This short review first ran a while back in Bitch magazine.
Sixth through eight grade is a time of self-pity and self-loathing. Unsurprisingly, most of the comics in this anthology about middle-school indulge in the first (Eric Enright’s “Anxiety”); the second (Joe Matt, Dan Clowes) or else in a kind of cheerful aw-shucks-aren’t-we-all-glad-that’s-over cutesiness (Ariel Bordeaux, Jace Smith.) Not that there aren’t pleasures in all of these approaches — Robyn Chapman’s “Never Go Home, for example, contrasts a sparsely drawn style with heaping dollops of bitter and sweet to create a lovely melodramatic catharisis.. Still, the stories that really stand out take a different tack. Gabrielle Bell’s matter-of-fact“Hit Me” is drawn entirely without close-ups, creating a sense of emotional distance as the story goes from understated oppression to understated triumph to understated betrayal with a cold inevitability. Best of all are the two entiries by editor Ariel Schrag. In the autobiographical“Shit,” young Schrag is spending the night on a house-boat; as a result, she can’t poop without letting everyone around her know that she needs to do so. Trapped between internal and external taboos, she makes a series of disastrous choices as the narrative careens methodically towards a nightmarish, banal, icky and humiliating rite-of-passage. Which, I guess, is middle-school.