Author/Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier
Published: Scholastic (Graphix), 2019
You guys, I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before (like, 1000 times), but I’m a huge Raina fan. I have allll of her books and I think she’s a genius. Like, straight-up, no fooling.
In related news, I am going to see her speak later this month in Milton (a town about 30 minutes west of Toronto, for those not familiar with Southern Ontario geography). I am suuuper stoked about that. So I knew I had to read Guts before I saw Raina in person.
When the book arrived, I sat down and read it in one sitting. I’m sure the kids were asking me for things and the dinner was probably a *bit* overcooked that night, but…well…sometimes mama needs to read.
I read it straight through once. Then I had to take some time and think about it.
And I read it again the next day, and I’m reading it again now.
It’s a wonderful book. Just to get that out of the way. I really like it. It’s honest and sometimes hard to read, but it’s excellent.
It just hits really, really close to home for me. Why? Well, because it’s all about stomach problems and emetophobia. Two things I can strongly relate to!
In this (true) story from her childhood, Raina is coping with stomach issues. She is eventually diagnosed with IBS. She also has some pretty severe anxiety in the form of emetophobia (that’s fear of vomiting, for the uninitiated). She goes to therapy and it helps – although, in the end notes, she says that she’s had to learn to accept the IBS and anxiety as part of who she is. Those things never go away…but you can learn how to better cope with them.
I was never diagnosed with IBS. BUT I had stomach issues from the time I was 10 until I was about 27. (When I ended up taking a crazy-strong antibiotic for an unrelated issue…and after the antibiotic was done, I felt fine. I have no idea what to make of this, but it’s completely true). I was on pretty much EVERY single stomach med available from about 1993-2007. My doctor (who I now know was a complete crackpot) would sometimes switch my medications week-to-week. I suffered terribly with stomach pain. I was never hungry. I lost weight. I generally felt pretty crappy. Also, I was later diagnosed with severe endometriosis, so I wonder how much of that was related.
I was also an anxious kid….and my fear of vomiting persists to this day. (Although I have to say: having kids has made me deal with it in a way nothing else ever did. Kind of immersion therapy, I guess? I am better at handling it as it pertains to my kids. I will make Karl deal with vomit if he is around when it happens. But if it’s only me, I do what I have to do.) I am (and always have been) a huge germ-o-phobe. I don’t do sickness well. That’s never gonna change.
Since I related so strongly to this story, it took me a while to process it. I could really feel for young Raina as she suffered with her stomach pain. I understood the fear in her eyes when she saw that kids at her school had the stomach flu. I understand the powerlessness that a person feels when they have a legitimate phobia about something. Especially when it’s something like emetophobia…it seems odd, and people don’t really ‘get’ it. Everyone hates to see vomit, right? Everyone thinks it’s gross. But the phobia part is different. It’s MORE than just ‘yuck.’ It’s panic. It’s fear. It’s AWFUL.
But Guts? Guts is fantastic. It handles IBS sensitively. It deals with anxiety and therapy in an honest way. The art is superb. Every kid should read it because even if they’re not experiencing what young Raina did, they probably know someone who is.
5/5 stars (obviously).