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Comic Book / Berrybrook Middle School

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Berrybrook Middle School is a series of graphic novels by Svetlana Chmakova. It currently consists of 4 books: Awkward (released 2015), Brave (released 2017), Crush (released 2018), and Diary (released 2019). The books follow the trials and tribulations of students at the titular school.

The first book, Awkward, is about Penelope Torres, a girl who recently moved to Berrybrook, and her quest to reconcile the art and science clubs (and be able to hang out with her friend Jaime).

The second book, Brave, is about Jensen Graham, a wannabe astronaut, in his journey learning how to stand up for himself.

The third book, Crush, is about Jorge Ruiz, a big kid with a heart of gold, as he develops a crush on drama kid Jazmine Duong while trying to keep his friend group from making bad decisions.

The fourth book, Diary, is an interactive journal with 3 side stories (Time Capsule, Captain's Log, and New Girl).

The fifth book, Enemies, is about Felicity Teale as she enters a contest to prove to her sister that she can commit to things, only for her to start wondering if her friends are really her friends at all.

These comics contain examples of:

  • Absurdly Divided School: "Awkward" has the Art and Science clubs completely at odds with each other, especially when there's competition involved. It only stops when their fighting results in them being forcibly disbanded by the Principal. After both that and Peppi and Jaime uniting them, they're on much better terms with each other.
  • Abusive Parents: Mari's old man constantly pressures her daughter into being the best there is while belittling his own wife as a do-nothing. It culminates in him being left in the dust by both of them.
  • Academy of Adventure: 90% of all shenanigans occur at Berrybrook, though the adventures are more of the mundane variety.
  • Adults Are Useless: Averted by most of the teachers, with two exceptions. One is Mr. Ramirez, who's first instinct during a crisis is to go get Ms. Tobins to fix it instead. The other is Mrs. Crabbler, who's so old she's only ever seen sleeping in her appearances.
  • Age-Appropriate Angst: Most of the conflicts in each story stem from situations that typical middle-schoolers would take very seriously. For "Awkward", it's the school clubs. For "Brave", social anxiety and the school paper. For "Crush", it's dealing with, well, a crush, as well as being one of the cool kids.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Jaime is a somewhat introverted nerd who doesn't have a whole lot of friends. Unlike most examples, a lot of the kids see him as a good person nonetheless, especially after he and Peppi become friends. On the other hand, Jensen is this trope in full, being treated like an outcast and a nuisance most of the time, though it primarily stems from his own social anxiety. Thankfully both Jaime and Jensen overcame their states as outcasts by the end of their stories.
  • Allergic to Love: Jorge is initially very much against the idea that he might have a crush on Jazmine. But as he continues to interact with her, it becomes increasingly obvious to him that he can't deny it.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Every story focuses on a different student at Berrybrook and their own friends. See Ascended Extra.
  • Animesque: Chmakova has drawn OEL Manga in the past (such as Dramacon and Nightschool), and the series' art style still takes a lot of cues from manga.
  • Art Shift: The Discovery Center lecture is full of realistically-painted environments. Amusingly, Peppi is seen in some of them, and her look clashes with the detailed beauty around her.
  • Ascended Extra: Every story focuses on a side-character from the last one. For example, Jensen was little more than a comic-relief character in "Awkward", only to become the protagonist of "Brave". Following that, Jorge's appearances in that story can be counted on one hand, and he is the central focus of "Crush.
  • Badass Biker: Ms. Tobins.
  • Badass Teacher: Again, Ms. Tobins.
  • Berserk Button: For Jorge, disrespecting others, especially women. Had it not been for Jazmine, he would have reduced Zeke to a fine powder for everything he's said and done.
  • Big Bad: James Corden is the closest thing to a villain in "Crush".
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: For the first two books, Foster and Yanic are direct antagonists, working together as bullies, especially in the second story.
  • Big Man on Campus: James, though Jorge is a more literal example.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Zeke appears meek and cute at first, but he's in fact a nasty womanizer who can't seem to stop getting on Jorge's bad side.
  • Broken Ace: Mari.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: Jorge and Jazmine.
  • Bully Hunter: Both Jorge and Liv, though the former is much more direct about it.
  • The Casanova: Zeke has had a long history of wooing girls with his timid and adorable appearance, but every single one of his relationships, including ones with Jazmine and Nic, ended badly due to how unfaithful he is.
  • Chafing Against the Dress Code: One subplot revolves around a girl being expelled for donning Sailor Moon cosplay instead of clothes approved in the dress code.
