Vol 1, Rebels without Applause: illustrated by Rian Sygh and Walter Baiamonte
In this charming graphic novel, transfer student Jory decides to join Drama Club while trying to figure out his new all-boys school, but finds out he likes being part of the stage crew a lot mode than being with the actors. There, he meets four other boys who instantly accept Jory and initiate him into the secrets of being a Backstager. It turns out, there is a magical world behind the stage that only stage hands can navigate. The Stage Managers task Light Designer Becket with teaching young Sasha how to work the light panels. Sasha accidentally breaks the magical crystal that powers the lights, and he takes it upon himself to journey into the mystical and dangerous Backstage world to find another one. When the rest of the crew discover his mission, they set out in pairs into the perilous, ever-changing world to find him.
As a person who has participated in the theater arts, both as an actor and as crew, I appreciated so many things about this story. I love that the crew is getting to be the stars of a story. It is true that a lot of the credit and glory goes to the actors because they are the visible ones. The cast and director usually show their gratitude towards the crew during rehearsals or speeches before taking the stage, but the audience rarely talks to the crew to tell them what a wonderful job they did. I also appreciate that theater is treated as a magical place with power to inspire the audience with stories told. Crew is part of making that magic happen, and the fact that they are stuarts over the magic in this book is fitting and wonderful. The magical world being completely undefinable is also really great, because there are few certainties in how to tell a story in theater, or how to harness the magic for your storytelling. Each night in a run of a show can be very different for a variety of reasons, and it makes sense that the backstage is different every time the crew visits it. I think the budding relationship between Jory and Hunter is adorable, but importantly enough, this isn't the main focus of the story, nor does anyone really make a big deal out of the fact that the boys are gay. Having these types of stories where characters like each other and nothing more is discussed goes a long way to helping readers create empathy and acceptance towards gay characters, and by extension, the people around them.
The artwork for this reminds me of Cartoon Network shows like Steven Universe, and the story's carefree and fanciful storyline is well suited to this art style.
BOOM! Studios' rating was not available. I would rate this title suitable for grades 7 and up owing only to themes that can be slightly complicated for younger readers.
Sara's Rating: 10/10
Suitability Level: Grades 7-12
Tags: Rating: 10/10, Suitability: Middle School, Suitability: High School, Comicbooks, Friendship, LGBTQ+, Magic, Theater
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