Happy Sunday, friends!
Summer's right around the corner, so now seems like the perfect time to start recommending some summer-centric books!
Today, we're reviewing BE PREPARED by Vera Brosgol. It's a thoughtful, funny and heartbreaking look at a girl's first visit to summer camp, and the struggles she undergoes to fit in.
Expected publication: April 24th 2018 by First Second
Format read: Finished cop via publisher
All Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there's one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.
Vera is sure she's found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the "cool girl" drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!
Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Cece Bell, and Victoria Jamieson, Vera Brosgol's Be Prepared is a funny and relatable middle-grade graphic novel about navigating your own culture, struggling to belong, and the value of true friendship.
While fictional Vera's struggles are definitely predicated around Vera's real-life experiences, she manages to write about them in a way that feels universal and will connect to many, particularly readers from immigrant backgrounds. I also struggled with wanting the perfect birthday party and feeling like a general fish out of water, so the initial pages detailing fictional Vera's daily challenges of trying to fit in and be cool, struck me hard - but in a good way.
As fictional Vera arrives at camp and realizes it's not a fix to her problems, Vera relays that understanding in a sincere way. We see fictional Vera inadvertently try and build commodity-based relationships, and the gentle rebuke fictional Vera receives from a counselor, is one I think almost everyone needs to hear. Author Vera so clearly understands that awkwardness of trying to figure out how to make friends and socialize - something I'm still not entirely sure I've mastered in my old age - and I suspect many readers will relate to that trial and error feeling.
Where BE PREPARED truly stands out though, is that author Vera makes it clear fictional Vera's journey is a hard one. Fictional Vera doesn't really end up enjoying camp, though she has some unique experiences she treasures. She willingly toughs it out and does well on the camp's key obstacles/requirements, but she also doesn't want to go back. It's that understanding that fictional Vera tried, and decided it's not really for her, which will likely be appreciated by many a reader who will realize, it's okay not to like things. They will find things they enjoy more. And that's okay - especially if you learn from the experience along the way!
All in all, with fantastic drawings and a solid storyline, BE PREPARED should go on your summer reading list immediately. Highly recommend.