This… was not what I was expecting. With a title like this, I was assuming this was going to involve prestigious colleges. Not even close. I picked this ARC up at BookCon this year. I went to the publisher, Lion Forge, because I wanted to get a ticket for Mooncakes the next day. (Which I got. Woohoo!) They still had tickets for this, so I figured, “Why not?”
This is a graphic novel memoir about a summer in the life of author Hazel Newlevant. She was a homeschooled student in Portland, Oregon who took on a summer job with the No Ivy League. The group went through Forest Park pulling the invasive English ivy off the trees. (And they still do!) The book is a glimpse of Hazel’s summer and the experiences she had.
Being homeschooled had its advantages, which Hazel and her friends were praising in video format for a contest. We see a bit of that process. But she didn’t experience a wide variety of other kids like public school students, so she was nervous about joining the No Ivy League that summer with all of the new people she would encounter. We learn that the NIL hired a variety of people, but especially at-risk teens to give them a chance. So definitely people Hazel was not used to hanging out with. Hazel was sheltered, well-off, vegan, and white, and so was worlds apart from some of her new co-workers. There were some things that she was able to talk about, mostly music, but other things set her apart. One thing was her boyfriend, who was fifteen when she was seventeen. It was only a year and change, but one kid points out that it’s like a junior dating a freshman, which the other kids find weird and hilarious. Thinking about that, there is quite a difference in maturity levels between those grades, something which is brought up. But maturity levels can be different for homeschooled kids, so up to a point it would be fine. (Once Hazel turned 18, though, things would change due to Oregon’s laws.) Hazel also experienced a crush on her adult group leader, and was not too smooth about it. I mean, she probably thought she was at the time, but she wasn’t. And she experienced culture shock and racism, which was new to her. The biggest shock was her experience with verbal sexual harassment. It was something that the boys didn’t really take seriously, and would probably have gotten away with if said to someone else, especially if the girl laughed it off or retorted with a witty comment. Many people would not have reported the comment, even if it made them uncomfortable. But Hazel did report it. And there were consequences, as there should have been. Some of the kids thought the consequences were unfair, but there was nothing to be done at that point.
This opens up discussions on homeschooling, relationships, consequences, racism, sexual harassment, the reporting of sexual harassment, and other issues. Seeing the story play out in picture form also gives some more insight to how the characters were feeling at the time.
This fulfills the CBR11 Bingo square of “True Story”