Awkward and Definition: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag

Ariel Schrag

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status Copy #1 (574): in
genre Biography
publisher Touchstone
publish date April 1, 2008
popularity checked out 6 time(s)


  • By Jasmine (Jammys) Chang -

    In the first two installments of Ariel Schrag’s comic trilogy, “Awkward” and “Definition”, Ariel chronicles her freshman and sophomore years of high school. Created the summer after the fact, Ariel depicts her life and the people in it with fascinating honesty and detail, so that the reader lives each year along with her. In other words, if you’ve never been a high school girl, then reading this book is the opportunity for you to have that experience. However, if you’re in high school now, this book likely will be super relevant and familiar.
    To start off, let me just say that as a dykey teen, it’s super relieving and validating to find literature (or any type of media really) written by other dykey teens about their experiences. I can’t say this happens too often; most of the “LGBT” crap you find in the teen sections of bookstores and libraries is overdone, sappy novels written by adults. They’ll reiterate the standard coming out story, mix in some unrealistically convenient love interest, and perhaps touch upon issues like coming to terms with one’s sexuality, family rejection, and homophobic bullies. However, everything miraculously falls perfectly into place in the end; the homophobic mom comes around, the bullies disappear, the boyfriend agrees to stop hiding and proudly walk down the halls holding hands and the protagonist soars across a magnificent gay rainbow on the back of a unicorn. After all, once you’ve successfully jumped over the hurdles of finding self-acceptance and coming out to your loved ones, “It Gets Better™”, right?
    Thing is, this is just not realistic, nor is it too fun for queer youth to read over and over again. We know the story, but we can’t really relate to it. The characters are too shallow and the plot overall just isn’t thought out well. On the other hand, “Awkward” and “Definition” depict a reality we can connect with. Not that my life is identical to Ariel Schrag’s, but her stories hit home with me. The friendships, inside jokes, confusion, teen melodrama, etc. are so familiar, it’s almost creepy. There’s something really extraordinary about reading a book that seems like it was meant for you since you can relate so much.
    I knew before diving into the book that at some point Ariel was going to start “experimenting” with sexuality; however, it takes her quite a while. You get a few hints that she’s heading queerwards (such as her obsession with L7), but if you’re looking for instant gratifigaytion, the pace might be kinda frustrating. Again, this sets “Awkward” and “Definition” apart from other queer books. Ariel’s comics aren’t solely about gayness; they actually have a substantial plot. For some queer lit readers, this is a big relief: books with queer characters that aren’t completely centered on how gay they are? Who would’ve thought?
    “Awkward” and “Definition” definitely have a 90’s feel, especially emphasized by references to Marilyn Manson, No Doubt and Nine Inch Nails. I’m not a 90’s kid, but Ariel Schrag obviously is and I know there’s a plethora of you out there who will love the 90’s pop culture that’s infused into the comics. Similarly, if you enjoyed My So-Called Life, Ariel’s series certainly has a similar vibe to it.
    So whether you’re nostalgic for the glory days of high school hell or you’re living in it right now, Ariel Schrag’s high school chronicles are candy reads you’ll probably finish in one sitting. I honestly can’t wait to read her 3rd installment, “Potential”; I need something to distract me from my textbooks.

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