Review by Chris Fazenbaker
The Secret Life of Debbie G. revolves around the life of 16-year old Arya as she encounters and navigates major life changes. With her divorced mother remarrying, she struggles to adjust to her new blended family that includes classmates who are not very friendly. Arya relies heavily on her relationships with close friends to navigate the recent changes and challenges.
Struggling to cope with these major changes in her life, Arya creates an anonymous social media account titled The Secret Life of Debbie G. Arya hides behind the identity of Debbie G. to expose many of the vulnerabilities of her peers via social media. Because she has been subject to bullying by the “in” crowd, she starts with Gossip-Girl-like posts to reveal personal information about them that has the entire school population waiting to see what Debbie G. will write next and who she will expose. When Arya finds that the material among the popular students begins to dry up, she resorts to posting information about her close friends, the ones that have trusted her with the most private and intimate details of their lives.
The Secret Life of Debbie G. is a coming-of-age story in which Ayra learns the impact of her actions on social media and the importance of honoring friendships. She is put through the test of living personal values while reacting to the pressures of her surroundings. A strength of the story is that everything is not all wrapped up in a shiny red bow at the end with all problems easily resolved.
Author Batra addresses themes of social pressure, bullying, cyber bullying, culture, love, family, traditions and values, friendship, and blended family dynamics in this graphic novel. She shows the importance of acknowledging mistakes and taking responsibility for your actions knowing there will be unfavorable consequences.
The Secret Life of Debbie G. was shortlisted for the AGLF Book Prize, the Neev Book Award, and the PFC-VoW Award.
About the Author (from the back cover):
Vibha Batra is an author, graphic novelist, advertising consultant, poet, lyricist, translator, playwright, travel writer, columnist, and creative writing facilitator. She writes for toddlers, tweens, teens, adults, and senior citizens. She can be found in quaint cafes in Chennai, hunched over her laptop, writing away like a human possessed, or on Facebook and Instagram: @vibhybatra. She just published her 16th book (but who’s counting).
About the Illustrator (from the back cover):
Kalyani Ganapathy enjoys illustrating fiction and non-fiction picture books. When she’s not making picture books she’s busy planting in her garden or learning about holistic health. Her books include A is for Anaar, Hambreelmai’s Loom, Janice goes to Chinatown, Amrita Sher-Gil – Rebel with a Paintbrush and The Song at the Heart of the River. You can follow her on Instagram: @ganapathy_kalyani.
HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2021
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Reviewer: Chris Fazenbaker
Dr. Chris Fazenbaker
Dr. Chris Fazenbaker (Faze) has over 20 years of educational experience both in the classroom as a Spanish teacher and as a librarian. Faze has a master’s degree in Library Science and Information Technology and is currently the middle school and high school librarian at the American Embassy School in New Delhi. Faze is a big supporter of the belief of cultivating the love of reading in others and that everyone should have access to books.
Faze grew up in a household in which reading was valued. With frequent visits to the local library and spending personal money on books, a love of reading was fostered at a very early age. Her favorite place to read is in nature with an amazing view.
Curator of the second #IntlYALitMonth at Global Literature in Libraries Initiative:
Originally from Minnesota, USA, Linda Hoiseth is the high school librarian at the American School of Dubai and has previously worked at schools in the US, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Poland, Peru, Qatar, and India. She has a B.S. in English and Secondary Education, an M.S. in Curriculum and Instruction, and a graduate certificate in School Library Media. Linda is an IB workshop leader and a member of the ECIS Libraries Special Interest Group. Her husband Robb is her travel partner, and they both miss their two adult children who live in Minnesota. She’s a fierce advocate for all students to have access to all the books. Follow her on Twitter.