Be Prepared

Title: Be Prepared

Author: Vera Brosgol

Publisher: First Second

Reviewer: Yolanda Ridge

ISBN: 978-1626724457

Joining the growing stack of graphic novel memoirs comes this great book by the author of Anya’s Ghost. As with all graphic novels, Be Prepared is a quick read but the story and images stay with you for a long time after you’ve turned the last page.

Nine-year-old Vera does not fit in. Her mom’s struggling to make ends meet while single parenting three kids and going to school. In the opening scene, Vera’s at a sleep over with her privledged friends who all have fancy historical dolls and spend every summer at camp – things Vera’s never had or done. To make matters worse, her Russian heritage sets her apart even further when she tries to have a sleep over birthday party of her own.

So when Vera finds out about a Russian Orthodox camp, ORRA, she becomes convinced it’s the answer to her problems. Unfortunately, Vera doesn’t fit in any better at ORRA – apart from her bad Russian teeth – and the rest of the book follows her as she struggles through four weeks of camp.

Readers are right there with her, feeling all the rejection and humiliation she feels as Vera tries to win over her tent-mates, brave the pit toilets – called Hollywood – and continually make mistakes. The author is unflinching in her portrayal of herself, showing all her faults and also her triumphs (which never seem to last long). Unfortunately, I think the book has turned my sons off wanting to go to camp. Having no camp experience myself, I can’t quite relate. But I definitely feel like I’ve been to ORRA – and shared in the wide range of experiences it offers (both good and bad) – after finishing Be Prepared.