  • Childhood Friends: Jenny and Akilah. Jorge, Liv, and Garrett are another example.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Jensen's defining character trait in "Awkward", as he just cannot help but rattle on and on about the dreaded sunspots that threaten to destroy the Earth. In "Brave", this aspect is toned down...on the subject of sunspots. He now fears a potential Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Control Freak: James seems to really like keeping a leash on his team, especially Garrett. He also freaks out when Brooke gets a haircut without his consent.
  • Cool Teacher: Mr. Ramirez and Ms. Torres, for different reasons. See Foil for more info.
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • Peppi says this a lot in Awkward. She tells Mari that if they act as the better person compared to the Science Club, then they have a good chance of getting that School Fair slot. Unsurprisingly, Peppi is frustrated when Mari steals the remote and dumps it on Peppi in a desperate attempt to win the challenge. She tells off Mari though Mari moves away before she sees the full brunt of their actions, and later shames both clubs by pointing out their stupidity and selfishness got them both suspended.
    • The principal points out, in a stern tone, that he asked for the clubs to contribute to the community with their projects. If they wanted to get greenlit for the fair, they had to show good sportsmanship. Their failure to do so and causing giant brawls means that they get suspended.
    • As Liv puts it at the end of Crush, that Garrett apologized doesn't make up for the fact that he said mean things about her and her friends in an online chatroom in the first place. He had a choice to be a better person from the beginning but made his life all about impressing James. Jorge admits she has a point, and Garrett has to do a lot of work to get into her good graces again.
  • Darkest Hour: Every story has a point, usually it being the third act, in which things are at their absolute worst. In order:
    • After their constant fighting against one another escalates beyond anything acceptable (and seemingly crushes Peppi and Jaime's friendship in the process), the principal suspends both clubs from attending the festival, also ensuring that Mari's desperate plan to win was All for Nothing. For a while, the two disbanded clubs despise each other even more. Only by uniting again through Peppi and Jaime's help do things get better.
    • After being rendered ill from depression (actually the flu, but what a coincidence) for about a week, Jensen comes back to see his friends have a falling-out over Felicity's suspension and whether to publish it or not. For that matter, the whole student body is wondering whether they can save Felicity or not. Jensen makes it right by triggering a "Eureka!" Moment for Akilah.
    • An even worse one happens for Jorge. He's framed (unintentionally) by Garrett who used his profile while in a chat with James and company that had tons of hurtful words in it. It results in the whole school despising him and his friendship with Garrett falling to pieces while James laughs it up. The only silver lining is that Jazmine still believes in him.
  • The Dreaded: Jorge to any bullies. The Principal, meanwhile, is this to everyone.
  • Dude Magnet: Liv, though she can't seem to stop losing boyfriends to the point where she wonders if they're put off by her personality.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • After some words from Ms. Tobins, Peppi gets the idea to unite the Art and Science clubs through a project that combines their talents.
    • In "Brave", after Jensen says that Akilah and Jenny's fight was a lizard brain moment, the former realizes that he's absolutely right, and she finds it in herself to both make amends (though it's mostly Jenny who apologizes) and help get Felicity out of suspension.
  • Everybody Hates Mathematics: Especially if your name is Jensen.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: James scoffs when he hears Garrett confessing to Jorge. He threatens Garrett to not tell and gloats to Jorge that if he tells the truth, Garrett gets everyone's scorn instead. The idiot doesn't consider that Jorge's friends would find out it was Garrett and defend him to the student body, or that Garrett would be brave enough to confess to the principal.
  • Extreme Doormat: Both Peppi and Jensen are this in their respective stories. They get better.
  • The Faceless: The Principal is only ever seen in shadow, contributing to his status as The Dreaded.
  • Foil:
    • Mari to Peppi. Unlike the klutzy and awkward Peppi, Mari is passionate, hard-working, and The Ace amongst her peers. However, Peppi is much closer to her family, and isn't constantly pressured into being the way she is by any of them, unlike Mari who cowers under the shadow of her domineering father.
    • Jenny to Akilah. One prioritizes professionalism and has a rather short temper, while the other tends to be more open and emotionally driven when it comes to her job. Rather inevitably, it puts them at odds with one another at times.
    • Jorge to both Zeke and James, more so the latter. Jorge is a large intimidating stoic kid who's otherwise charitable and very kind-hearted. Zeke meanwhile is a small meek-looking guy who uses his innocent looks to woo girls and generally get his own way. As for James, he's basically Jorge minus any of his morals and respect for others.
    • On the subject of teachers, Mr. Ramirez and Ms. Tobins couldn't be farther apart in terms of personality and looks. Ramirez is a heavily-built individual and a total neurotic mess who has less authority over his club than his own students, while Ms. Tobins is an athletic Badass Teacher whose mere presence commands authority.
