Potential by Ariel Schrag
SLG Publishing: 2000
Potential is the 3rd book in the series of books following Ariel Schrag's high school career. The series began with Awkward, continued with Definition, followed by Potential, and finally Likewise.
Some of you may recognise Ariel's name from Hot Topic by Le Tigre...you know that bit at the end where they're listing off names, and they say WHOO! ARIEL SCHRAG!... There is a quite funny moment in the 2004 documentary, Confession: a film about Ariel Schrag, in which a grown-up Ariel reads out a blog post written by a hater from her high school who is attempting to lambast Ariel for being namechecked in the Le Tigre song. Let's just say that revenge is pretty sweet, and you feel glad for her, watching the documentary which is obviously made due to her success, in conjunction with reading her graphic novels which detail the heartache & pain of high school life.
Ariel wrote most her her comics when she was still in school, which must qualify her as some kind of genius, because surely most of the time everyone is too busy running around high school worrying about stupid things to actually sit down and document their lives in a comic book? One of the nice things about Potential is the way it often references Ariel's previous books Awkward & Definition, perhaps because some friend at school will have just finished reading them, and wants to discuss them with her at school or something like that. This is when you fully understand the fact that she was writing this as she was living it...
Ariel's art style is mostly cartoon-like, and she has this interesting technique where whenever a character gets drunk or angry or depressed, their body & facial features will distort, visually sucking you in, so as the reader you kinda feel all drunk and angry and depressed too. She's not confined to this cartoon style though - whenever her characters dream the art becomes beautifully realistic, adding a whole new dimension to the comic: why is the dream world more "real" than the real world?
I found Potential to be the most satisfying book in the series. It follows Ariel's Junior year of high school, where she says goodbye to bi-, and heeello to dykedom. As you can probably imagine, life is rather confusing and heart breaking for Ariel at times, but her year of Potential was also the year of her first love, and there is much that we can all identify with.