{comic} her permanent record


Amelia Rules! Her Permanent Record (#8)

by Jimmy Gownley

Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon&Schuster), 2012.

I’m not entirely sure how Amelia Rules! has stayed as small as it has. Early on it was on every short list of comics to recommend the juvenile set. Goodreads does not even have the eighth and final installment up. And I’ve found Libraries to be random with which volumes they had. I know I have fallen down on our own collection, but this is one series that really deserves a lot of attention. The only real good news that comes with the final installment is that the series will be easier to collect under Atheneum’s imprint.

Amelia Louise McBride has lived it all: from surviving her parents’ divorce, to weathering the terror of Joe McCarthy Elementary, to handling devastating crushes (not-so-)gracefully. What more could life possibly hurl her way?

Then Tanner disappears, humiliated by an ex-boyfriend’s tell-all book, sending Amelia into full panic mode. And when she boards a bus on an epic journey to find Tanner–with frenemy Rhonda in tow, and a little help from a certain boy she never thought she’d see again–it quickly becomes clear that if Amelia has learned anything in her eleven years, it’s that life is neverthrough with surprises.

In his heartwarmingly hilarious eighth volume of the acclaimed Amelia Rules! series, Jimmy Gownley takes us on Amelia’s most thrilling adventure yet–and back again. Because in the end, don’t we all end up right where we started?—jacket copy

You do not have to have read the previous 7 books to find plenty to laugh about and enjoy in Her Permanent Record, Jimmy Gownley has a way of finding scenarios and characterization in every volume that will humor and resonate. That said, the best enjoyment comes with having read them all as Gownley has a way of thanking his fans with references to past volumes here and there.* And really Gownley does return Amelia to every book along the way, starting with the beginning, literally and figuratively. Each iteration of past Amelias (1-7) greet the present day girl (8). This is not a new device for this series and because it isn’t new, it doesn’t feel contrived. As it is, the appearance of the multiple Amelias tracks her growth and the events that inspired it. But Gownley is also addressing another aspect that is: who is Amelia now, and has she really changed? I found it a beautiful aspect of this story that while Amelia has grown and changed—and not just physically—she has maintained her Amelia-ness; which is something we absolutely do not want to see changed. But Amelia is complicated, just as Tanner, and Rhonda, and that boy who makes a return we didn’t expect…

Gownley has been blissfully consistent throughout with his characters, and Her Permanent Record makes this inescapably true. There has been a lot of development invested in the cast, but as with Amelia, they circle their own unique qualities—for good or bad. And as with real life, many of the good and bad are tied to a single characteristic. What makes Tanner vulnerable can be an advantage (to Amelia especially, but her fans, too) and a disadvantage (to her family and fans). Rhonda is one of the best best friends in literature because she and Amelia argue like mad, they’ve lines that do not change even as the lines that illustrate them do (e.g. Rhonda’s hair)—I’ve loved watching those two grow up together.

The question of what will go on her permanent record is lovely. I like the file notes from Amelia’s years at McCarthy Elementary. They are a love note to fans, a smile for the havoc Amelia tends to wreak, but they work, too, as chapter dividers. You see the personality and the follow-up in their subsequent pages. The record collects memories, a nice farewell, yet while Gownley reminisces, the book is deciding on who Amelia really is, present tense. And the end lends the reader an optimistic future.

There is a nice return to the first book. this idea that Heroes can fail us. Amelia has a long road of dealing with the fall-out of her parent’s divorce, and Aunt Tanner comes to the rescue in a lot of ways. But what happens when she isn’t 100% whom we thought she was? What if she falls?

A message that hits home over and over in these books is there is a humanness that defies censorship and conformity. There are a lot of messages of “being you” and the “be the best You that you can” in books for this age group, but few take control and own their “you-ness” like Amelia does, may be because they are unwilling to be as subversive as Amelia can be…

Amelia has been through a lot, often they are things you do not get very often in juvenile fiction, but they are familiar nonetheless and Gownley has created a character who can and will meet the challenges. Does she break some rules along the way? Yeah. But not without questioning them and their context (either before or after). And never without consequence. There are those cringe-worthy moments. Hers is the childhood many will find similitude. She is beautiful and I am going to miss her.


* “speaking of treats for careful readers…there are two in Her Permanent Record. 1. The video messages to Tanner contain a hidden message, a good old-fashioned rock quote to throw back at Tanner in the end. I’d love to see if anyone finds it. 2. If you’ve read all of the books carefully, you should now be able to deduce Pajamaman’s real name. First and last.”–Jimmy Gownley from his  Interview with John Hogan at  Graphic Novel Reporter.

{all images belong to Jimmy Gownley}

One Comment Add yours

  1. Carl V. says:

    I remember when this first started coming out in individual comic issues and I loved it from the first. I stuck with it but inconsistent order that was probably mostly my fault and slightly the comic shop’s fault meant I got behind. I have one or two of the graphic novels but really need to make my own library trips now that it is done and read them all. Very few comic writers/artists capture as much heart so deceptively simply as Gowan does.

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