Guts is based on Telegmeier’s experience with anxiety as a tween. After a case of the stomach flu in their family, Raina becomes terrified of vomit and vomiting. Her anxiety manifests physically as a stomachache which further exacerbates her fear of vomiting and intensifies her anxiety. Her parents take her to see a doctor who after multiple tests assures them that Raina is “healthy as a horse.” Unsure what to do next, they take her to see a therapist.
At school, Raina also deals with friendship issues. Her best friend finds out that her family is moving away soon, which, of course, causes Raina a measure of anxiety. There’s also a “mean girl” in the class who seems to gain a thrill from teasing everyone in her vicinity. Imagine Raina’s shock when her best friend befriends the mean girl.
I decided to buy this book while making this list of 36 graphic novels for middle-schoolers — and it was a good call! I read it on my iPad using the Kindle app and the experience was seamless; it felt like reading the real thing, except I could also zoom in, which is always nice. Kindle graphic novels done in partnership with comiXology appear better on iPad that the basic graphic novel.
Guts was also my first Telgemeier book, and having heard so many good things, how nice that I was still impressed! Her storytelling is relatable and absorbing; I read the entire thing in one sitting. This book is also an excellent portrayal of anxiety and how exactly therapy can benefit kids with anxiety. The scenes with her therapist were insightful and can mitigate any fears kids may have about seeing a therapist.
Raina’s friends and family are also central to the book’s plot — and there’s enough good drama to keep readers entertained. Besides dealing with the squabbles of living in a small home and sharing spaces, there’s also a mean girl at school, a friend of a different culture, and even the fun of trying (and loving!) new foods. I liked Raina’s parents a lot and loved the way she shows kids that everyone has things they’re afraid to share, but that with people who love you, sharing is more than welcome.
Telgemeier’s Guts is an important addition to the (too short) lineup of middle-grade books about anxiety (and emetophobia, in this case). In such a stressful world, more and more kids (and adults) struggle with anxiety over a variety of issues. Such people would benefit from an honest portrayal of what anxiety feels like for someone else. It also shows them what options are available and reminds them that they are not alone. I would definitely recommend this book for graphic novel fans (and non-fans alike). If you’re looking for a fun, quick, but impactful book about anxiety, friendships, and empathy, this is the one for you.
Buy This Book
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Other Middle-Grade Books About Anxiety
- Five Things About Ava Andrews by Margaret Dilloway (anxiety/therapy-positive/friendships)
- How to Make Friends With the Sea by Tanya Guerrero (anxiety/adoption/set in the Philippines)
- Center of Gravity by Shaunta Grimes (anxiety/death of a parent/blended family/historical fiction)
Have you read this book or anything by Raina Telgemeier? I read her book, Sisters after this, and plan to review that next! Which of her books would you recommend I read next? What are your favorite middle-grade (and adult) graphic novels? If you’re on the hunt for more middle-grade books about mental illness, here’s a list for you.