7 Good Reasons Not to Grow Up

Writer / Artist
7 Good Reasons Not to Grow Up
7 Good Reasons Not to Grow Up review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Scholastic/Graphix - 978-0-5458-5932-5
  • Release date: 2020
  • UPC: 9780545859325
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Drama, Humour, Young Adult

Kirby Finn seems the popular high school kid, a rebel who angers the school staff and consequently earns the admiration of his peers, especially Raja, who hates being called Raj and is infatuated with Kelly, although that’s not going too well, nice though she is. Kirby doesn’t just post disruptive videos, though, he walks the talk, conceiving elaborate plans to sort out bullies and make them see the error of their ways while also empowering his friends.

Many creators of young adult graphic novels deliver an idealised version of their own youth, which is possibly also Jimmy Gownley’s method, but what separates his work is embracing the technology not available to his teenage self. 7 Reasons Not to Grow Up is peppered with faked online information pages, text messages, ap design and inventive use of other advances since Gownley was fourteen. Their presence results in a far more recognisable world for the target audience. Kirby’s reasons not to grow up are further interruptions, presented as a sort of countdown throughout, and a generally truthful look at circumstances weighing against a fair shake for most adults. What’s not addressed, though, are the drawbacks of not growing up.

Gownley’s always a gorgeously expressive cartoonist whose characters come alive on the page, and that remains the case. A broad cast are easily distinguished and designed to be sympathetic, and the settings have equal charm. The storytelling, though, is sometimes slapdash, with characters joined in the middle of events rather than at the start, Kirby and Mita pulling a TP stunt would be better shown, for instance, rather than just being mentioned as the cause for someone’s anger.

For all his good intentions, Gownley makes it clear there’s also a smug, cheesy and unlikeable side to Kirby’s vigorous pursuit of justice, and that carries an ever bigger weight. Growing up occurs in small increments, so given the title, Gownley ensures that to a greater or lesser extent several of the cast have a moment along the way, and they’re nicely delivered. However, there are also places where a scene seems forced in for narrative purposes, such as the kid staring up at a tree, although it eventually pays off nicely. 7 Good Reasons Not to Grow Up also sticks around too long. When it arrives, the reveal is interesting and worth the wait for going nowhere near what’s expected from young adult graphic novels, and in a bravura performance Gownley sustains this over the final pages. It’s ultimately an eighth reason not to grow up, because whatever people may say, they’re generally not keen on the surprises children love, and the finale is a succession of unpredictable moments.

Yes, 7 Reasons Not to Grow Up loses its way occasionally, and could do with cutting slightly, but Gownley is good enough to ensure nothing ever hits Dullsville, the cartooning is beautiful and the pay-off is brilliant.