  • Frame-Up: Jorge finds himself the unfortunate recipient of one when Garrett accidentally uses his login for a chat full of hurtful words. It instantly turns him into an outcast and wrecks his friendship with Garrett, though the latter clears it up so that he's proven innocent.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Poor, poor Jensen. Thankfully, "Brave" is all about him overcoming this.
  • Gentle Giant: Jorge. Despite his imposing size and demeanor, as well as his status as the unofficial sheriff of Berrybrook, he's a good person inside and out.
  • Grew a Spine: The entirety of Jensen's character arc in "Brave". Garrett manages this at the end of "Crush", telling the truth about the chat so that Jorge can have his life back, even if it does result in his temporary suspension.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Foster at the end of "Brave". Earlier, and to a lesser extent, Derek from "Awkward".
  • Heel Realization: Foster has one when Jensen makes his pain from being bullied by him and Yannic known to them. While Yannic laughs it off, he tries desperately to get him to stop. Once he comes back from suspension (unlike Yannic), he hides himself out of shame until Jensen reaches out to him.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Peppi is often teased for liking Jaime, both by bullies and even her friends to an extent.
    • She Is Not My Girlfriend: Jorge has similar issues with his friends, especially Liv, obsessing over his crush on Jasmine. He grows out of it, eventually embracing the idea of being her boyfriend.
  • Heroic BSoD: Every main character goes through this, usually during the Darkest Hour.
    • Peppi when her stealing the science club's remote for the sake of Mari not only seemingly costs her friendship with Jaime, but also contributes to both clubs being banned from the festival, resulting in the students hating each other more than ever. It takes Ms. Tobins' words of encouragement for her to get an idea to unite them again.
    • Jensen has the most intense and literal of them all, emotionally collapsing under the weight of being The Friend Nobody Likes to the point of being rendered physically ill for about a week. In truth, it was a bad case of the flu, but the timing could not have been more fitting.
    • Jorge ends up in this situation when he's framed for being a part of a horribly offensive chat, becoming the enemy of just about everyone in the school for something he didn't do, on top of it in fact being because of Garrett's reckless actions while James rubs it in his face. Thankfully, Jazmine didn't believe any of it even before Liv cleared things up.
  • Horrible Judgeof Character: Garrett really should have not picked James as an idol.
  • Hot-Blooded: Liv, to the point of having a Hair-Trigger Temper at times.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Jorge and Jazmine.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Garrett's Fatal Flaw, which results in him making increasingly brash decisions to please James.
  • Important Haircut: All of the major female characters in "Crush" get short hair for a charity to sick children. Jorge and Garrett love the new looks. James...not so much.
  • Insufferable Genius: Derek. The rest of the Science club counts, but he stands out.
  • Irony: Throughout "Crush", Jorge makes it clear that he doesn't like middle-school gossip/drama all that much, and does everything to avoid it at all costs. Near the end, he ends up the very center of that drama when Garrett accidentally frames him for posting hurtful words in a chat.
  • Jerk Jock: James.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Averted for the most part, which makes the ones who play it straight (Foster, Yannic, and James) stand out all the more.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After being insufferable bullies to Jensen throughout "Brave", Foster and especially Yannic are caught red-handed while harassing him by his friends and some teachers. Yannic is seemingly suspended for good, while Foster comes back a very changed and regretful kid now on the receiving end of what he used to do alongside his worse companion. Jensen decides to forgive him regardless.
    • At first, James seems like a Karma Houdini when the last we see of him is mocking Jorge for being framed. But the trope is played straight with Offscreen Karma when it's revealed that he and his cronies were suspended. It helps that the events beforehand had him progressively lose what was important to him (his girlfriend and other kids' respect).
  • Middle School Is Miserable: Downplayed. Berrybrook isn't exactly a picnic for most of the students, mainly due to the usual difficulty of academics and immeasurable drama instigated by each other, but for the most part, it's far from the worst one in media.
  • Mood-Swinger: Jenny. As described by Jensen, Jenny has three settings; cool and professional, freaking out and frantic, and "Don't mess with me, for I am the wrath of angels" apocalypse.
  • Mr. Imagination: Jensen in spades. Just the first chapter of "Brave" has him picture himself as a video game character, an archaeologist, and a Greek philosopher.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Mari stealing the science club's remote and giving it to Peppi triggers a series of events that results in the downfall of both clubs. It should be noted that she did it not out of malice, but pure desperation.
    • Garrett does something deliberately worse in "Crush", accidentally using Jorge's login while in a slander-filled chat alongside James. It results in Jorge almost becoming the enemy of everyone in the school.
  • Not So Stoic: For the most part, Jaime keeps his emotions in check in "Awkward". He sounds visibly torn up about the worthless animosity that's a result of the two clubs disbanding.
