REVIEW: Allergic: A Graphic Novel Is a Balm

What happens when you love animals, but can’t touch any of them?!

Middle-schooler Maggie has always dreamed of having a pet of her own, of having that special someone by her side, especially since her parents are too preoccupied with an upcoming baby, and her twin brothers are busy playing with each other. On her birthday, she goes off to the pet store to find her forever friend, an adorable little pup. Maggie thinks she’s finally found the friend who will be all hers… that is until she starts breaking out into hives and rashes. Turns out Maggie has an allergy to all things with fur! What starts out as a beautiful dream turns into a disappointing reality. Luckily, Maggie has more than one trick up her sleeve.

Allergic: A Graphic Novel

Megan Wagner Lloyd (Writer), Michelle Mee Nutter (Art)
Graphix (Scholastic)
March, 2021

The cover of "Allergic" is bright pink, featuring a young girl with hives on her arms and legs, laughing as she holds an excited tawny puppy, licking her face. By Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter, Scholastic, 2021

There is so much to love about this graphic novel, from its artistic style utilizing clean lines and warm colors, to its relatable and entertaining characters. Allergic is a lovely symbiotic creation, in which illustrator Michelle Mee Nutter works in tandem with writer Megan Wagner Lloyd to create an engaging middle-grade coming-of-age comic. The critters featured in this book are so wonderfully drawn and adorable to look at, that the reader has to empathize with Maggie’s desire to have a pet, and itch collectively at the painful looking hives that appear on-page! This book was definitely nicer to look at than the allergy brochures at the doctor’s office, and hopefully just as educational, while remaining incredibly fun to read!

Anyone who’s ever grown up in a big family will be able to relate to and understand the tangled threads of love and jealousy in Allergic, craving attention from those who are perhaps a little too wrapped up in their own trials to fully notice as is the case with Maggie’s parents’ concern over the new baby. While Maggie loves and adores her family, she can’t help but want a special friend of her own, someone she can devote all her attention to and vice versa. My heart broke as Maggie began to understand the realities of her medical situation, of seeing her body reject the one thing she wants so much.

Wagner Lloyd does an excellent job of focusing on allergies, weaving in exploits of Maggie finding alternative solutions in seeking furless companions, while showcasing the rest of Maggie’s life and social circle. Seeing her make friends with Claire, the new girl next door, brought back memories of those new and unexpected connections that make up childhood. Yet the creators make sure not to idealize these relationships by showcasing natural complications, like Maggie’s jealousy over Claire’s ability to have a furry pet and her frustration over Claire not understanding the scope of her situation. Luckily, Maggie also finds a companion-in-arms, a boy at school named Sebastian, a boy at school with some tricky allergies of his own.  As the story progresses, we see the lovely evolution of Maggie’s maturity as she begins to take more responsibility, both looking after her own health and caring for her brothers and eventually her newest sibling.

Though the book does not end with a conclusion that solves Maggie’s original problem, it does provide hope for the rest of her journey and provides a satisfying compromise that I’m sure will warm and delight other readers’ hearts too.

Allergic is a lovely coming-of-age middle grade book about the challenges of adjusting to new family dynamics, finding those to call your own, and learning about your own limits and strengths.