Peppi Torres is starting a new school, which is, by definition, awkward. When she drops her things all over the hallway and a boy stops to help her collect them, she is shy and embarrassed when other boys start laughing and teasing that "nerder" found a girlfriend. So she panics, and she yells something mean at the person who helped her. And afterward, she can't figure out a way to apologize, even though she should. Peppi also joins the school's art club, where drawing comics for the school paper turns out to be a lot more work than she expected. Also, the science club members are suspected of sabotaging the art club, so there's revenge to plan. Awkwardness ensues.
Brave and Crush are the second and third books in this series, respectively.
Shy people and people who frequently re-hash their social encounters by shaking their heads at themselves will relate to Peppi; it's kind of a relief to see a character who isn't taking down aliens or storming the castle - she's just trying to survive her own life without feeling stupid.
This is a story about trying new things, middle school rivalries, building confidence, forgiveness, working hard to realize a goal, and realizing that your suspicions aren't always correct. Also, there's art, science, school newspapers, and geo-caching.
There are some fun details in the illustrations, like the feared teacher drinking from a mug labeled "student tears," and hidden "Mr. Raccoons" in several panels.
It's not a complicated book, but the detailed middle school concerns make it a better fit for 5th grade readers and up.
". . . The teacher. They say she mastered kung fu at nine . . . and graduated university at age thirteen. Rumor has it she was telling NASA what to do at eighteen. I have no idea how much is true . . . but I'm ready to believe all of it."
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