Author: Jarad Greene
Published November 2nd, 2021 by HarperAlley
Summary: A-Okay by Jarad Greene is a vulnerable and heartfelt semi-autobiographical middle grade graphic novel about acne, identity, and finding your place.
When Jay starts eighth grade with a few pimples he doesn’t think much of it at first…except to wonder if the embarrassing acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived. But when his acne goes from bad to worse, Jay’s prescribed a powerful medication that comes with some serious side effects. Regardless, he’s convinced it’ll all be worth it if clear skin is on the horizon!
Meanwhile, school isn’t going exactly as planned. All of Jay’s friends are in different classes; he has no one to sit with at lunch; his best friend, Brace, is avoiding him; and–to top it off–Jay doesn’t understand why he doesn’t share the same feelings two of his fellow classmates, a boy named Mark and a girl named Amy, have for him.
Eighth grade can be tough, but Jay has to believe everything’s going to be a-okay…right?
A compelling depiction of teenage uncertainty. –Kirkus Reviews
Supported by expressive, well-drawn, and colorful illustrations, this compelling graphic novel will appeal to fans of middle-grade graphic memoirs. –Booklist
Greene’s use of color, line, and composition in his comic-panel layouts enhances the humor and angst of this particular slice of adolescent life. -The Horn Book
Jay’s arc is distinct and refreshing, and the story’s emphasis on friendships and body image issues is likely to resonate with any reader who has wished to jump out of their skin. –Publishers Weekly
A story about kids learning to feel good about themselves on their own terms is no small thing, and Jay is a low-key, lovely protagonist. Greene’s simple, bubbly color illustrations are friendly and accessible, matching the content perfectly. An earnest exploration of adolescence, recognizable and relevant to middle schoolers coming into their own. -School Library Journal
About the Author: Jarad Greene is a cartoonist originally from Lutz, Florida, who now lives in the curious village of White River Junction, Vermont. In addition to his own comics, Jarad works on staff at the Center for Cartoon Studies and has helped color many graphic novels for younger readers. He is also the author and illustrator of the graphic novel Scullion: A Dishwasher’s Guide to Mistaken Identity. Find him online at www.jaradgreene.com.
Review: My students and I really love middle school memoir (or memoir-esque) graphic novels–I cannot keep them on the shelf, and A-Okay is going to fall right in with that group. What makes a book like this so popular is that it takes something that students need to connect with or that they need to understand and shines a spotlight on a likeable character working their way through the challenge. A-Okay fits this perfectly with Jay’s wonderful character arc as he makes his way through 8th grade figuring out his passions, true friends, and sexual identity; with the focus on Jay’s acne which many middle schoolers deal with but may never have seen in a book; and with the very realistic middle school friendship drama that happens as childhood friends begin to become their own person. This engaging storyline along with Greene’s colorful, detailed, and distinct illustrations will make this a graphic novel I know will never be on my school library’s shelf.
Teachers’ Tools for Navigation & Discussion Questions: HarperCollins created a Classroom Conversations page for A-Okay which includes a book talk and five topics with questions for group discussion:
It can also be accessed through the publisher’s A-Okay page.
Read This If You Love: Middle school memoirs like Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Guts by Raina Telgemeier, New Kid by Jerry Craft, and The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley
**Thank you to SparkPoint Studios and the publisher for providing a copy for review!**