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Cardinal rule #1 for surviving school: Don't get noticed by the mean kids.

Cardinal rule #2 for surviving school: Seek out groups with similar interests and join them.

On her first day at her new school, Penelope--Peppi--Torres reminds herself of these basics. But when she trips into a quiet boy in the hall, Jaime Thompson, she's already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her the "nerder girlfriend." How does she handle this crisis? By shoving poor Jaime and running away!

Falling back on rule two and surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi still can't help feeling ashamed about the way she treated Jaime. Things are already awkward enough between the two, but to make matters worse, he's a member of her own club's archrivals--the science club! And when the two clubs go to war, Peppi realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school!

224 pages, Paperback

First published July 21, 2015

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About the author

Svetlana Chmakova

40 books1,423 followers
Svetlana Chmakova (Russian: Светлана Шмакова) (born 1979 in Russia) is a comic creator. She is best known for Dramacon, an original English-language (OEL) manga spanning three volumes and published in North America by Tokyopop. Her other work includes the 2-page The Adventures of CG for CosmoGIRL! magazine and the webcomic Chasing Rainbows for Girlamatic. Though born in Russia, she immigrated to Canada, where she graduated from the Sheridan College Classical Animation program, in 2002. She then began to publish her manga on the Internet, where her works were found by CosmoGirl! magazine.

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5 stars
23,441 (51%)
4 stars
12,173 (26%)
3 stars
6,397 (14%)
2 stars
2,047 (4%)
1 star
1,617 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,431 reviews
Profile Image for Rachel Russell.
Author 130 books6,261 followers
May 21, 2016
I have enjoyed this author's books since her early series, DRAMACON. The intense rivalry between the art club and the science club was fun and exciting.
Profile Image for Janete on hiatus due health issues.
654 reviews261 followers
January 18, 2020
Project Learning English by myself. I loved the plot, the drawings, and the 2 main characters: the lovely Penelope (Peppi) and the cute Jaime. She is into the arts and he is into science in middle school.
"Cardinal rule #1 for surviving school: Don't get noticed by mean kids. Cardinal rule #2: Seek out groups with similar interests and join them. Cardinal rule #3: Build. Build things. Build friendships. Build yourself. Bit by little bit. It may feel like you're not adding that much... but in the end, it will add up to a lot."
Profile Image for First Second Books.
560 reviews543 followers
August 18, 2015
Gina says:

One of the things I really liked about this book was how diverse it was.

It wasn’t just that the main character was diverse (though she is), but that the background characters represent a good mix of genders, ethnicities, and abilities – both at school and at home. It really felt like the author thought about every single character she put into the book and made them represent people from all around our culture – in a really seamless way.

Yay for that!

Calista says:

I read this book too! And I liked all of those things also! I also liked how much plot and substance there was in it, even though it wasn't super duper long, and it never felt crowded or too dense. It was exactly the right amount of story. I feel like that's true of THE SECRET SCIENCE ALLIANCE also, and I wish it were true of more graphic novels for kids.
Profile Image for Lata.
3,509 reviews187 followers
February 6, 2017
Fun, simple little story that was recommended to me by my child, who loved this book (read it repeatedly before telling me to read it.)
Penelope is the new kid at school who starts the year off by pushing a boy who's looked down on by others. She regrets her action, and spends several weeks attempting to deal with it. There is also ongoing drama between the after school art club (Penelope's a member) and the science club (the boy is a member). And something else I really liked about this story: the kids, their families and the teachers reflected people of different races, cultures and body types.
The artwork has a manga-like look, and there is minimal use of colour; I liked how the panels really conveyed the kids' energy.
(Note: This book, and several others, was selected by the province's Library Association as part of a yearly program to expose kids to Canadian authors and, of course, to promote literacy.)
Profile Image for Kelli.
844 reviews392 followers
October 9, 2016
This charming graphic is shelved as YA but would be entirely appropriate for upper elementary. A sweet story about a diverse group of students who must learn to work together to arrive at a shared goal, this one has a positive message without being unrealistic or overly sappy. After the story, the author provides insight into character development and detailed information on the steps and hard work involved in creating a graphic novel (6-7 hours per page), as well as contagious enthusiasm for her craft. I was entertained and touched by this book. I would hand it to my nine-year-old without hesitation. 4.5 stars
Profile Image for Calista.
3,803 reviews31.2k followers
February 18, 2021
Oh, this was such a great middle grade story about an art club at odds with the science club. We see the lines drawn like the Capulets and Montagues. We follow the quiet science geek and art lover. We realize that both kids have so much in common.

