Big Apple Diaries is a middle grade novel that I think people around my age (early 30s) will really vibe with. This is a semi-autobiographical work based on Bermudez’s diaries from the early 2000s as well as the diary of a friend. Alyssa navigates growing up in NYC, the complications of crushes, living in two homes, and the aftermath of 9/11.
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The summary, from Amazon:
In Big Apple Diaries, a heartfelt diary-style graphic memoir by Alyssa Bermudez, a young New Yorker doodles her way through middle school―until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack leaves her wondering if she can ever be a kid again.
It’s the year 2000 in New York City. For 12-year old Alyssa, this means splitting time between her Puerto Rican dad’s apartment in Manhattan and her white mom’s new place in Queens, navigating the trials and tribulations of middle school, and an epic crush on a new classmate. The only way to make sense of it all is to capture the highs and lows in doodles and hilarious comics in a diary.
Then life abruptly changes on September 11, 2001. After the Twin Towers fall and so many lives are lost, worries about gossip and boys feel distant and insignificant. Alyssa must find a new sense of self and purpose amidst all of the chaos, and find the strength to move forward with hope.
Buy Big Apple Diaries here.
Honestly, as someone only a little younger than the author/main character (though she is middle school-aged during the book), I just really connected with this one. I loved the nostalgia of Alyssa logging on to instant messenger to chat with friends and crushes, listening to the Backstreet Boys, and navigating life without a cell phone. I didn’t live in NYC when I was a kid, but I live there now, so seeing the city through her eyes was really interesting. I first visited New York in June 2001 so reading about a child around the age I was then living there during that time also added a touch of nostalgia for me.
Alyssa, her friends, her family, and her community work together in the aftermath of 9/11 to bring a sense of camaraderie to the city. For me, it was relatable to read about another child experiencing this event that was a major moment in my own childhood. Modern middle grade readers will view this as historical fiction, while it seemed more like a graphic novel memoir to me.
I loved the author’s note with photos of the real diaries and other pictures from Alyssa’s life. I also enjoyed the fairly positive representation of a divorced family. The 2000’s references were extremely fun and on point. My only qualm was the use of the word “crackhead” as an insult which I am never a fan of.
Overall this was a 5 star read for me. I think most of that has to do with my own nostalgia and experiences, but it was still an enjoyable middle grade graphic novel.
Find out more about how I rate books here.
Big Apple Diaries by Alyssa Bermudez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As someone around Alyssa’s age, I really vibed with this book. Lots of early 2000s references. I loved how much Alyssa matured post-9/11.
Book Club Questions
- What is similar between your life as a middle schooler in the 2020’s compared to Alyssa’s experiences in the early 2000’s? What’s different?
- What did you know about 9/11 and the experience of New Yorkers on and after that day before reading this book? What do you know now?
- If you wrote a book about your life right now, what format would you write it in? Why do you think Alyssa chose to write a graphic novel?
- How does Alyssa use technology and other methods to communicate with her friends and family? How do you use these methods now?
Interested? Buy Big Apple Diaries.
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