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Awkward and Definition: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag (High School Comic Chronicles)

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  786 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
Ariel Schrag captures the American high school experience in all its awkward, questioning glory in Awkward and Definition, the first of three amazingly honest autobiographical graphic novels about her teenage years.

During the summer following each year at Berkeley High School in California, Ariel wrote a comic book about her experiences, which she would then photocopy an
Paperback, 144 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Touchstone (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,118)
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Aug 05, 2009 Brenna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
Comes a time when authoring a completely objective book review becomes all-but-impossible. Awkward and Definition came to me as a gift to myself; having picked up Ariel Schrag's Likewise recently (but not yet having read it), my breath caught in my throat when I spotted this collection of her earlier work - work which I had not previously known to exist until I saw it lying in the wrong place at a local bookstore. So then, why does writing an honest, unbiased review of this particular book becom ...more
Sep 06, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
Ariel Schrag wrote diary comics of her experiences during high school. The first two books are combined in this volume. Awkward is when she was in 9th grade and Definition when she was in 10th grade.

I had heard of Ariel and her work previously. I was inspired to read this book, when Ariel appeared in a Gabrielle Bell comic on Gabrielle's blog.

I have to say I was quite impressed with Ariel's comics, especially for such a young person. Her writing is clear and engaging. Her drawings are fun and e
Apr 30, 2009 Meave rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Meave by: Bitch magazine
Spectacular. I can't believe she wrote so honestly about her life in her comic and then distributed copies of it to her classmates. That is bold. I'm also supremely jealous of her parents, all letting her stay out late and go to shows at 14 and 15. My parents got stricter and stricter and it so frustrated me all the time. I imagine one would have a lot more time to channel one's creativity into projects like an autobiographical comic book if one were not spending most of one's time fighting with ...more
Aug 03, 2013 Eli rated it really liked it
Ariel Schrag may have had more booze, weed, and sexual encounters by age 16 than I did by the end of college, but not much actually *happens* in these books. This picturesque picaresque is literally "High School Girl's Illustrated Diary, good parts version", and there's precious little by way of through line. But Schrag tells even the most debauched tale with such charming unselfconsciousness (the benefit of being a high schooler writing about high school, rather than an adult looking back on it ...more
Feb 24, 2015 Hayley rated it it was amazing
Enthusiasm bursts from the pages of Ariel Schrage's comics. We may be reading about the mundane, day to day events of a 15-16 year old girl's life, but she perfectly captures the importance of these events to the one living through it.

What's most striking is how honest it feels. It's impressive that she was writing these over the summer following each school year, as most teens would hesitate to portray themselves this awkwardly through so many booze and drug laden escapades. Because of this ope
Emilia P
Jan 20, 2010 Emilia P rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comic-books
So I'd already read Definition, checked this out mostly for Awkward and was like - I won't read Definition again, will I? But then, I just couldn't stop. Schrag captures perfectly how wonderful and awful and adventurous and joyful high school is. How meaningful and messy friendships can be. How music runs your life. How even when nothing much happens, so much is happening. Awkward leads into Definition so well, I'm going to be forced to purchase her 11th and 12th grade years.

