Goodreads: New Kid
Published: Feb. 2019
Jordan Banks wants to attend art school, not the fancy prep school his mom is in love with. And he’s a little worried about the lack of diversity. It’s difficult to be the new kid in general, but Jordan also has to deal with stuff like the teacher never getting his name right and always looking at him when financial aid is discussed. He’s not sure he’ll ever fit in. Or that he can keep his old friends if he does.
New Kid is a brilliant, compelling graphic novel about the struggles of middle school–especially when one is attending a new school. Jordan Banks really wants to attend art school, but his mother is adamant he attend a fancy prep school instead. The school boasts little diversity and Jordan faces microaggressions everyday, along with the more general difficulties facing a seventh grader. Author and illustrator Jerry Craft chronicles it all with warm understanding–and just the right touch of humor.
Not falling in love with Jordan Banks from the start feels, quite simply, impossible. Jordan has a wonderfully optimistic way of looking at the world, even when the world is not always kind back. He approaches his new school with an astute sense of humor, sketching out his feelings in a notebook that turns into a sort of editorializing satire on the way students of color are treated by teachers and fellow students. And he amusingly, but also touchingly, finds courage in looking to Batman as a role model. One of my favorite panels depicts Jordan pulling on his hoodie like armor while shouting, “I am Batman!” to a bemused neighborhood. Jordan’s desire to find the good in the world, his desire to fit in, his desire to feel a bit bigger on the inside than he often feels–all of it is supremely relatable, and sure to capture the hearts of readers.
The humor is present throughout the book, not just Jordan’s sketches. Craft, for instance, pokes gentle fun at Jordan’s father’s emphasis on the importance of strong handshakes. And readers get to see Jordan and his dad tease each other throughout the story. It all ties into the wonderful family dynamics, with Jordan clearly feeling that very common pull middle schoolers so often feel: he loves his family a lot, but maybe wishes they would lay off him, just a bit.
New Kid is a stellar graphic novel, a welcome addition to the number of books chronicling that awkward phase when tweens so desperately want to fit in and find their place among their peers. It is an obvious choice for any middle school bookshelf, school library, or public library. But it also has wide appeal for readers of any age.