Jorge Ruiz is the type of character the world needs right now. He’s a big, tall, intimidating middle schooler. But he is the definition of a good guy. He has a good group of friends and no one at school really bothers him. Instead, he uses his intimidating appearance to stop bullying when he sees it. The other kids call him sheriff because of this, but Jorge doesn’t mind. He’s just keeping the peace.
The only thing that seems to fluster him is his newfound feelings for his friend Jazmine. Whenever she’s around, he can’t find the right words to say. Jorge is trying to understand what these feelings could mean and if this is his first crush, what is he supposed to do?
Svetlana Chmakova could have just stopped there and Crush would still be a sweet graphic novel about a middle schooler’s first steps into dating. But Crush goes so much further and touches on some timely topics that haven’t really been discussed or shown in juvenile literature before.
As Jorge is sorting out his relationship with Jazmine, the other boys in school (mostly the basketball team) are acting completely different. As the head of the athletic department lectures about body autonomy and having a no tolerance policy, the boys snicker. They make jokes about invading girls’ personal space and even go so far as push against girls after the lecture. They continue with this kind of behavior throughout the book. For example, the popular guy in school gets mad when the popular girl cuts her hair, the basketball team says rude things about the girls online, and in general they act in misogynist and sexist ways. Through it all, Jorge stands up for the girls. He refuses to spend time with any of the basketball team, even when one of this best friends joins in with them. He is not peer pressured into behaving that way, and stays true to his kind, compassionate, and loyal self. It is unusual to see an emotionally vulnerable male character like Jorge, and I loved it.
Crush is a refreshing book. It will draw in tweens and teens with the promise of a sweet, chaste romance, but then it shows them a diverse cast of characters doing what is right and not accepting the horrid behavior of other people. It also shows forgiveness and how to right your wrongs. I really loved this book and think it is a needed addition to middle school and YA collections. Definitely the best book in an already strong series by Svetlana Chmakova.
Berrybrook Middle School, vol. 3: Crush
by Svetlana Chmakova
Yen Press, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 10-14