and marijuana show
up in passing, and several of the vignettes include words most parents wouldn’t want to hear from their children. Source: ALA

Words of Caution: Due to some language, an implied image of masturbation, some crude humor, but more importantly the context of the graphic novel, I think this book would be better appreciated by teens and adult readers. 

If you like this book try: Escape from "Special" by Miss Lasko-Gross or Girl Stories by Laura R. Weinstein
4 Responses
  1. Do you think this book would be better in a high school library? I know I didn't have a sense of humor about myself until after I was out of junior high.

    Thanks for pointing out this book to me.


  2. LoriStrongin Says:

    I swear, these book banning groups have no lives. Do they honestly think their middle grade-aged sons don't have thoughts like these or know where to buy drugs? In the age of television/radio/internet, if they honestly think their kids aren't already exposed to such ideas long before middle school, then maybe THEY should be the ones to read books like this.


  3. Anne: I do. All of these stories are the cartoonists, who are all adults, looking back on their memories and in doing so, can reflect on their own actions and focus on what was/was not important. I think high schoolers may have the needed distance to laugh about what happened. It maybe a little too fresh for middle schoolers though.

    Lori: I always get irritated when books are banned/challenged because of language and/or sexuality. I've heard many stories of middle schoolers who are sexually active. These people really need to just sit in the schools hallway just for a day. It's an accurate observation of what really goes on.

  4. Jenny Says:

    It never ceases to amaze me what will cause a book (or comic) to be banned or challenged. Implied masturbation? I feel like middle school boys are already going to be aware of such an activity and the implication wouldn't drive them to do it:) Can't wait to see all the other books and reasons for their banning Rummanah!

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