Stuck in the Middle
Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age, edited by Ariel Schrag, is a collection of short pieces by noted cartoonists about the horror that is junior high. Daniel Clowes' painstakingly detailed and vaguely creepy tale of a teenage boy stuck at his grandparents' cottage for the summer is one of the highlights; the characters' blank facial expressions and the story's lack of resolution make it an unsettling, not-exactly-kid-friendly piece of work. At the other end of the spectrum is the almost primitively drawn, woodcut-style piece by Cole Johnson it looks a bit like work by Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) but with more white space. Johnson focuses on the struggles of being the new girl in school and the immense relief of finally making a friend. What the stories all have in common is showing how mean kids can be to each other and how difficult it is to find a trustworthy ally.