Basic story: Callie is a 7th grade girl who loves working on the stage crew for her school's theater department. She's got mad skills in set design. She also gets crushes on boys, befriends new kids, has victories and defeats, stays true to herself and her friends.
If I was a middle schooler I'd like this book, it's cute. I like that Callie throws herself into things she's passionate about, like many theater kids, her creativity is an outlet when the middle school drama is illogical.
As an adult I wouldn't call this book a must-read. It doesn't have any huge life lessons. I had a hard time keeping track of the characters, that's my only criticism. But the book is good for kids and graphic novels seem like a fun, easy way for them to get excited about reading. The author has also done graphic versions of babysitters club books - that's about the intellectual level we're talking about here, light stories about kids getting crushes on each other, getting in fights and making up with friends, that's it.
I was confused about why this book is on the banned books list. It has a gay character and at one point he kisses a boy, in another scene he sits on the steps with a boy he has a crush on and they talk to each other. Callie kisses a boy - and also stops a boy from kissing her in an awesome "she's smart and independent" scene that I love. Sex is not even mentioned. The characters are theater nerds: they work on stagecrew design issues and go to bookstores together. So I wasn't sure why it got banned... is it just that there's a gay character?
Amazon 1-star reviews reveal that YUP, it's because there is a gay character! These are great, guys:
Apparently people are shocked that a book marketed towards 5th graders contains boys who have crushes on other boys, several reviewers say that kids are not ready to handle this "mature" topic.
Heterosexual dating is okay, but same-sex relationships require more maturity.
In a way I guess I agree with them, since my whole life I've thought that people who accepted same-sex relationships were indeed a lot more mature than people who were squicked out by them. But "maturity" in that sense has nothing to do with age. I promise, the only 5th graders who can't handle this topic are the ones with over-conservative parents.
Maybe that's the problem - this book features characters who are more mature than the morons on amazon reviewing the book. Gay people just show up as part of the normal population and there's no controversy, the school isn't struck down like sodam and gomorrah, stop the presses! To me, it's exactly how I like to see diversity portrayed... minorities living their lives. The most notable thing about the gay kid isn't that he's gay, it's that he's really talented, that's what the story is about and that's what Callie admires about him. His sexual orientation is not an issue for her. The homosexual agenda in this book is just homosexuals existing. Pretty boring.
Conclusion: this book is shocking if you are from the 1940s or something, so today's 5th graders are going to be totally unaffected and just think it's fun.