Raina Telgemeier returns to the autobiographical in Guts. I’m late to the party on this book as my 13 and 9 year old have read it multiple times since its release in 2019. For those familiar with Telgemeier’s autobiographical graphic novels, this is a story in which Raina is younger than in Smile or Sisters. She’s in fifth grade and has begun having stomach troubles. It started with a round of stomach flu going through her family and school. But afterward Raina begins to obsess about the possibility of getting sick and vomiting. She is no longer comfortable sharing food, becoming germophobic about hand washing, and eating a drastically reduced diet to a small group of “safe” foods.
Along with the near constant fear of the possibility of having to vomit, Raina is having stomach pains and lower intestinal distress. Each exam and round of tests by her doctor show that there is physically nothing wrong with Raina. This is when her parents bring her to a therapist.
All this happens with the backdrop of fifth grade year in school. Gross body humor and teasing are an ongoing trial to which Raina is particularly sensitive to, due to dealing with her gut issues. Girls are starting to mature faster than boys, who has a period and who doesn’t starts to separate girls, and friendships become more complicated. At home things are challenging too, as the Telgemeiers are a family of five sharing a two bedroom apartment, with only one bathroom, a potty training toddler, and a grandmother come to stay for several months, adding a sixth person to the household.
Through therapy, Raina is able to identify the stressors in her life and how that is having a physical effect on her body. Raina gains an understanding about controlling what you can and accepting that some things are beyond your control. She learns breathing and grounding techniques to bring her back from panic attacks. The end of the book finds Raina in a much improved space physically, emotionally, and within her friend circle.
What I wouldn’t have given to have this book when I was younger. Around the age of eighteen, I approached my parents about seeing a therapist for to my depression. And the only reason I came to understand the need for a therapist was due to having a boyfriend at that time who was in therapy. I can’t help but wonder ‘what if’ I had read this at the age of my kids, would I have reached out for help sooner? We are very open about therapy in our household so my children are growing up knowing that it is healthy to see a therapist. Not every child/person is so fortunate to have that education at home and I hope this helps people of all ages.
Note: This review is first in my effort to review everything I read to my kids. My nine year old asked for this to be read aloud at bedtime. We finished the book last night and here is the review the following day! Now to just keep this up 🤞🏼