Review by Karl Verhoven
The emoji-style cover to Guts is one of a series differentiating Raina Telgemeier’s autobiographical material from her general young adult stories. After Smile considering dental treatment and the self-explanatory Sisters comes this exploration of fear.
After a family bout of sickness the young Raina becomes increasingly concerned about vomiting, a worry that spreads until she begins to consider many aspects of life in terms of whether exposing herself to them could induce the slightest chance of vomiting. “But vomiting is just a normal thing people do sometimes”, explains her mother to no avail. The more the young Raina feels frightened about vomiting, the more frequently she experiences stomach pains.
The best example is a personal example, and it’s admirable that Telgemeier has an honesty and a lack of fear about exposing what others might consider embarrassing aspects of their childhood. Among her massive audience of young adult readers will be some experiencing fears they can’t quite explain, whether connected to vomiting or otherwise, and Telgemeier sympathetically lays out that fears are perfectly natural. It’s valuable because Guts is going to reach a whole lot of kids with anxieties where therapy won’t ever be a consideration.
As the sample art shows, while Telgemeier’s cartooning remains accessibly and appealingly simple, there’s also occasionally space for something more sophisticated. It’s appropriate for the story in which she notes her first steps into drawing comics. Colour is also used to reflect feeling, with shades of green representing concerns.
What gives Guts its feeling of reality is illness not being the sole focus. Life goes on for others around the young Raina’s worries, and there are changes for her beyond the anxiety. Of perhaps lesser comfort is the author’s note after the story saying the problems have continued, although she now has more in the way of coping mechanisms.
Any Telgemeier book is a treat for young adult readers, and Guts has the additional benefit of being a repository of good advice and common sense.