Review: Guts by Raina Telgemeier

By: Kayla Plutzer  |  November 21, 2019
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By Kayla Plutzer, Staff Writer

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach…It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on? (Synopsis taken from goodreads.com.) 

When I was a summer camp counselor, one of the first things I learned during orientation before the campers arrived, is that sometimes, if a camper complains of a stomach ache for a while, it’s actually a manifestation of homesickness. 

As someone who used to suffer from an anxious stomach, I never truly understood what one had to do with the other.  In Guts, a graphic novel aimed at middle-grade audiences, author Raina Telgemeier chronicles her elementary-school experiences with anxiety. Guts is able to explain anxiety and how it manifests in different ways in a sensitive manner. I really enjoyed the way the book explains what happens in clear terms to a younger audience. 

The fact that the story is told in illustrated form instead of as a traditional prose novel, gave me the ability to see and truly connect with the moments in the story. I was able to see what exactly it was that made Raina, the main character, feel anxious. I was able to see what it’s like for someone else to suffer the same thing that I have suffered, and Raina’s account resonated with me. The scenes are drawn in such a way that the background colors help portray what Raina is feeling. When the background is green with squiggly lines, that portrays to the reader that she is nauseous and her stomach is acting up.  Another plus about having the novel in graphic-novel form is that it gives a visual as to what anxiety looks like and how anxiety might look different to each person. This empowers people, mainly children, to express what is going on in their bodies and minds. 

Guts is the third installment in Raina’s Sisters series, a set of autobiographical graphic novels about various impactful events from Raina’s childhood. I have read all of her other graphic novels, both fiction and non-fiction, and they just keep getting better and better. 

Each novel explains different tough topics to a younger audience — topics such as divorce, friendship, bullying, sibling rivalries, and many more. Each one is explained in a clear and relatable way, with amazing illustrations. The illustrations help give the reader an added insight to the emotions that the characters are feeling, whether it be by the worry-lines drawn on Raina’s mother’s face or the different punctuations used to show the intensity of the characters’ feelings. 

While Guts is, by its nature, geared towards a younger audience, I truly think it’s a novel that all age groups can relate to. Anyone who has ever experienced anything related to anxiety in their life, or who wants to understand what anxiety feels like, will be able to connect to Raina’s story. Anxiety is not something that only younger children deal with, but something relevant to readers of all ages. 

Photo Source: Guts Book Cover

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