Ugly Girl meets her default lab partner.
Instead of names, the teenagers in Nanda's Ugly Girl go by archetypes: Fatty, Spaz, Ugly Girl, Queerboy, Cynical Girl. They also start out as well-adorned line drawings, but as with many strips, the art takes off as the story develops.
All the wrong people like each other in Ugly Girl. This sets up incredible emotional longing, frustration and desperation -- exactly right for around ninth grade, when dating calculations were made by popularity, availability, and seating proximity. Every dance and double date is riddled with awkward pairings. When those who aren't stuck with the wrong companion find themselves momentarily alone with an unknown person, friendly conversations erupt to fill the vacuum usually filled by self-consciousness.
Ugly Girl is my kind of girl: I'm convinced she is a late bloomer who underestimates herself, and she makes incremental progress with boys over the several years the strip has appeared. She doesn't understand that her appeal is that she is not full of herself. She is a popularity virgin. The boys who do approach her can't quite articulate that this makes her enticing to the more discerning males. She demands answers, suspecting fraud, but they are too inexperienced to produce the truth.
This strip scores high on all the comic critic's criteria: plotting, pacing, characters, art, dialogue, believability. You'd have to be pretty hard inside not to fall for these characters, and Nanda's strip.
Ugly Girl is part of the Teenbit Collective, which features comics about teenagers.