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Gary Clement’s Middle Grade Graphic Novel Enforces A Forgotten Lesson about Adults That Every Kid Should Know

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at NYU chapter.

Fans who enjoy misunderstood young protagonists pressured by condescending adults will rejoice when they find out about debut author Gary Clement’s graphic novel: “K Is in Trouble.” The story follows a boy named K who must navigate a world of outrageously unkind adults in this hysterical middle-grade graphic novel with art by Clement himself that is reminiscent of Wes Anderson. 

K always does as he’s told, but he is somehow always, always in trouble. No matter what he does, it seems there is someone ready to blame him for everything. K is in trouble for going to school. K is in trouble for staying home. K is in trouble for running an errand, getting sick or just being thirsty. Whether it’s his easily annoyed parents or prickly pedestrians on the street, K gets on everyone’s bad side even if he’s just minding his own business. 

Clement takes a unique approach to the absurdities of childhood in this hilarious series opener that reinforces a timeless message: Most adults know less than a talking beetle. While “K Is in Trouble” is his debut graphic novel, Clement is also the author of several children’s books like “The Great Poochini,” which follows a dog who is the most acclaimed singer in all of doggie opera. “The Great Poochini” has earned Canada’s Governor General’s Award for Illustration.

One of the draws of this graphic novel was the fact that it is similar to a Lemony Snicket book. When I was in middle school, I was obsessed with “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” Something about having an ordinary character who undergoes the world’s brutality reminded me of something from a Roald Dahl novel and made me find sanctuary between the pages of a book. 

As for Clement’s graphic novel debut, I found K to be a character that middle schoolers will relate to. The storytelling mixed with magical realist quirky elements like talking animals elevates the reader’s engagement with the book since it ties them to a world that is more intriguing than our own. Whether it’s crows or a carp, K can understand animals in a way that makes the story more intriguing, since his connection to animals is simple and treated as normal. Other books do the opposite and treat talking to animals as a superpower. “K can speak to animals because he feels he has more in common with them than with people,” Clement said in an interview with Her Campus at NYU. 

“K is in Trouble” has a recurring motif of crows that connects the various sections of the book. Having a recurring image throughout the book “seemed like the most appropriate choice to [Clement] since the book is a mishmash of [his] own (vastly altered) autobiographical details and the (even more vastly altered) biographical details of the Czech-German writer Franz Kafka,” Clement said. “The word for crow in Czech is ‘kawka,’ [which is] pronounced ‘kavka.’”

For a kid, adults are frustrating because they act like they know everything. Clement takes this universal misconception and reveals the truth that sometimes adults don’t know anything at all. Multiple times, the font becomes large, taking up the whole page sometimes, which adds to K’s perspective of feeling small, which is something all kids will relate to. Adults seem scarier than usual in “K is in Trouble” due to how Clement peels back the stereotype of adults being all-knowing. Even though his debut graphic novel is aimed at middle schoolers, older readers will understand and appreciate the message Clement conveys. “I wrote this book for and to the boy I once was, and, by extension, every other young and not-so-young person who felt alienated, excluded, persecuted and just generally disgruntled,” Clement said. 

“I carry that kid inside of me and I suspect that there are a great many others who do as well. This book doesn’t offer any solutions,” Clement said. “I think it’s just a reminder that if you do feel that way, you’re not alone.” 

Sabrina Blandon is an English major at NYU with a minor in creative writing. Avid reader herself and literary advocate, she has interviewed over 60 authors from New York Times bestselling ones to debut authors for Her Author Spotlight blog series for Her Campus NYU and Her Campus Hofstra. She loves exploring everything New York City has to offer and is a major foodie.