GRAPHIC NOVELS

Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel

Disney-Hyperion. Jan. 2021. 144p. adapted by adapt. by David Levithan. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781368057868; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781368061162.
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Gr 9 Up–In this graphic adaptation of the 2004 YA novel (which spawned a cult musical), Jeremy, an unpopular teen with a crush on Christine, a castmate in his school play, decides to get a SQUIP, a brain implant that will help him “be more chill.” SQUIP makes all of his decisions and directs his social interactions, ordering him to dump his uncool best friend Michael, teaching him how to attract teen girls through manipulation, and using lies to attempt to sway Jeremy (when Michael calls Jeremy a dick, the SQUIP tells Jeremy that the word means “liked and powerful”). Jeremy sees another SQUIP-enhanced teen lose his mind, but it’s not until a SQUIP-directed grand gesture designed to charm Christine backfires that he decides it’s time to make his own decisions. The concept of this work may have seemed advanced in 2004 but feels dated now, despite references to dependence on Siri and Google and a desire to have them implanted. The story isn’t futuristic enough to engage today’s teens, and the 2004 pop culture references may not connect. The book relies on well-worn high school tropes, where popularity comes from treating so-called uncool people like garbage and blowing off old friends until one is popular enough to allow them into one’s new circle, which may not resonate with contemporary teens. The art supports the story well, with grayscale illustrations that use shades of blue to highlight elements of the dialogue and different parts of each panel. Most characters are white apart from Michael, who is dark-skinned with black curly hair.
VERDICT An additional purchase for large libraries.

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