Book of the Month

Book of the Month – Peanut

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

3
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.5
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: %
 
Users who pulled this comic:
peanut-cover
Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe

Size: 216 pages
Price: 15.99

It’s not always about you. In fact, it’s not always about me. But the thing is, I really like comics told about every day lives, and stories about the heightened drama of high school continue to have resonance, even if I’ve been out of school for a couple of decades, and even if I’m not a girl, and even if I’d never make up a story about being allergic to peanuts. The thing I love about comics is their ability to tell any kind of story. Most often, we get one kind of story, but the key to the form’s longevity is always going to be rooted in its versatility. I thought to myself that a lot of this audience might not appreciate this book. But then I thought, so what? What if someone reading this hears about it on our site, and gets a copy for someone they know who has never read a comic. Perhaps a young woman? The acquisition of that fan is ten times more valuable than however many people are returning to try X-Men again after a long hiatus. When the people who read superhero comics in the 80s and 90s finally die off, that new fan will be the one still carrying the torch for the medium.

OK, that was a little overdramatic, but we’re talking about a high school story.

peanut_intSadie, a high school student, moves away from her old school and starts up in a new one, where she’s got to make all new friends, and experience the terrors of high school, but without even knowing the layout of the social hierarchy. Her mother is divorced. Her old friends won’t return her calls. What can a girl do to find a way to stand out? Well, this one made up a story about having a deathly allergy to peanuts.

It worked for Bill Hawerchuck!

Aside: In years, the high school experience of Freaks and Geeks is closer to mine than the current high school experience.

As her lies build and build, she starts to lose track and eventually, we know what we’re headed for. The drama comes from the fact that she’s actually built up real relationships, and when she started the deceptions, she had nothing to lose. It’s not that far out there. It’s real life. It’s not spectacular. It’s just a decision that spins out of control, and it’s utterly relatable, as constructed by writer Ayun Halliday, who, more than likely, went to high school. It tends to stick with you.

The thing that stood out for me is that I haven’t read a book like this in a while. There’s not many books like this in my life. It felt like ten years ago, we had a steady stream of “this is just life” comic books, like Jeffrey Brown or Alex Robinson’s work. It was a cliché of “indie” books. Somewhere along the line, that changed, and even indie books became high concept, and places that published slice of life stories started getting into the movie pitch business, because it was the only way they could survive. I’m sure there are others out there, but I don’t hear about them as much, probably because they never relaunch or renumber. It was a thing I loved about comics that most people don’t realize. You can do a comic book story about anything. If you can’t shoot a movie, but can draw, tell the story. If it’s works, it will resonate. There don’t have to be aliens or robots or apes or pirates or for the love of God zombies. Just tell your story. If that story is a high school girl lying about a peanut allergy, great! Let’s roll.
Paul Hoppe’s illustration does the thankless job of a strong, yet subtle cartoonist. Again, unlike the 2 page spreads so many mainstream readers (myself included) are used to being wowed by, there’s nothing like that to chew on here. The artist has to do all the hard work, and never gets a chance to show off. This is the nuts and bolts of cartooning. Use the panels to present a story of people who look like people standing around. If you happen to draw a really good banana? That’s a good day. I don’t want that to sound like I’m minimizing the art work, because I’m not. It’s not easy to do. We’ve got a book here chock full of characters who are just folks. Other than the signifier of Sadie’s red piece of clothing on every page, there are no uniforms. The characters are so well defined that I never once wondered who someone was. Hoppe did all that with a minimum of lines. One of the fun things that I didn’t see in comics like this a decade ago is the strong influence of manga hanging out in the art. There are speedlines, and close ups on eyes straight out of Japan, if you’re looking for them. The next generation of artists will have been fed American comics, and at least for a time, manga, and I suspect we’ll be seeing more and more crossover as time goes on. I don’t see how that can be a bad thing.

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So maybe this doesn’t sound like a book for you. Or maybe it is a book for you. It’s probably a book for someone you know. It’s a book for someone who doesn’t read comic books, or for your daughter or your son, or for a gift, or for someone who doesn’t know what comic books can be. It’s a book for a YA fan. It’s a book for ages 10 and up. It’s a book for someone with a peanut allergy, or someone who got caught lying in high school. It’s a book that should be in libraries, and probably is, and it’s a book that might just convince someone what comic books can do.

Josh Flanagan
The muffin, man.
josh@ifanboy.com


Comments

  1. Nice review. Sounds interesting. Not many books like this in my life either. Out of curiosity, how did you discover this?

  2. Jeff Reid Jeff Reid (@JeffRReid) says:

    This sounds similar to Raina Telgemeier’s two excellent books Smile and Drama. They’re also slice of life stories about girls in middle and high school. I was a big fan of those books, so I’m going to track down this one.

  3. JohnNevets says:

    Sounds interesting. I’m about the same age as @jaflanagan, male, and have to admit I’ve been enjoying the TV show Suburgetory. I’m sure I’m not in the designed demo. for this show, but the writing and acting is smart and good, and the story is just catchy enough. Sort of like, Batgirl was under Bryan Q. Miller (minus the whole crime fighter thing). I bring this up, since it sounds like this book could scratch a similar itch, even though, once again it wasn’t necessarily written for middle age men. I may have to give this a try after I finish Vol 1 of the giant Fear Agent, something I probably am in the demographic for.

    Thanks for bringing this up Josh.

  4. stuclach stuclach says:

    This sounds very interesting. I have a good friend with an 8 year old daughter who has a VERY severe peanut allergy. I may gift this to her when she gets a bit older (and after I’ve finished reading it).

  5. kaylynn01 says:

    I’ve had an ARC of this on my shelf for a while but this review got me to read it (finally). Really enjoyable! Sadie is written (and drawn) like a real teenage girl, which is nice to see. I would recommend this to readers (middle school and up) that enjoyed Smile and Drama. And if you liked Peanut and are looking for more high school drama, keep an eye out for Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong from First Second.

  6. Firevine Firevine says:

    I might have to check this out. Thanks for the review. I’m quite liking that panel in the lower left. Those two pages overall really tell a story of accepting defeat.

    This reminds me in a way of my wife’s aunt. The woman is batty, and projects her problems onto her kids. She’s got them convinced they’re on the verge of death constantly. Her daughter swears up and down she’s got this terrible nut allergy that could kill her so much as she sees a Snickers bar, but unknowingly ate something with peanuts in it one day, and lo and behold….hardly a reaction. Granted, she did have a reaction, and people do have these problems, but I’ve been in the mind that a lot of the hype about nut and gluten allergies over the past few years is just people trying to feel special.

    Sorry to go on a tangent there, but seeing her kids doped up for conditions they don’t even have really bothers me, and this book reminded me of it. I’m going to have to check this out. I like stuff like this anyway. It’s been a while since I read The Waiting Place or Blankets, but I still enjoy the genre and I’m game for something new.