One of the beautiful things in the story is how much art and science actually have in common. They bring up Leonardo da Vinci being a Renaissance man and being skilled at both and many talents. The clubs basically go to war with each other and it’s the unlikely friendship of our 2 main leads that the story hinges on.

The science kids are treated more like rock stars than nerds and the cool art kids are treated more like nerds than cool. It’s an interesting flip, at least at our school that was how it worked. I thought it was good.

This is filled with humor and heart and how awkward it is to learn these life lessons.

I think my niece would enjoy this and I am going to recommend it to her.
Profile Image for Adri.
934 reviews803 followers
November 27, 2015
Hands down one of the best comics I've read all year!

Hilarious, thoughtful, and full of heart, Awkward showcases a wonderful array of genuine characters. This comic casually includes characters of color (many who are successful and/or in positions of power), a disabled mother (who is also fantastic and successful), multiethnic families, dysfunctional families, a wonderful discussion on the merits of art and science and whether they're truly opposites, and a boy-girl friendship that isn't romantic!! Need I say more?

This comic made me laugh, smile, clutch my chest, and it made me feel good. We need more books like this that just make people feel good because they render the world in a real and genuine way.

I hope Svetlana Chmakova makes more middle grade comics, because the world needs her art and her perspective. I will be recommending this book to every human I know!
Profile Image for Mississippi Library Commission.
389 reviews74 followers
May 13, 2016
We're going to be recommending this darling graphic novel to everyone we meet. Aimed at 8-12 year old kids, Awkward will appeal to teens and adults as well. There are so many things we loved about it: it's smart, it's funny, it's diverse in multiple ways, it's got art and science and geocaching, and it's downright adorable. Most of all, the characters reach out and grab their readers' hearts. We wanted to hug each and every one of them by the time we reached the very satisfying ending. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Jacob Proffitt.
2,901 reviews1,511 followers
July 1, 2017
I just devoured this story. It's a comic, so a fast read, but I was just so charmed by it that I didn't want to put it down for even a moment. Chmakova so perfectly captures that age and the concerns and social dynamics. I really loved both the affection and clarity that engages memory, sympathy, and even a little healing by taking those awkward dynamics and illustrating a way through them that was both plausible and hopeful. It doesn't hurt, of course, that Peppi and Jaime are such wonderfully realistic people and so carefully drawn (both literally and, uh, figuratively...).

Plus, I have the added bonus of looking forward to gushing about it with my enthusiastic daughter tomorrow. I love when she gets engaged with something because she throws her whole heart over and this is a love I can share in that same way. Worth all the stars even before that part, but that's always a boost.
Profile Image for Erica.
1,316 reviews432 followers
August 24, 2017
So adorable!

I'm glad I read the second book, Brave, first because it put this one into a more favorable context; I think I'd have been peevish in my reading had I not known what comes next. Awkward is a little awkward, it doesn't quite have its flow, yet. Everything that comes off so gracefully in the next book - diverse characters, middle-school problems, family problems - feel a little more forced, less organic, in this first volume.

Regardless, it's a great start, following the very likeable and relatable Penelope as she enters a new school and makes a mistake the very first day, a gaffe that haunts her for weeks to come. Shyness, bullying, social acceptance, competition, working together, friendship, forgiveness, parental pressure to succeed, family fighting, and daily middle school survival are all themes in this story.

Characters have defined personalities beyond the way they're drawn, which are built up further in Brave. Adults are supportive, for the most part - no Dahlian parents or teachers here! You know, had my middle school been peopled with these characters, I'd have had crushes on 90% of the population, both teachers and students!

The one weird thing I've noticed, though, is a lack of siblings. I have never encountered so many single-child families represented in a middle grade book. So far, Letitia and Felicity are the sole representation of sisters in the school; the three households we get to visit are only child households. That was strange to me but maybe it's an accurate reflection of contemporary families, I have no idea.

