Review: Positively Izzy; Terri Libenson

Positively Izzy: Terri Libenson
Genre: Middle grade– graphic
Published: 2018
Pages: 220
Hogwarts House: Ravenclaw

Izzy is the DREAMER. She loves acting and making up funny stories. The downside? She can’t quite focus on schoolwork.

Bri is the BRAIN. But she wants people to see there’s more to her than just straight As.

The girls’ lives converge in unexpected ways on the day of the school talent show, which turns out to be even more dramatic then either Bri and Izzy could have imagined.

Middle school graphic novels are HUGE right now. I myself have been looking for a good graphic novel, but the problem with most adult graphic novels for me, at least, is that they tend to fall into the three S’s: science fiction, social issues, and superheroes. Where is the realistic fiction or the funny stuff? I might have been inclined to write one as a fresh new take on adult lit, but I can’t draw worth anything. So forget that idea.

The kids’ department has what I’m looking for, oddly enough. Positively Izzy is the story–or two, rather–of Bri and Izzy. Izzy is super creative, as the back cover says, and Brianna is super smart. Brianna wants to do well in school, while Izzy just can’t find herself to care. The two stories intertwine, but they don’t really connect–though that is explained later through an interesting twist. I assumed that the two girls would find a way into the other’s talent show event and find a way to help the other where they needed to (i.e. Brianna sees from Izzy that it’s okay to loosen up and Izzy learns from Brianna the importance of studying), but this is not the case. I also believe this is some sort of sequel, with hints of drama or other problems that seem like they’ve been going a while in this established universe. However, readers, and myself, can get the gist of what is going on easily.

Despite the story taking place in only a day, an aspect I thought was pretty interesting, the stories resolve themselves nicely as well (obviously not completely; Izzy isn’t going to become a great student in a day). It makes for a nice little slice-of-life tale. Character development doesn’t suffer in any way from the short timeline.

The artwork adds a unique take on the school experience. Sometimes there are comic panels, sometimes there is just text and drawings. I love Libenson’s asides in the artwork; often quite funny. Is it me, or is it because I already have been though middle school that I laughed harder at the little things? Additionally, the facial expressions are great, particularly when someone is reacting to something.

The story itself also presents a more authentic middle school experience. It’s not just lumping people into “popular girls” and “jocks” and “nerds,” though labels can exist–Brianna, for example, is tired of being “The Brain.” There are mentions of popular kids, but they seem to be popular because they’re athletic or know lots of people, not because they’re mean kids who rule the school. People are unique and may have friends in other classes. Brianna is smart, but she has friends instead of being in “the nerd group.” She is, in my opinion, also portrayed as being somewhat stylish rather than completely uncaring to break the stereotype. This is all very refreshing and more accurate to middle school in my experience. And of course, there are the crushes and parent spats–things that are just as applicable to adult life as they are in middle school.

I found myself thinking fondly of my own middle school memories thanks to Positively Izzy. If you’re hesitant to try another genre or kid’s book, give a graphic novel a try. Sometimes you just need fun, right?



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