Tuesday, March 27, 2012

GN Review -- Amelia Rules! The Meaning of Life... and Other Stuff / Jimmy Gownley

It's very easy for me to remember how scary life could be when I was a kid.  Just when you think you've started to figure things out, something would happen to cause you to question what you've learned.  One of the most daunting realizations was the idea that nothing lasts forever: not life, not friends, not buildings, not even the planet Earth.  This is the main throughline in the latest entry in the Amelia Rules! series of books by Jimmy Gownley, The Meaning of Life... and Other Stuff, which continues to delight readers of all ages with the escapades, wry observations, and witty humor of Amelia McBride and her friends.

Amelia seems to be overwhelmed with the idea that nothing in life seems to last.  Her relationships with her friends are changing in ways she doesn't always realize, her Aunt Tanner has been unavailable due to her touring, and she always seems to be in the crosshairs of various authority figures, singling her out for one reason or another.  Everyone seems to be growing up, as Reggie comments about Rhonda looking cute, Amelia makes amends with a friend she'd hurt some time in the past, and Joan endures an upsetting episode involving her father, an Army captain who's been deployed to fight elsewhere in the world.  Amelia uses her experiences, her aunt's old diaries, and her adventures with her friends to try to figure out the elusive meaning of life, but as with so many such quests, she may have to settle for just part of the answer.

While I'll continue to say that Gownley's Amelia seems at times a little too witty and intelligent for her age, there is no denying her charm and likability.  She's not without her flaws and occasional hardheadedness, but she does try to be a better person, something to which most people can readily relate.  This is a young girl, on the cusp of adolescence, who's trying to make sense of a life that sometimes seems anything but, and it's effortless for readers to get behind her and her friends and root for them.  Whether they're dealing with snarky cheerleaders, disapproving adults, or just putting up with each other, it's easy to see them for who they are and experience their joys, struggles, and dramas alongside them.

Artistically, Gownley continues to shine.  His cartoony, colorful style is easy on the eyes, allowing him to employ a variety of visual tricks and expressions to show off his characters' range.  His renderings of his characters when they're mad or defiant are particularly striking in this volume, especially when paired with what they're thinking or saying at the time.

Overall, I continue to have an overwhelmingly positive view of this series.  It's cute, amusing, and full of heart.  Jimmy Gownley does an excellent job of making his young heroine both likable, imperfect, and overall, easy to relate to.  The artwork is wonderful and expressive, and easily appeals to its intended audience, while also remaining charming and pleasing to adult readers.  Highly recommended.

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