Potential
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Potential (High School Comic Chronicles)

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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  1,030 ratings  ·  97 reviews
You'll feel the emotional turbulence, pain, and passion of teenage life, as writer and artist Ariel Schrag opens her heart and examines it with a magnifying glass and keen eye. "Potential reveals Ariel's junior year of high school as well as her artistic maturation. FOR MATURE READERS
Paperback, 88 pages
Published August 15th 2008 by Touchstone (first published 2000)
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Patti
This is by far my favorite volume of Ariel Schrag's autobiographical high school comic chronicles, which she wrote as a teenager, releasing each volume the year after the events it describes. While Definition, the sophomore year volume, is a light read that lacks substance, and Likewise, the senior year volume, becomes weighed down by its own literary pretensions, Potential manages to strike a satisfying balance between stylistic experimentation and narrative.

The bulk of the story deals with Ari...more
Lia
Okay, so I have some reservations about giving a book five stars when it contains a lot of fatphobia, butchphobia and coercive sex scenes. But it deals with all of that really honestly and bravely and I think it would be less realistic without it. It's an autobiographical comic written when the author/artist was actually 16-17 and I had some similar attitudes when I was that age. I did get a little bored, annoyed and frustrated with the last third or so where -- spoiler alert! -- the narrator-pr...more
Emilia P
Hm. Well of course my zeal for these books with expire just as I purchased the final two. Potential is about Schrag's junior year, where, honestly, I think her transition to straight-up-gay is a little oversimplified. "And then I broke up with my boyfriend and that was totally easy!" But then being gay is not as awesome as she expected it to be which I think was probably the best thing about this book -- defining your sexuality one way or another doesn't make life easier. Kids get sad and feel t...more
Matt
Sep 13, 2007 Matt rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Phoebe Gloeckner, Michelle Tea, Alison Bechdel, or good memior
Sometimes the best way to tell how much I've enjoyed a book is to examine the spine. A quick glance at my bookshelf reveals that my copy of Ariel Schrag's Potential is cracked in about twenty-three different places.

I'm a huge fan of this book. It may be because it's one of the first truly alternative comic books that did anything for me. It may be the fact that I knew Schrag put this book together while she was still in high school. It may be the way that it tackles GLBT issues without stumbling...more
A.K.
The art pushed this down to 3 stars. It probably would have taken a year longer to finish had Schrag illustrated the entire comic as she did her dream sequences, and I suppose that the contrast of their detailed emotional reality with the more cartoonishly and cutely drawn images from her waking life could be a narrative device. But I liked the look of them best, and just wished it all looked that good.

The title of the comic itself is an operative word for Schrag as she somehow gets through her...more
Richard Van Camp
I love this book. I think Ariel's honesty saves lives. Thank you, Ariel, for your bravery and courage in creating this gorgeous narrative. I've bought so many copies that I end up giving away to people searching for answers about their sexuality. I'm about to buy two more and they're already marked for friends I care so deeply about. I love it.
Jenny Devildoll
Too one sided, possibly not enough time given to reflect on events before chronicling them. Also, I'd love to get some of Ariel's girlfriends' side of the story--it seems she portrays everyone she dates as mean or unreasonable, while she's always the victim.
Tammy
Ugh, high school. Drawn with conviction by a survivor. It's hard to imagine that Schrag completed each of these graphic novels the summer after the year each one depicts. They just keep getting better (and more painful). Well done, Ariel.
Alison
This is a really lovely graphic novel about high school. Ah, the drama.
Jim
Potential is the third book in Arial Schrag's autobiographical comics written during her high school years. This book covers her 11th grade and was written after her junior year and based on notes she had taken during the time along with journal entries.

While her first two books, Awkward and Definition had some humor along with teen angst, this book leans more to the darker side of teen life. There are moments of deep anxiety, despair and self doubt bordering on pathos.

Yet, it is truly amazing...more
Kit
This is book two in Ariel Schrag's series of autobiographical graphic novel chronicling her high school years. Potential is about her junior year and tells the story of her coming out as a lesbian, her first time falling for a girl, and her parents' divorce. She attended Berkeley High School in the mid-90s and I am amazed at how different her high school experience was than mine at Evergreen in the early 00s. Berkeley is ages ahead of Vancouver and it shows strongly even though Schrag doesn't ov...more
Levi
Found it on the library book cart at Pride (yay!!). Kind of disturbing, and sometimes I couldn't tell if it was intentional or not. There are very few black people (and no real black characters), and every time a black person appears in a panel they're yelling or angry or intimidating or outright scary---I'm pretty sure that wasn't intentional. Also some unexpected homophobia ('butches are icky and gross eww')---maybe it was being lampshaded? And weird consent stuff, which Schrag didn't directly...more
Hannah  Messler
Reading this, it's hard not to feel flabbergasted by the fact that it was created by a teenager. Potential is Ariel Schrag's memoir of her junior year in high school, and it's brilliant enough to make you pretty frukken antsy to get your paws on the follow-up material; it's also derfy and seventeen-y enough to make you be like meh I will probly read the earlier stuff but not right now.
She does these little dream sequences where the way she draws the expressions on people's faces makes you just w...more
Jodi
When we last left off, Ariel Schrag had just finished tenth grade. As good as her freshmen and sophomore years were to read, junior year is even better.