Highly recommended for fans of Raina Telgemeier and of Roller Girl. And, seriously, make sure this is in both your school and public library because this needs to be available to kids everywhere.
Profile Image for Melissa McShane.
Author 58 books738 followers
June 28, 2017
Svetlana Chmakova is one of my favorite cartoonists and a fabulous writer. I'm not sure if I love Dramacon Ultimate Edition or Nightschool The Weirn Books better, but now I'm certain Awkward will be one of my new favorites. She captures so perfectly the terrible awkwardness that is middle school, with all the fears and worries and pain. In her fear of being mocked, Peppi makes a huge mistake and embarrasses Jaime, whose only crime is trying to help her. Poor Peppi, unable to find a way to apologize, instead learns to avoid Jaime--until she ends up in a position where she can't ignore him. Combine this with the rivalry of the art club and the science club, and you end up with a marvelous story about friendship that resonates with honesty. I particularly loved that the science club is popular for having won the school a lot of awards; when I was in high school, the science club was where all the cool kids hung out. My daughter tells me the sequel, Brave, is even better. Fortunately she bought both as a result of our buying orgy at Powell's last weekend.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,890 reviews487 followers
October 14, 2016
This is definitely one of the best middle grade graphic novels that I've read. I loved the characters, the middle school setting, the conflict that arises between the two student clubs-science and art, and the glimpse at what it means to be a friend. As a teacher, the characters in the story display problem-solving skills and work on resolving their existing conflict. I know my grade 7 and 8 girls have really enjoyed this story as well. It probably would grab the attention of young girls in grades 4-6 as well.
31 reviews2 followers
February 22, 2017
I really liked this book. The characters were so diverse in diffrent ways. It was also very reflective of how middle schoolers act when boys and girls are friends. I loved all the people's relationships with their parents.
Profile Image for Amy Layton.
1,641 reviews50 followers
May 14, 2020
This was so cute!!  With manga-like illustrations, themes of owning up to one's actions, and an adorkable plot, it's impossible to not enjoy Awkward.  When Peppi accidentally snubs the school's resident nerd, she feels terrible and spends weeks trying to figure out how to apologize.  So imagine her surprise when he's the one chosen to tutor her in science!  As the two navigate their middle school hallways, friendships, rivalries, and school spirit, they grow closer together.

It's clear that Chmakova spent a lot of time on all of her characters.  Even secondary and background characters not only have a structural purpose, but have their own wants, needs, backgrounds, and desires to fit in.  And it was wonderful.  It was middle school in a nutshell.  And, just like the title suggests, middle school is awkward as heck, and Chmakova somehow embodied that entire feeling in one graphic novel.

I can't wait to read the next in the series and seeing how these characters progress and grow as they learn to be kind, embrace challenges, and identify healthy rivalry.

Review cross-listed here!
Profile Image for Melki.
5,677 reviews2,324 followers
September 22, 2020
This is a sweet, all's-well-that-ends-well tale of a young girl attempting to navigate the many obstacles that make up life for an average middle-school kid: bullies, making and keeping friends, competition, and studying - it's all here.


I found this on a table at a book sale this weekend. Looking forward to cataloging it, and getting it out on the shelves for the library patrons to enjoy.
Profile Image for Sarah.
995 reviews
June 20, 2016
I can tell already I will need to buy an additional copy or two of this for my library. I'm definitely going to be recommending it to all the Raina Telgemeir fans. I thought this was a great graphic novel. There were a lot of things I liked about this beyond the story: the friendship between the main character and the boy whose name I forgot and that there weren't romantic overtones or worries; that one of the characters is in a wheelchair and it's never mentioned-it just is; that Penelope stands up to some bullies; that there is an art and science club; that the science teacher is a super cool woman with a bride of Frankenstein streak in her hair; that the principal is only a voice over the loudspeaker. And besides all that I thought it was a good story. Recommended.
Profile Image for The Half-blood Reader.
920 reviews52 followers
March 6, 2020
I have loved some of Svetlana's previous works, and she did not disappoint with this MG story.

From the art style and the character's designs to the choice of colours, I loved it all. It was so soft.

I also found the characters engaging and believable, humour aside. Stubbornness and unreasonable antagonism towards the "other" is something that happens frequently when it comes to humans.

Awkward is a great lesson for school kids. Or perhaps a bunch of tiny lessons with a big one.
Profile Image for ♛ Garima ♛.
888 reviews175 followers
April 21, 2020
I wasn't planning on reading this, guys and I am working right now! I swear I was just wanted to skim a few pages while I had my lunch. After reading straight for 30 mins, I can't believe I finished it in a single sitting. Oh well, I will slog through 1 hour more in work office *ugh...

These characters are so adorable and cute. It's a science vs art club drama but so much more. I really loved this! Reminded me of Big Nate comics I love so much as well.
Profile Image for Andréa.
11.2k reviews93 followers
August 21, 2015
Loved the artwork, loved the message, loved the diversity and realisticness of the characters, loved the design gallery and drawing process overview in the back.

