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YA Review: Class Act by Jerry Craft

Title: Class Act

AuthorJerry Craft

Year Published: 2020

Category: YA fiction (graphic novel)
Pages: 256
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2020 Google Reading map)USA

FTC Disclosure: I paid for this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying “You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.” His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted?

To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it's hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn't know how to keep the group together.

As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?
Review: I thought Jerry Craft's first graphic novel, New Kidd, was excellent (and, obviously, others did, too, since it won the Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Author Award, and Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature). Well, Class Act is equally as good!

I love the realistic illustrations in this graphic novel, but also like how he sometimes sneaks in exaggerated graphics to make a point. As a book that is about multi-ethnic characters, the colors are effective, showing all shades of skin tones. And skin tone matters in this story as characters ponder how they are treated and feel about themselves based on how dark or how light they are. Craft doesn't hold back as his characters say it all out loud, whether to themselves or to others. It's great that it's all out there.

I feel for all of the characters in the story from the teachers who are trying to be "woke" (but aren't), to the administration or may not even know how wrong they are getting it, and to the students who have money and those who do not. I especially love the moment when one quiet awkward character helps another because she is so comfortable with who she is.

The most fun thing about this book is that Craft has "hidden" other authors and their work throughout the story. They appear as characters and each chapter title page is based on the work of other authors (with their permission, of course). It's a tribute to children's/middle grade literature.

Challenges for which this counts: 

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