Thank you to Scholastic Canada for the Advanced Reading Copy. Guts by Raina Telgemeier will be published on September 10, 2019. This review contains spoilers, and is written from the perspective of a children’s librarian.
It’s been 5 years since Sisters, the sequel to Smile, was published. From my experience working in libraries, interest in the series has only increased over time. When I visit grades 4 – 6 and ask if anyone has read the Smile series, almost every hand goes up – boys included! For that reason alone, the 3rd book in the series is a must purchase for public and school libraries.
Beyond that, Guts is phenomenal. The best book in the series thus far. The pacing, dialogue, humor, and subject matter show that Raina Telgemeier is truly a master graphic novelist at the top of her game.
As with Smile and Sisters, Guts is based on elements of Raina’s middle grade life. Where Smile is about Raina’s insecurities about her braces, and Sisters is about her difficult relationship with her sister, Guts is about her anxiety. At first Raina develops a phobia of throwing up. She experiences a panic attack at the thought of getting sick. While the feeling is difficult to explain in words, Raina does an apt job communicating the feeling through images of the character falling through the bathroom floor while struggling to stay above. Her anxieties expand to include social situations and eating. Eventually her parents have her see a therapist. I found the therapy scenes to be especially well done and realistic. Raina is anxious about therapy, but her therapist is patient and understanding, often encouraging her to just “try,” even when the words don’t come easily. In the end Raina receives a diagnosis related to her upset stomach, and learns coping mechanisms for her anxiety.
The book also depicts a tense friendship between Raina and another girl in her class. Both girls feel that the other is unfairly unkind to them, but are able to open up and realize that they aren’t so different after all.
Readers of all ages will take away real mindfulness practices such as grounding and deep breathing. The book will help destigmatize mental health issues and going to therapy. I appreciate Raina telling her story with such honesty and using her platform to help children understand how to get help.
This book is easily readable in one sitting, and I can imagine many children will do just that.