Amelia McBride has come to a conclusion – nothing good ever lasts. She was finally finding some happiness in the wake of her parents’ divorce, having found a new circle of friends, one teacher who didn’t think she was a trouble-maker and her first love. And even when things got bad, she always had her cool Aunt Tanner (a former rock-star, how cool is that?!) to go vent her worries to. But now, everything is changing again and naturally they are all changes for the worst.
For one thing, Amelia’s new position as a cheerleader has driven a wedge between her and some of her friends. But Amelia only joined the cheerleaders, at first, so her friend Rhonda wouldn’t be all alone with the mean girls who rule the squad. And now the principal, who totally has it out for Amelia, is trying to get her kicked off the squad! Worst of all, Tanner is on tour trying to stage a comeback and she isn’t checking her e-mail. So the one person Amelia can talk to about anything is completely out of touch! But with a little help from her friends, Amelia will learn that there’s very little she can’t overcome.
Jimmy Gownley has been compared to Charles Schulz as an artist and a writer before and rightly so. I don’t think any cartoonist since Schulz had done such a masterful job of projecting the problems of adult life through the spectrum of childhood as Gownley has. The central theme of the book – coping with the changes that come with growing older – is just as meaningful for the adults reading this book as it is for the children this series is aimed at. Even read straight, the book is a fun read and Amelia is a likeable and relatable heroine, even at her most self-absorbed and unreasonable.
The only weakness The Meaning of Life… and Other Stuff has is that its story is a little more dependent on a familiarity with previous Amelia Rules! books than the earlier volumes, which could be picked up and read by a new reader a bit more easily. You can still do that with this volume – there’s a score-card at the front that reintroduces us to all the major characters! But you’ll get a lot more out of it if you read the whole series in order – preferably over the course of a single afternoon, with a bag full of cookies.
I find myself wondering what can I say about Amelia Rules! that hasn’t been said by now? I could say that it is terrible, awful, poorly drawn and just plain rotten. Nobody’s ever said that before! And with good reason – that statement is patently untrue. The simple truth is that Amelia Rules! is one of the best graphic novels series ever created. It is a masterful portrait of the harsh realities of childhood and the difficulties in growing-up. It is a must-read for children of all-ages and a must-have for any library’s graphic novel collection.