Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Drama is aptly named. Perhaps, most obviously because the bulk of the book centers around a drama production and almost certainly because the love lives of tweens involved are filled with drama. But the real drama is that this book has somehow found its way onto the ALA’s Frequently Challenged Books List. Because of being sexually explicit.
So before we get to my actual personal feelings on the book, let’s discuss this “sexually explicit” content. Because that is nothing if not misleading. The most graphic sexuality in this book is a kiss. So what has people so hot and bothered? I am trying to work it out personally. Is it that you can see the kiss in the illustrations? That your eyes actually come in contact with pictures of people kissing? Because I’m pretty sure that is not a new thing to the art world and would clear a “G” rating if this were the movies (Cinderella? Disney? 1950? Ring any bells?) Probably that’s not the issue at hand. More likely the concern stems more from the fact that one of the illustrations shows two people of the same gender kissing. Would you like to know the exact context of this kiss? It occurs during a dramatic production, when one boy is dressed as a girl, playing a girl’s part. Nothing new, this has been occurring since the 1500s, so you know for around 500 years. I shouldn’t split hairs here, since the people doing all of this objecting and challenging certainly aren’t. But as far as homosexual activity in a book goes, this is tame. As far as sexual explicit activity in a book goes? THIS DOESN’T EVEN REGISTER!
Basically, if you have a problem with homosexuality, you’re probably going to have a problem with this book. Not because of the aforementioned kiss alone, which honestly shouldn’t even count because it wasn’t done in the context of people who have feelings for each other expressing them physically, but rather because there are homosexual characters in this book. Otherwise, you haven’t a thing to worry about.
My personal take on Drama was that the level of teenage crush-fueled angst was a bit high for my current tastes. But that I can sheepishly admit that yes, my life as a teen and tween involved myself and my friends similarly falling for inappropriate guys based on little or no knowledge of them apart from “cute” or “nice” or “likes me”. And most certainly back in those days crushes could be fleeting and our tastes fickle. Where Telgemaier wins the day though is in her ending. Rather than wrap Drama up with a happily ever after that stems from requited love, her happily ever after involves people figuring out who they really are and being recognized for their personal strengths. And that my friends is something to cheer about.
Age Recommendation: Grades 5+. I would say fourth graders who are on the verge of puberty and noticing others in a “crush” sort of way would enjoy this as well, but if they still react to kisses with a “blech” (even when no one is watching) it might be best held off. I would have no issues with a fifth grader reading this and the interest would likely continue up through high school.
Sex, Nudity, Dating –A couple breaks up. A boy and a girl kiss. Not all kisses take place in the context of relationships. There’s a lot of mixed signals, unrequited feelings etc. People definitely have crushes. A girl and a boy stand in “slow dance” position, with her arms around his neck and his hands at her waist. There’s a lot of speculation about whether something counts as a date or whether people will be asked to the formal. Two boys kiss as part of a stage production where one is playing the female lead.
Profanity – “darn”,
Death, Violence and Gore – None.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.