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Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age Paperback – May 17, 2007

2.3 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* How bad was it in junior high? Comics artists visualize the anguish in this honest, acutely perceptive compendium of cartoon black humor. Editor Schrag, who relived her high-school years in several books, including Potential (2000), adds herself to an impressive roundup of artists, including Aaron Reiner (Spiral-Bound, 2004), Lauren Weinstein (Girl Stories, 2005), and Daniel Clowes, whose comics were adapted into an Oscar-nominated movie, Ghost World . Occasionally repetitious, the comics nevertheless hit the mark in terms of emotional content, whether the subject is making friends, embarrassing parents, or suffering through a first date. Wildly disparate in style, the black, white, and gray-tone artwork ranges from Eric Enright's minimalist contribution, with figures that look like toddler toys, and Jace Smith's freewheeling, bug-eyed monster-kid comic to Joe Matt's stark, crisply drawn contribution. Kids going through adolescence will relate; so will those who have come out on the other side. Stephanie Zvirin
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

"How bad was it in junior high? Comic artists visualize the anguish in this honest, acutely perceptive compendium….Kids going through adolescence will relate."
—Booklist, starred review

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile (May 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670062219
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670062218
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.7 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,591,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ayun Halliday on September 29, 2007
Format: Paperback
...but only in opposition and it sure felt like hell going through it.

I bought this book to leaven the whole experience of my daughter applying to public middle schools here in Brooklyn. (The process is a little different in NYC - lots of choices, lots of stress about where you'll be accepted, and where your friends will wind up.)

I didn't buy it for my daughter.

I bought it for me. Interesting that the recommended reader age here is 9 to 12. I'd say more like 25 to 48. You need a little distance on the experience to recognize the full scope and the universality of the humiliations and terror depicted herein.

(As to the reviewer who disparaged the lack of diversity, I would both agree, and contend that this is true of almost every anthology published in our country!. Rather than harshing out on a young editor who made it possible for a lot of little-known just-starting-outers to get published, let's hope for wider nets in the future, and a high level of quality from all fortunate enough to be represented. One way to cast those nets and catch those fish is to publish more anthologies such as this, thus inspiring more outcasts to become graphic memoirists! Viva La Revolution!)

At any rate, now I have this book, like Vinnie the Tampon King's Giant Roller Coaster Period Chart & Journal Sticker Book, on the shelf, ready to whip out when the girl needs a boost. But for now, it's mine, all mine. I lived through it. I've earned it.

Lay it on your favorite adult art freak and wait for the nods of recognition. Or maybe you know a former mean cheerleader who's making ammends as part of some 12-step program. This volume will remind her in no uncertain terms to whom those ammends should be made. Or subvert the system by donating it directly to a middle school library. Just sneak it on the shelves when the librarian isn't looking. Art saves lives.
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Format: Paperback
At the moment, I'm surprised to find that the two existing reader reviews for this book are quite unflattering. To be sure, one drawback of an anthology containing the work of this many comic artists is that the final result will probably be uneven. And so it is here. But I find it quite unfathomable that one critic faults the book for, essentially, being too "white." Gee, diversity is important, but do anthologies all need to be compiled by the United Nations in order to be worthwhile?

This volume's intent here is to show the dark and often funny side of the middle school. (Its subtitle is, after all, "Comics from an UNPLEASANT Age.") And on those terms, it succeeds, sometimes wincingly well. The highlights include the work of the brilliant Daniel Clowes (of Ghost World fame) and the simple, effective lines of Cole Johnson. Editor Ariel Schrag also contributes two pieces that made me squirm with her convincing depiction of the superficiality and overwhelming self-consciousness that makes the `tween years sometimes so horrible.

And she draws good, too.
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Format: Paperback
I found this in the library before my kids were of age. Great stuff. Real life and fictitious stories by great comics talent. Dad read it (the library copy had a few profanities scratched out) and soon enough bought a copy for the kids. It provokes discussion and thought. Probably one of the reasons for these absurd one-star reviews and the popularity of Jeff Kinney's corporate powerhouse.

Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
nice collection of short comics about my favorite group of people: middle schoolers. most of them show the painful side of early adolescence.
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Format: Paperback
Stuck in the Middle edited by Ariel Schrag is a collection of seventeen comics about life in middle school. I've read good things about Schrag so I was looking forward to this trade paperback. But as with many collections with a variety of authors, this book was hit and miss, with lots of misses. Good writing should reveal a greater truth, and the sheer banality of the stories in this book revealed only that much of our experiences are the same and they are boring. There were a few stand out stories, and for the most part the artwork was terrific and very indicative of mood. The stories for the most part didn't show great pain or great joy, just small vignettes of life exposed for what they are: small, sad and occasionally moving. Everyone gets over middle school eventually, and perhaps the strongest essay in the book was a how-to guide to making it through those difficult years. The books exposes this age group's ability to be cruel and kind, often with no rationalization to either. It was an ok read, but I don't feel like I learned anything from reading it, nor would I recommend it to someone else.
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I wanted something fun to read and this was perfect! It is like going back to middle school, just for a visit, so it's ok. The book came quickly and in great condition! Thank you!
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Format: Paperback
Ariel Schrag (ed.), Stuck in the Middle: Seventeen Comics from an Unpleasant Age (Viking, 2007)

Stuck in the Middle found its way onto my radar in the same way so many books aimed at the high-school crowd do: it was the victim of a successful challenge in a school district (this one in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; students are no longer allowed to check the book out of two middle schools, but the ALA's brief on it says the libraries still hold the book, and teachers can check it out). And I'll admit, I'm looking at this not only from the perspective of someone who hasn't been in middle school for a long, long time (I graduated from high school in 1986), but from the perspective of someone who believes people over puberty and under the age of twenty-one are the last class of people it is socially acceptable to repress in America, so I may be seeing what I want to see. But I was having a problem while digging through this finding anything that would be objectionable to anyone but the straightest-laced tight[wad]s. I have this mental image of tea-drinking old ladies with three dozen cats each in the basement of a South Dakota saloon forming a censorship cabal, and let me tell you, it's terrifying. Especially because they all brought all their cats. It's like a cat swap meet and censorship committee meeting, and what could be scarier than that?

As for the book itself, let me throw some names at you: Daniel Clowes, Joe Matt, both Schrag sisters. And twelve more. I won't say it's a guarantee of quality, but it's pretty close. There's a lot of good stuff here, and if you were one of your school's outcasts, a lot of this will probably cut uncomfortably close to the bone. Even if you weren't, I figure there are at least one or two pieces in here that will resonate with you.
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