Big Apple Diaries
By Alyssa Bermudez
Reviewed by Sarah Custance
Alyssa is just your average 7th grader, worrying about how to mix her social life (or lack thereof) with her studies so that she can get into a good high school. Between bullies, crushes, friends and tests, Alyssa also has to cope with slightly overprotective, divorced parents and the difficulties of living between two houses and two families. Just when she begins to feel a bit more in control of her life through her artwork, national tragedy strikes, and she knows life will never be the same again.
People sometimes say that graphic novels are not real books, that they don’t deal with real issues or have the same connection to their readers as ‘traditional books’. I’d like every one of those people to read this book and then try to tell me those same words.
Big Apple Diaries is a beautifully written and illustrated graphic memoir of Alyssa Bermudez. It deals with issues and situations like a child living between two divorced parents, not feeling connected to your culture/heritage, crushes and heartbreak, teen angst, anxiety, and being true to yourself. It also deals with the shared trauma of a nation during and after the 9/11 attacks, of a nation deciding how to move forward, of people having to come to terms with loss of not only loved ones but of a life that can never go back to how it was.
Expressive black and blue illustrations mixed with diary-like entries draws the reader into the novel and makes you feel like you are part of the journey. It allows the reader to safely but also empathetically understand the effects and trauma that occurred on the 11th September 2001 and how that one tragedy changed the lives of so many. While dealing with this very heavy topic the book still somehow manages to keep true to the ups and downs of being a teenager, the struggles, and the triumphs that we can all relate to.
This is a must have book for any library, both school and public as a shining example of how a funny and relatable graphic novel can still deal with one of the worst events in living memory.