When Maggie starts at a public high school after years of homeschooling with her mother and older brothers, she’s startled by how different the outside world is. The mysteries of the outside world are Maggie’s to be solved, but first she’s got to figure out why she’s still being followed by the morose, silent ghost she’s known since she was little. This might mean Maggie has to branch way out of her comfort zone–and maybe even make some friends that aren’t her brothers.
This sweet graphic novel should work well for more advanced middle grade readers as well as high school readers. Although it has elements of the paranormal in it, it’s firmly grounded in reality, with vivid secondary characters and a complex story that readers won’t want to put down. The family dynamics, as well as the budding friendships Maggie forms with a couple of social outcasts, help to make this novel a standout.
Hicks’s illustrations fill panels with a monochrome-and-wash style that’s memorable and aesthetically pleasing. Especially notable is how expressive Hicks makes her character’s faces. Hicks is able to convey so much in her characters’ body language and silent glances makes the text all that much richer. This is a text that is easy to read but one that is layered and complex. There’s a lot of humor and heart here.
A quiet graphic novel that deserves all the praise it’s gotten. This is one to push on reluctant and rabid readers alike–it’s that much fun. Highly recommended.
Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks. First Second: 2012. Library copy.
Nervous, home-schooled by her absent and much-missed mom and saddled with three adored older brothers—and a ghost—Maggie starts high school.
Largely but not entirely left by her doting upper-grade sibs (who had “first days” of their own) to sink or swim, Maggie starts off in lonely isolation but quickly finds two great friends in Mohawk-wearing, multiply pierced, exuberantly logorrheic classmate Lucy and her quieter (but also Mohawk-topped) brother Alistair. Simmering complications soon reach a boil as Maggie discovers that Alistair and her own oldest brother Daniel have some sort of bad history, and on a more eldritch note, a woman’s ghost that Maggie had occasionally seen in the nearby graveyard takes to floating into her house and right up to her face. Filling monochrome ink-and-wash panels with wonderfully mobile faces, expressively posed bodies, wordless conversations in meaningful glances, funny banter and easy-to-read visual sequences ranging from hilarious to violent, Hicks crafts an upbeat, uncommonly engaging tale rich in humor, suspense, and smart, complex characters.
Readers will definitely want to have, know or be Maggie’s brothers—but she herself proves to be no slouch when it comes to coping with change and taking on challenges.