Monday, July 8, 2019

Review - Operatic

by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Byron Eggenschwiler
Date: 2019
Publisher: Groundwood Books
Reading level: MG
Book type: graphic novel
Pages: 160
Format: e-book
Source: library

Somewhere in the universe, there is the perfect tune for you.

It’s almost the end of middle school, and Charlie has to find her perfect song for a music class assignment. The class learns about a different style of music each day, from hip-hop to metal to disco, but it’s hard for Charlie to concentrate when she can’t stop noticing her classmate Emile, or wondering about Luka, who hasn’t been to school in weeks. On top of everything, she has been talked into participating in an end-of-year performance with her best friends.

Then, the class learns about opera, and Charlie discovers the music of Maria Callas. The more she learns about Maria’s life, the more Charlie admires her passion for singing and her ability to express herself fully through her music. Can Charlie follow the example of the ultimate diva, Maria Callas, when it comes to her own life?

This evocatively illustrated graphic novel brilliantly captures the high drama of middle school by focusing on the desire of its finely drawn characters to sing and be heard.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I don't know what to make of this one. I almost feel like I was dropped into a blender with a couple of different books, and I only caught glimpses of pages as they whizzed by. As a graphic novel, this lacks focus. The narrative jumps around too much. And, unless I missed it, we don't even get to find out what song Charlie picks for her project (which was supposedly the whole point of the assignment).

This book tries to cover the life of Maria Callas, friendship, bullying, sexuality, nostalgia, music, growing up, beekeeping... well, you get the idea. It's a lot to try to smoosh into 160 pages. There are some threads of story that I think could've worked better had they been developed more (such as Charlie's relationships with her friends), and ones that took up too much space (the biography of Maria Callas that's basically sneaked in like broccoli in a kid's macaroni and cheese).

Those who are passionate about music might get more out of this one, but even so, I think it lacks enough focus to make it a truly engaging read. (Older readers will likely be able to relate to the music teacher and his love for 1980s music, but I'm afraid younger readers might feel even less enthused by the "old" music.)

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustration: 2/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.38 out of 5 ladybugs

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