Awkward and Definition TP Ariel Shrag 1st print Autobio Comix High School Chronicles


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Awkward and Definition: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag (High School Chronicles of Ariel Schrag) Paperback
by Ariel Schrag (Author)

Ariel Schrag captures the American high school experience in all its awkward, questioning glory in Awkward and Definition, the first of three amazingly honest autobiographical graphic novels about her teenage years.

During the summer following each year at Berkeley High School in California, Ariel wrote a comic book about her experiences, which she would then photocopy and sell around school. Some friends thrilled to see themselves in the comic, others not so much, but everyone was interested.

Awkward chronicles Ariel’s freshman year, and Definition, her sophomore year. With anxiety in excess and frustration to the fullest, Ariel dives in — meeting new people, going to concerts, crushing out, loving chemistry, drawing comics, and obsessing over everything from glitter-laden girls to ionic charges and the constant pursuit of the number-one score.

Totally true and achingly honest, with every cringe-inducing encounter and exhilarating first moment documented — Awkward and Definition is an unflinching look at what it’s like being a teenage girl in America.

“A scathing and meticulously documented autobiographical triumph.” — Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home

Many memoirs both inside and outside the world of comics cover the author’s high school years. Far fewer are actually written during those years. Touchstone has started reprinting Schrag’s comics chronicling her teenage years through the mid-’90s. Each of the volumes in Schrag’s series was created in the summer of the year it chronicles. This book includes Awkward, about Schrag’s freshman year, and Definition, which concerns her sophomore year. It’s hard not to notice that the books were written and drawn by a young artist. The artwork is simple and, yes, awkward, especially in Awkward, where the characters look like punk versions of the Peanuts cast. But rather than being a drawback, the artwork is actually charming. It’s clear that Schrag is pushing herself. Even at this age, she had already attained the ability to keep the storytelling smooth and fast-paced, even if the stories she’s actually telling aren’t remarkable. The typical teenage concerns of sex, drugs, drama with friends and the importance of music are all covered. The book is comfortable because it’s so easy to relate to.

Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Touchstone

This volume collects Schrag’s first two efforts, cringeworthy descriptions of her freshman and sophomore years in high school. By itself, I’m only moderately fond of this book. Schrag’s visual style is still developing (that said, it’s truly exceptional for someone her age when she drew these), and there’s just too much about high school years that begs to be forgotten.

As the opening to her three-volume set (which includes Potential and Likewise), this takes on lots additional value. Together, these show Schrag’s growth over those four chaotic years. In this book, Schrag and her peers often appear as small, wide-eyed beings, almost like fawns in a forest full of carnivores. These books trace Schrag’s growth from late childhood to early adulthood, with all the wonder and weirdness that entails. Among other things, Schrag’s sexuality begins to emerge, bringing confusion of its own.

Coming of age stories swarm the bookshelves. This one earns its place, not just for its charming visual style, but also for the authenicity and surprising candor of the story told as it unfolds around her. I recommend this one highly.

Near mint, 1st print.