A Review of Raina Telgemeier’s Drama by Southwest’s own Jenna Batchelor!
Ever since Callie Marin’s mom took her to see a production of Les Miserables, Callie has been in love with theater. After that fateful day she surrounded herself with the music and posters from her favorite plays and musicals and tried to learn everything about them that she could. When Callie started sixth grade she saw a flyer asking for students to join the stage crew of Eucalyptus Middle School’s drama department. It was at that point that Callie’s “new life began.” Now a seventh grader, Callie is in charge of the set design for the drama department’s production of Moon Over Mississippi. Callie’s got big plans for the musical but will she be able to pull them off?
Raina Telgemeier’s Drama follows Callie throughout the school year as she deals with drama, whether it’s on stage or off. On stage, Callie is determined to make Moon Over Mississippi a hit and dreams up some big ideas to make the sets fun and exciting. One of these ideas is to have a canon go off during an important scene but the confetti poppers aren’t working the way Callie had hoped. On top of that, Callie and the rest of the drama department are dealing with budgets, ticket sales, and with actors causing trouble that could undo all the hard work everyone has put into the production. Off stage, Callie is making new friends, having fights with old friends, and dealing with boy drama. Along the way Callie learns a little about herself and learns how to follow her heart.
One day when Callie is putting up an audition flyer for the musical she meets twin brothers Justin and Jesse and invites them to try out. The three then become friends and Callie learns that Justin loves acting since it means he gets to be the center of attention. Jesse also enjoys theater but downplays his abilities because he is unsure about how he feels about being in the spotlight. Jesse tells Callie he allows Justin to take center stage because of his uncertainty. Just like Callie, Jesse is still trying to figure out who he is and what he wants. Callie finds herself crushing on Jesse but she isn’t sure Jesse feels the same way about her. As a reader it was fun to see Callie, Justin, and Jesse share their love of theater and learn from each other. I truly cared about Callie and her friends and wanted to see how their individual dramas unfolded.
What made Drama an enjoyable read was Telgemeier’s ability to tell a great story. Part of what makes Telgemeier a great storyteller is in her use of bright and playful drawings. One of my favorite scenes is when Callie is showing Jesse her favorite book on set design. To illustrate this, Telgemeier draws Callie and Jesse hopping into the book and then into the different sets that are pictured. While in a set, Callie tells Jesse, “I want the audience to believe that the actors really live inside of the world onstage.” Having Callie and Jesse jump into a set like that made me feel that they were really living inside the world of the book.
Another way that Telgemeier made the story feel real was by using events from her own life as inspiration for things that happened in the story. In the author’s note Telgemeier says that she was in a few school productions when she was a teen, and that it was thrilling to see everyone work together to pull off the show. As a reader I felt that same thrill, and that made the story feel real and exciting. Along with that, Telgemeier showed that when things don’t go off as perfectly as planned they end up being much more interesting because of the imperfection. Overall, I really enjoyed Drama and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of comics, theater, or plain old drama!