Also, h
Kirsten Ashley
May 06, 2011 Kirsten Ashley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic-novel
If you're a post-punk 90's-early 2000's era kid like I was you're going to gravitate with this graphic novel. Especially if you're a feminist with bisexual tendencies. The band and comic dropping throughout is an added bonus! (Jhonen Vasquez, Hole,L7, Marilyn Manson, NIN, No Doubt, Bush.)
Ariel Schragg has the balls to tell the truth about her young teenage life with brutal,unflattering honesty. Not many people can write in such a lighthearted way about their teenage years and failed threesomes
Jul 21, 2015 Alenka rated it liked it
I read Potential and Likewise before reading these two which was maybe unfair; I adore those other two books, and Ariel grew so much as a person and an artist between them. I did enjoy Awkard & Defintion, but I especially loved the latter because I felt like I could see Ariel hitting her stride. The juxtaposition of filled teenage experience to her obsessions - especially chemistry - is so interesting. I am always fascinated by Ariel's descriptions of her obsessions and som ...more
Jan 10, 2016 Derek rated it really liked it
Very impressive, given the author's age at the time and how willing she was to put herself out there with the potentially it'd be read by her peers. It shows she definitely had guts and that's quite admirable. I mean, sure, I can't really relate too much to this -- I certainly wasn't into any grunge or doubting my sexuality or taking copious amounts of drugs -- but I did have teenage angst, just like most everyone else. Overall, fairly good, but a little bit too tiresome towards the end. I look ...more
Amar Pai
Aug 30, 2009 Amar Pai rated it did not like it
Man I did not enjoy this at all. It's basically the diary of a 15 year old girl going to high school in Berkeley, CA. Perhaps if you've been a 15 year old girl or you went to high school in Berkeley, CA, this might be more appealing. But to me it came off as utterly banal. She's into L7, she crushes out on boys, she goes to gym class. There's nothing revelatory or particularly insightful-- it reads like what it is, a teenage diary. (Think "teenage girl squad" from Homestarrunner -- "I have a cru ...more
Feb 28, 2010 Jodi rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010-read
I approached Ariel Schrag’s Awkward and Definition with a little bit of trepidation. Earlier this year I made the proclamation that I was going to read one graphic novel a week, and since I’m an equally-opportunity reader I went in search of female authors. Since, I’ve already read Persepolis and Fun Home I had to do a little digging. It seems that whenever people mention female graphic novelists, those are the two that get mentioned the most.

In my research I stumbled upon Ariel Schrag’s high sc
Sep 30, 2012 christa rated it really liked it
Nothing amps the saturation levels of my vanilla teen years like a coming-of-age collection of comics by someone similarly aged who knew what strawberry bidis were as a ninth grader. Me, age 37, Googling. A: Something to smoke.

Ariel Schrag’s collection “Awkward and Definition” is the story of her ninth and tenth grade years at Berkeley High School in California. Themes include music, her crushes -- both male and female, a rotating cast of friends and makeout partners and the sort of dramatics t
Nov 29, 2014 Adam rated it really liked it
This is the (almost) real time comic journal of a 9th and 10th grade girl (I think each summer after school ended she wrote up her previous year's story). I started and quit this once before because some of the text is small and often physically hard to read, but this time I plowed through and was so glad. Her report of 14 and 15 year old-ness is tender and precociously aware and all told, lovely. Definition awesome.
Apr 15, 2008 Alannah rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: biographical/indie comics fans
I've always liked what I've seen from Ariel Schrag, but I had a hard time tracking down back issues of her works. Thankfully they've finally collected Awkward & Definition, and Potential. This collection covers her early high school years and is just an honest look into what being a teenage girl is like at that age. Ariel is a hardcore music fan and has several serious crushes/obsessions, and I could definitely relate to that. Her relationship trials and struggles with school definitely brou ...more
Jan 04, 2013 S. rated it it was amazing
although Schrag's command of the line does not approach the Superflat perfection of Tomine, and her total quantity of story may not yet reach Watterson or Johnston, this rising young star somehow manages to hit the sweet-spot of high academic high school, girl-on-girl love self-discovery teenage angst, advanced college-level biology, No Doubt-before-they-were-famous, and SF Bay area ennui that somehow is the perfect portrait of smart kids circa 1999 in an upper-middle class suburb.

this is a work
Syd Lindblom
Dec 25, 2015 Syd Lindblom rated it really liked it
Really enjoyed this autobiographical novel by Ariel Schrag! She is engaging and fast-paced, quickly jumping from one moment in her life to the next.
Jun 04, 2015 P. rated it really liked it
I can't imagine being this open and honest as a teenager. or really at any age. not only is it impressive that Schrag produced a full length comic as a freshman, she made a comic that developed its pacing well and clearly has been thought out as a comic. Teenagers are often capable of this stuff, but are highly distractable (like adults, but their brains are still forming and hormones, etc). The obsessions with pop culture becoming part of identity and social activities are so familiar and treat ...more
Virginia Lee
I find these books particularly interesting for a few reasons. I also kept a diary throughout middle- and high-school, though I never drew comics, so I can relate to Ariel's need to maintain records. Her obsessions with people and music and everything are so painfully reminiscent of the teenage years of myself and my friends. What I find interesting in a kind of outside-in way is all of the casual alcohol and drug use. I didn't do any of that in high school, so it's almost like reading the diary ...more
I'm too old for this graphic novel, and my TBR pile is too big for me to waste anymore time on it.