    • The Principal is moved to tears by the Art and Science clubs working together for a project, though this is not seen.
    • Jenny in "Brave" puts on a very strict and at times terrifying face most of the time, but breaks down completely before and after her falling out with Akilah.
    • A more humorous example comes from Jorge, who pretty much becomes a stammering Nervous Wreck around Jazmine for the majority of Crush, barely being able to get out words in any conversation with her. His expressions are pure gold.
  • No Sympathy: When Liv breaks up with Marcus for never supporting her interests, all Garrett says is I Told You So and mocks her for dating a jerk. Unsurprisingly, Liv stops speaking to him for a while.
  • Only Sane Man: Peppi is this to the entire art club, just as Jaime is to the science club. Neither care for the conflict the two clubs are in, and are understandably very frustrated when it all ends up destroying both clubs for a while.
    • Jorge is a straighter example in "Crush". Between Garrett and Liv, he has no patience for getting caught in the middle of their drama, or any drama at all for that matter.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Jorge notes that Liv may rag on Garrett, and he may do the same, but they're not really mad at each other. He's shocked when Liv blows up at Garrett for real when the latter reveals he lied and blew off Liv's requests to game to hang out with James, and then has the gall to ask to copy her homework. Later, Liv nearly severs ties with Garrett forever when learning he framed Jorge by accident.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure:
    • A relatively minor case with Peppi and Jaime. The latter catches the former returning the remote Mari stole from the science club, and looks rather offended that she took part in such a reckless scheme to ruin his club's chances. However, his overall reaction is less fury and more disappointment.
    • "Brave" has a much more severe example when Jenny and Akilah come to verbal blows over the scandal involving Felicity's suspension. It escalates to the point of Akilah quitting in frustration, resulting in Jenny hitting her Rage Breaking Point, angrily forcing everyone else to Get Out!.
    • "Crush" is a unique case in which the pair in question always seems to be on the edge of this happening. But needless to say, Liv grows increasingly frustrated with Garrett putting more time into trying to get in James' good graces while not doing anything else of value. After she finds out that he was the one who (unintentionally) got Jorge in big trouble, she breaks all ties with him for a long time.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The Principal gives two pointed ones to the warring clubs in "Awkward" at different times. Both are about admonishing them for taking their gifts and turning what should have been friendly competition into a pointless escalating war that he ultimately has to end himself by suspending them.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Almost all of the named teachers are this. While they all have their quirks, they're all ultimately focused on doing their jobs.
  • The Rival: Out of everyone in the Art and Science clubs, Tessa and Derek have the most beef with each other.
  • Scenery Porn: The lecture at the Discovery Center is full of vivid imagery depicting (real-life) locations that leaves everyone, especially Peppi, awestruck. See Art Shift above.
  • Shamed by a Mob: After Garrett confesses that he was the one who framed Jorge for making mean comments, most of the school hasn't forgiven him. The exceptions are Jazmine and Liv, as well as Jorge.
  • Ship Tease: Peppi and Jaime (frequently lampshaded), Jensen and Felicity, and Garrett and Olivia.
  • Shipper on Deck: Liv is positively ecstatic when she figures out that Jorge has a crush on Jasmine. While Jorge is annoyed, it does help in the long run.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Jazmine ultimately reciprocates Jorge's feelings for her due to him being such a caring and morally just individual, in sharp contrast with her previous boyfriend, Zeke.
  • Stern Teacher: Mr. Kristoffer. Sure, he's big on homework and such, but he's quick to offer as much support as he can to a struggling student.
  • Take That!: My Poorly Drawn Life, presumably an Expy of Diary of a Wimpy Kid. When Jensen reads one of the books, he doesn't understand why people like it so much because the main character is such a jerk.
  • Technologically Blind Elders: Subverted. When Felicity and Tess brainstorm business proposals for the entrepreneur club, Felicity suggests making a business that helps old people use technology. Tess then dismisses the idea because her grandmother has a TikTok.
  • Theme Naming: Each male main protagonist in the trilogy has their name start with a J. In order, Jaime, Jensen, and Jorge. Jasmine is the first female protagonist to share this.
  • Tranquil Fury: Most of the time, Jorge is in this state when laying down the law. However, Zeke pushes him into nearly losing his temper entirely to the point where Jazmine has to hold him back at one point.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Jenny and Akilah. A much more fiery example is Liv and Garrett.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Mari ultimately does everything for her dad, a man who, judging by a photo of him shaking the mayor's hand, is very sucessful himself. It gets so bad that she cracks under the pressure before she and her mom skip town to escape him. This also means that Peppi has to clean up her mess when Mari's actions lead to both the Art and Science clubs getting suspended.