Awkward, by Svetlana Chmakova
This is a book that practically writes itself. When I first started reading the book, I wondered if the author was trying to make one of those comments that shows art as being hostile to science, given the envy that was shown about the lack of resources given to the art club and the massive amount of prestige that the science club had. This is, of course, the exact opposite message than the one the author was trying to convey and that was eventually conveyed, but it took a while before the point of the book was clear. The reason for this was because of the imbalance between the two characters. We get a great deal of knowledge in this book about what is going on inside the head of the adorkable Penelope (Peppi) Torres, an artistic and creative young woman just starting out as a new school and trying to lay low and avoid the bullies, but we know far less about what is going on inside the head of the dorky Jaime Thompson, who she runs into and who immediately becomes teased as her boyfriend, which is where the book eventually finds itself pushing towards, in a way, as the two form a consequential alliance between art and science as a means of defusing the toxic rivalry that existed between the two.
This book is a graphic novel that focuses on the experiences of an artsy girl who finds herself in a new school. Although Peppi is more than a bit shy, she is an intelligent and hardworking girl who finds herself an accepted part of the art club, a somewhat misfit club that struggles to find a place in school because its members are disorganized and focused more on serving their own artistic muse rather than serving the school as a whole, although there are many ways that art can serve institutions. Through her native kindness and awkwardness, she is able to build eventually a friendship with the science teacher and one of the kids in the science club, even though the science club and art club have an acrimonious relationship between the two, especially among the students. The field trips and efforts at building good will and proving themselves to be of service cannot overcome the conflicts between the two groups, at first, but eventually they come together thanks to the work of Peppi and Jamie. In addition to the budding romance and friendship between those two there is a friendship between Peppi and one of her fellow art club members whose parents have a disastrously bad relationship, and there is also a struggle with some bullies who attempt to throw their weight around campus.
What this book considers as awkwardness is really the sort of interactions that people have when they have a rich interior life and a low amount of confidence in their social skills. There is nothing particularly unusual in the fact that its two main characters are social misfits, though both more from being shy than from being hostile to others. Although the book’s point that artists and scientists need to work together for the common benefit of the world as a whole and turn their passions and interests into service of the wellbeing of the larger world as a whole is not very subtle, it is still worthwhile that the author details the larger world and its divisions that threaten to pit people of one interest from those of the other. As someone whose own life and interests bridges the gap between the arts and the sciences, I appreciate the larger harmony that can exist between the two even if it seldom does in this day and age. And (spoilerish alert), eventually this book demonstrates the harmony that can exist even in our time between art and science when both focus on serve rather than the self, even if that seems a rare thing these days.