The font is small, and the story is just not that interesting.
adrian anderson
Oct 15, 2014 adrian anderson rated it it was amazing
I don't think I can properly express how funny, honest, and relatable Schrang's work is. Perhaps it's my age.
Apr 26, 2016 Kathleen rated it it was ok
The most commendable part of this book is the fact that she wrote this while in high school (!) and then distributed the pages to her classmates in school (!!!!!). Perhaps it would have had more of an impact on me if I had read it when I was 14/15, but reading it is as an adult I found very little to relate to. It was cute to read during a boring work shift, but I don't think I'll be pursuing the sequels.
Sep 02, 2013 Chris rated it liked it
Meh. I wasn't a fan of HS, I wasn't like this girl in HS at all, I simply don't relate. There are redeeming qualities such as being set in Berkeley and the greater SF Bay Area (my transplanted home for now and for many years) which add to the fun of 'oh hey! I know that place!' Also, being written while IN high school definitely allows the reader to see the author/illustrator grow up both in terms of the story/experiences and the quality of art. It's a definite read for the tween librarian, just ...more
Jun 11, 2009 Ruth rated it it was ok
These 2 graphic novels are the story of the author's first 2 years in high school. In them she goes to one rock concert or another, gets stoned at one person or another's house, has crushes on indie rock boys and goth girls and Juliette Lewis, and other such things. Though I find most of the stories a little boring, I really think her drawings are cute. They keep me coming back. And she's still young- I feel like when her authorial voice matures she'll be my favorite autobiographical graphic nov ...more
Oct 24, 2009 Eric rated it liked it
Shelves: graphic-novels
I keep swearing off graphic novels, and then finding something that piques my interest. This series chronicles the author's four years of high school, and evokes nicely some of the angst and confusion and general cluelessness of teenage life. A pretty precocious work. My one question, is where were the parents when all this was happening to their daughter. They are invariably depicted in argyle and with vacant smiles, and as utterly clueless and disconnected.
May 30, 2008 Nancy added it
I've only read a couple of graphic novels- there have been so few by women, but after reading these books, I'm going to pay a lot more attention to them. These are the memoirs of a high school student- she wrote them during the summers after each school year. She's really talented as a story-teller, making the typical ups and downs and stresses of a Berkeley High kid into a page-turner . I read it in two sittings.
Sep 18, 2008 Nicole rated it liked it
Though the author and I are about the same age, her high school experience seems almost entirely foreign, but truly fascinating. I find the evolution of her illustration and writing interesting as well. It's rare to get such an honest snapshot of adolescence in progress. I've heard this is going to be turned into a live action film in the near future, I'll be curious to see what Hollywood does with this story.
Oct 10, 2008 Tyler rated it really liked it
Shelves: comics
I think this was her first book (its been a while since I read these). Ariel Schrag wrote and drew a comic book every year in high school. It was completely autobiographical, just talking about things that were happening to her. The first couple of books, I quite liked - she is very honest and open. A little too open sometimes (you feel like she's whining, which she is), but overall a great read.
Aug 12, 2015 Amber rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer-glbtq-ya
What a great diary comic. Can't wait to read the next two installments.
Stefanie Quashnick
Apr 24, 2013 Stefanie Quashnick rated it liked it
Where was this book when I was in high school, despite the fact that Ariel is older than I am? 10 years later, reading about how awkward it was for a queer punk girl going through high school still amuses me. Most notable is the visible progression in her drawings, but Ariel's raw narrative also shows readers how carving out our own unique niches allows definition: glimmer of hope
Matt Piechocinski
Feb 04, 2013 Matt Piechocinski rated it it was ok
Given that Schrag did this in highschool, it's not bad, but not great either. Her art gets better as the story progresses, so I'm interested to see what the other volumes are like. But with that said, it's the musings of a teenage girl, so it gets a little much sometimes. It did cause me to check out a lot of riot girl type bands, though.
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Ariel Schrag was born in Berkeley, California in 1979. Her debut novel, ADAM, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in June 2014.

She is the author of the graphic memoirs Awkward, Definition, Potential, and Likewise (Simon & Schuster), which chronicle her four years at Berkeley High School. Potential was nominated for an Eisner Award and Likewise was nominated for a Lambda Literary Award.

More about Ariel Schrag...

Other Books in the Series

High School Comic Chronicles (3 books)
  • Potential
  • Likewise: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag

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