The first thing I noticed about Potential the second book in Schrag’s high school chronicles, is that her drawing skills vastly improved from sophomore to junior year. Gone is the amateurish, cartoons and in their place are drawings with real depth and emotion. The art here is really clever, not only does she depict various moods altered by chemi...more
MariNaomi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Korynn
"Potential" drags the reader back to high school, which this clever autobiographer notes all her experiences at Berkeley High and regurgitates them into cartoon format, and then, earning my great admiration proceeded to elect a theme of "Potential" that runs throughout the stories of her life, like Sesame Street's word of the day (or in this case, junior year). Painfully honest, the author apparently found herself in the typical identity struggle/crisis of the teen years which is drawn in detail...more
David Schaafsma
Ariel Schrag's compiled comic journal of her junior year in high school and her coming out story. I'm glad it exists as a model for other kids to do it, and as a record for teachers and parents. It's very uneven in the way a kind of (even edited) journal can be, in terms of the art and insight and narrative. It's pretty entertaining in places, for sure, but I like the idea of it more than the actual book.
Ruth
This was my second birthday-present-to-myself comic. It's also of the queer coming of age genre, but it's autobigraphical and much more complicated. In the beginning I quickly figured out that the narrator went to some high school where it was really hip to be a lesbian which is cool, but then she just seemed to always be either getting drunk and hooking up (or trying to hook up) and frenetically studying biology and math and I just didn't get it. But I plugged through it and there are some huma...more
Anne
I love autobiographical comics so I had to read this. Library had the sequel but not prequel so here is where I started. Pictures -- at first, hard for me to distinguish who was who. Like real high school, many of the kids have kind of the same look. These are more "cartoonish" than most books like this (nothing as artsy as "Fun Home," e.g.), except for the dream sequences where (oddly enough) the people look more realistic. Story -- very engaging! Even though I don't have much in common wrt age...more
Jessica
Sep 26, 2007 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: real life lesbians
I really do cherish this book, even after watching Schrag go on national television and admit that she made the whole thing up. Maybe I just feel bad for her after watching Oprah tear her a new one.... but honestly, what kind of state is the book industry in, that talented comic book writers feel they must pose as gay teenagers in order to get published??? Well, those revelations when Killer Films took her to court sure explained a lot about Schrag's mental state at the time. Sometimes the line...more
Marissa
I think that this is a really good graphic novel considering how young Schrag was when she wrote it, although I don't know if it's quite as mind-blowing as some people say and I don't know what to think about the fact that they're making it into a movie. As comics in the confessional genre go, I think the story-telling is strong, her character is really likeable and sympathetic, and the emotions are honest. I like the drawing style, although it can border on a little too cute sometimes. It's int...more
Rachel
Yet another graphic novel about high school. I swear is this the only period in people's lives they feel the need to write/draw about? Doesn't anything worth writing happen after the age of 18? Where are all the graphic novels about being 30 and married!

Anyway, this is a fine example of the many other graphic novels of it's kind. The only thing that makes it stand out is that it centers on a teenage girl discovering her sexuality which involves her being a lesbian. It was very real and honest a...more
Meryl
Two stars. Not one star, because the part about "losing her virginity", I guess the "real way" as she thought, was actually pretty funny to me. Pretty ignorant and shitty, but I mean she is in high school so whatever. But that's pretty much the only thing that saved this book from getting one star. I still consider it a waste of paper, though, because the story is awful and repetitive, not to mention the horrible artwork. I know she was young when she published this book, but it was so hard for...more
elissa
3 1/2 to 4. I definitely enjoyed this, and found it to be a quick read, but it's slightly too confessional and graphic for my taste. I found myself having to hunch over all of the nudity & sex when I was reading it in public, so that nobody could spy on what I was reading, and I had mixed feelings about my kids opening it up while it was in the house, so I'm slightly relieved to be taking it back to the library today. I do think it's absolutely appropriate for high schoolers, and I'm no prud...more
Matt
i didn't read all of this. what i did read was a pretty nice, brutally truthful window. why i didn't read more... to be brutally honest, it's like the diary of teenage lesbian/punker and while i can relate to her subculturally, i felt too voyeuristic. like a gross old man reading personal details i really had no business being a party to. it's that good in a way. i would totally recommend it to my 14 year old punker cousin. i just personally have too much respect for her demographic to go sticki...more
Jenni Frencham
Meh. I like that this is an LGBTQ+ graphic novel, but I wasn't impressed with some of the art, and the storyline was pretty typical high school. Good readalike for Alison Bechdel or Anatomy of a Boyfriend.
Natalie
This is my favourite Ariel Schrag graphic novel in her high school chronicles because it is the perfect, non-cliched teenage love story. What I love most about Schrag is that she makes me laugh out loud all the time. Her alter-ego self-caricature lets only the reader in on her hilarious impressions of the people and experiences in her young, teenage life. The book is also chock full of painful relationship conflicts, sexual explorations and candid tellings of adolescent problems.
Christine
the drawings are not that great--they look more like the doodles of a child than the work of an illustrator. but the characters are so consistent and their voice so distinct that it hardly matters. schrag draws us into her intimate world, seemingly no holds barred, that it often feels like an intrusion to read her stories. but at the end she manages to illuminate the specific travails of her protagonist that we are enlightened about the whole human condition.
Rex Leonowicz
Aug 24, 2007 Rex Leonowicz rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: who's interested
I always appreciate the personal stories and voices of real-life lesbians, yet I found it a bit difficult to relate to much of the subject matter because I feel only a skim few amount of queer people actually are able to go through high school smoothly, out and in visible same-sex relationships. Most queer folks aren't open to this type of positive networking until much later, some never. I do think that it's quite humorous at times, however.
Stephen
Potential covers the later high-school years in Schrag's extended comics biography. It's pretty uneven, and naturally a little naval-gazey at times. But it is very earnest, and feels authentic. While it may not be the greatest comcis, or the greatest story, I think it really succeeds on its own terms, and I feel that that is to be commended.

Also - Ariel Schrag's high school experience was a lot more racey than mine.
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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.

P...more
More about Ariel Schrag...
Awkward and Definition: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age Likewise: The High School Comic Chronicles of Ariel Schrag Adam Definition

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