Why We Teen

Headed out today to pick up our next read, Fall from Grace, from the library. Exciting stuff! Also, here’s a review of Tamaki’s latest offering.

I realize I am simply jumping on an already very full bandwagon, but Jillian Tamaki’s SuperMutant Magic Academy is a f*%#ing masterpiece. Her other work, both on her own and with her cousin Mariko Tamaki, is always good, but SMMA is working on a whole other level.


SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

This graphic novel started as a webseries (which I did not read), and it has now been compiled into this incredible book. As is often the case with Tamaki, it is the story of young adults trying to get through their lives. The premise is a Harry Potter/X-Men type of high school where there are some magical things going on, but much like in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, those magical elements are used to give us a deeper insight into the very real lives of high school students (and, in this case, their teachers as well).

The intensity of feeling that we all go through as teenagers is very difficult to capture. When adults try to, it can often feel like exactly what it is: someone trying to get to a depth of feeling they simply no longer can. When teenagers try to, it can often feel like they are too close to it to really do it justice. The fact that Tamaki succeeds so ridiculously well at capturing this, without making it feel unrealistic, is what makes this book truly brilliant.

I think every teenager should own this book. And a lot of adults, too.


SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

I’m not exactly sure what makes teen life such an eternal story point for some of us. I mean, if teen-based TV shows and books were only watched/read by teens, they wouldn’t be the money-making business they are. I am one of those people; I read a lot of YA, I watch a lot of teen TV shows. Why is it that some of us – dare I say many of us? – still feel so compelled by the stories of this age group, even when we are well past it? And, would probably never want to go back to it. Are we trying to recapture that intensity of feeling? Do we ever really love in the same way again? Or hate? Is there a time in our lives where we feel more deeply about the formation of our own opinions? About our connectedness to other people? About the importance of our own decisions? Maybe, those years where we fought for our independence from school and parents are the years where we were most truly able to make decisions that were uncompromising. I don’t know. I would never want to go back to being a teen, and yet… my obsession with teen-ness continues and I suspect I’ll never completely know why. Anyone else want to venture a guess? 


SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Ahem, back to the book at hand. Strictly from a storytelling point of view, Tamaki also nails it.  90% of the book is told in one-page story arcs, each of which is a complete and beautiful story of its own, with artistic and verbal nuances that just blow your mind. I was convinced each page was my favourite until I turned to the next page. As the book progresses, we delve deeper into the lives of a selected few characters, but still maintain that bird’s-eye view of school life progressing as a whole. I loved the development of Marsha as she comes to own her sexuality, and absolutely adored the development of Frances, the rebel artist who inspires and kinda scares everyone. Cheddar, the manipulative but deep jock, also really grew on me. And the D&D scenes were just amazing, big heart to Tamaki for being so spot-on with these scenes that were taken right out of my high school years.

SMMA has moments of complete hilarity (where I scared the cats with my bursts of laughter), moments of genuine despair, moments of artistic depth that floor you, and moments so true they make you uncomfortable. Just go buy it already.


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3 Responses to Why We Teen

  1. Naomi says:

    I never read graphic novels, unless I am reading it to my kids, but I have to say that you make this one sound pretty good. What age range do you think it is intended for?
    You’ve asked some great questions as to why we like to re-visit our teen years. For myself, though, I find myself more interested in looking ahead than behind. It doesn’t even need to be very far ahead. I feel like I’m tying to figure out what’s coming. And, sometimes, books about teens or people in their 20s irritate me. Is it a sign of getting old??

    • writereads says:

      Depending on the kid, I would say 13 or 14+, and that’s just mostly because some of the concepts, especially about art, might be a little over most 10 year old’s heads.
      And you enjoying the forward-looking books doesn’t make you old, it just makes you a different type of reader. I know many who are like you, and many who are like me.I just am curious as to what draws some to the years of their past and others to the years of their future.
      Besides, I think we’re about the same age, so you can’t be old 🙂 -Tania

      • Naomi says:

        No, we are not old! 🙂

        “I just am curious as to what draws some to the years of their past and others to the years of their future.” I would like to know the reason for this, too! Let me know if you figure it out…

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