Peanut by Ayun Halliday & Paul Hoppe. Schwartz & Wade Books, 2013. Currently available.
Genre: YA Graphic Novel
Face Value: Well, it’s straightforward. It is a peanut. There’s not even a title or anything. It may be attention-getting because it is a rather odd cover – but it certainly didn’t tell me anything about the book. Nor did it give me a previous of the style in which the book was drawn,
and I do like seeing that on a graphic novel cover.
Does it break the slate? No, it did not. There are some situations when pretending that you are something you are not can be Slatebreaking. For example: I recall reading historical fiction about a woman who disguised herself as a man so that she could serve in the military during the Civil War. That was a Slatebreaking concept. To pretend that you are something you are not simply to get attention and stand out at a new school is not Slatebreaking. It’s still an enjoyable book, though, and there is a lesson to be learned from Sadie’s mistakes.
Who would we give it to? This is a book about someone who is starting out at a new school, and readers finding themselves in a similar situation might enjoy reading about Sadie’s transition. It is tough to pinpoint the appropriate age level for this book. I would say that it is best for middle school readers, except for two weirdly random sexual references. Given those blips of raciness, I think this would be a good fit for a high school aged reader who struggles with text. The graphic format and realistic story would be appealing. Review: Like many a teenager who has been forced to change schools due to uncontrollable family circumstances, Sadie is not looking forward to her first day of school. She is so nervous about fitting in that she decides she needs to invent some sort of personal characteristic that will set her apart. Grasping at straws, she writes her introductory essay for homeroom about her life-threatening peanut allergy. Sadie makes an impression, and she thinks that will be the end of it. But it turns out that having a fake peanut allergy is much more complicated than she anticipated…
Sadie soon figures out that she will have to report her fake peanut allergy to the school nurse. She also orders a fake medical alert bracelet, and even looks into buying an Epipen – all behind her mother’s back. The ruse becomes so overwhelming that Sadie soon wishes she had never invented it in the first place. She starts looking for ways to explain it away, but she’s in too deep. Her new boyfriend has taken to calling her “peanut” and even gives her a peanut necklace as a memento. At this point, Sadie would reveal herself to be a complete fake if she were honest about her lack of allergy.
Such a complex lie, of course, is not sustainable. A school bake sale with peanut-infused goods is Sadie’s downfall. An ambulance is called, and she must explain herself to some very angry paramedics. Even though she alienates most of her new friends with her lie, there are a few who stick by her and try to get to know the “real” Sadie. It’s a tough lesson for her to learn, but ultimately I think that Sadie will be a better person.
Sadie’s story may be kind of goofy – an entire book about a fake peanut allergy feels like a thin concept – but I did find it to be sweet. Sadie’s pretend allergy was a stupid idea. However, I think that Sadie’s urge to want to stand out is reflective of the pressure we put on teens to be unique, special, and one-of-a-kind. Sometimes the pre-teen years are just too early to know what you’re good at yet. The pressure of defining yourself so early in life can be detrimental. Sadie is not a bad person. She’s just a girl trying very hard to be special when she doesn’t really need to.
Peanut is not a Slatebreaking book. Sadie is not a particularly good female role model. It is not groundbreaking, but Peanut is an enjoyable graphic novel with appealing artwork. Sadie’s mistakes can lead to worthwhile conversations about personal identity and honesty.
Reviewed from a copy purchased on Amazon.com. I know. I’m awful.