Sadie desperately wants to fit in at her new high school. She was not popular at her previous school, and she believes she needs an interesting story to get her new peers to notice her immediately. Peanut allergies get a lot of attention. Everyone knows the kids who could die if they ingest the wrong thing in the cafeteria, and it’s an easy conversation starter. What could go wrong if she faked a peanut allergy? Sadie gets a personalized medical alert bracelet online and a lie is born. After she gives an oral report about her “medical issues” in her homeroom, a couple of classmates invite her to sit with them in the cafeteria. Then an attractive boy starts fawning over her. With a boyfriend and new friends, Sadie is happy, but she finds that keeping up the lie is harder than she ever imagined.
Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe’s graphic novel gives a realistic picture of the fears new students face. Making friends and fitting in can be daunting. Over my years of the teaching, I have witnessed several new students telling lies about their past to seem more interesting. When the truth is revealed, the consequences can be quite painful. Sadie probably could have made friends by being herself, and fabricating her elaborate medical history never allowed her to really relax and enjoy her new friendships. Peanut is a great cautionary tale for those kids who sometimes feel the need to fictionalize their lives. Nobody likes to be caught telling a lie. The novel also gives detailed information about allergies and how to treat them.
Peanut would be an enjoyable book for middle school readers. The characters are well developed, the plot is interesting, and the illustrations are nicely done. However, a few mature words and drawings render the book inappropriate for middle schools. I wish Halliday and Hoppe had left those out so that their book could be enjoyed by a wider audience.
3.5 out of 5 stars.
Grades 8 and up