Fans of Raina Telgemeier will absolutely enjoy this one. Can't wait for Svetlana Chmakova to write another graphic novel...maybe about the newspaper club next time?
Profile Image for Mir.
4,847 reviews5,004 followers
July 30, 2018
More like 3.5 in terms of my personal interest, but I haven't been an awkward middle school dork for quite a few years.
Profile Image for leslie delgadillo.
8 reviews3 followers
November 30, 2015
*spoiler warning*Haven't read and don't want to it too be spoiled? then don't read!Have you ever had those awkward moments with friends especially with new ones?well I have and Penelope and Jamie the main characters of awkward have too. The genre of the book is realistic fiction. Awkward was a good book because it's realistic,relatable and connection with the reader at certain points.
So in the book awkward Penelope goes to a new school and on her first they trips and falls and Jamie comes to help but once Penelope gets notice by the bullies cause of jamie penelope decides to push him away and run.After that she felt guilty of what she did so she tries to apologize to jamie meanwhile the art club the club that penelope participates, finds out that they been kicked out of the school fair club in exchange for the science club which the is the club jamie is part of and the two clubs get into a war but while that happens jamie and penelope finally meet each other and penelope gets to apologize but with the war both clubs ended getting suspended.so since both jamie and penelope were both upset just as much as the other kids they decide to work together to show that both clubs can work together and hopefully get them back.the plan works and they get their clubs back along with with also participating in the fair and finally getting the clubs to along.the setting in the story takes place in modern city in a middle school called berrybroke middle schoool and thats where most of the story happens cause thats were peppi(penelope)goes to, where the clubs are hosted at and the school all the background and main characters go at.the conflict i awkward would be person vs. self because peppi has a hard time not knowing what to do and not knowing what would be the consequence of her actions.A example would like if she became friends with jamie would the art club use her to get information or would jamie do that to her.the theme of the story would be working together and friendship because it takes friendship of two kids to help to clubs to get along and work together.
Peppi's motivation was the clubs and her friends throughout the story.Penelope's motivation is very well put and showed within the story.It shows she really cares about her friends and the clubs when she did many things such as staying to friends house to do a project to save her club or coming up with a idea to save or get back the clubs back after noticing how sad everyone looked.(even the teachers!)It also shows the theme through the story because peppi solves her problems with friendship working together.like at the near ending it took her friendship to come up with a idea and making the clubs work together solve the main issue at the point.
the characters peppi and jamie were very similar yet also different in many ways because they both were motivated caring and kind.But peppi is more calm and shy well jamie is a bit outgoing when he's in a group he fits in and is very excited and happy.i was really happy at the ending of the story because in the end they congratulate each other for getting the clubs back but then get bullied but both clubs step up for them. they also don't get together or have some type of romance like some cliches which made me happy because even though that cliche is cute it gets used to much at times and well i was very happy when the author didn't do it.
I would rate awkward 5 stars because of its realistic events characters and story. i would recommend this book to readers who like comedy and realistic fiction.Also to kids who are new to some school cause they move or they couldn't go and deal with experiences like these so they know they're not alone.awkward was great book intotal and you never know maybe something like this could happen to you one day.

Profile Image for Sarah.
722 reviews38 followers
December 26, 2020
I contributed this review to Really Into This

Check out all of our reviews at https://reallyintothis.com
Happy Reading, friends!

This is a really great graphic novel about friendship, finding your community & navigating middle school. The illustrations are great. I cackled a few times & I'm glad there are several other parts of the Berrybrook Middle School Series. AWKWARD deals with bullying, having to say you're sorry, working without people you previously judged & forging new friendships.
Profile Image for Erika.
31 reviews12 followers
February 15, 2018
This book is absolutely amazing! The characters are all diverse and three dimensional, each of them have a backstory and a personality. The main character,Peppi is amazing and is a very life like charcter. All of the other characters in the art and science club are absolutely amazing and I love them so much! ❤️💛💚💜💙
I'm going to be obsessing over this book for days!
Profile Image for Kahlil Kinser.
22 reviews4 followers
August 12, 2015
Great pacing and great character develop mix together with good story telling and even a moral tossed in. The characters are highly relatable and the art clearly has a manga influence in it done right. Overall, this was a very fun read.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,259 reviews488 followers
November 24, 2018
Loved the entire package from cover to cover. The main characters were engaging and faced realistic challenges. Tweens will easily relate to Peppi and Jaime and realize they are not alone in the awkward moments they face in their daily interactions. Heartily recommended!
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
73 reviews2 followers
April 7, 2017
I really liked this because it shows how girls and boys can be friends too, and this was a pretty short read (for me, at least).
Profile Image for nala ꨄ.
65 reviews43 followers
February 24, 2023
I got this for my little sis at her scholastic book fair but decided to bring it to campus just to have something light and cute to read. Unfortunately I never made it to school because I got stuck in traffic for five hours and this is the only thing that kept me from losing my shit. It was so adorable and nostalgic, I’m going to buy the rest of the series 4 my little sister and I asap 🥹
Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,431 reviews

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